The black smoke that rose above Gaza yesterday and the number of casualties that climbed by the hour did not interfere with the celebratory opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, highlighting the wanton Israeli treatment of Palestinians in general and Gazans in particular.
In the atmosphere of arrogance that has gripped the political system, bolstered by a sympathetic American president who has responded to all the whims of an Israeli prime minister who refuses to consider peace, it remains to be hoped that at least today, Nakba Day, the culmination of the Palestinian “March of Return,” Israel Defense Forces soldiers will do their best to prevent more mass killings. It is their duty to stop the tens of thousands of Palestinian demonstrators who will descend on the Gazan border fence with means as nonlethal as possible, and with as few casualties as possible.
A month and a half of demonstrations by people who were mostly unarmed has resulted in dozens of deaths and thousands of wounded Palestinians. During these weeks of protest, Hamas and the other resistance movements in Gaza refrained from launching rockets into Israel. No Israeli soldier or resident was injured. Israel, on the other hand, acted against the unarmed demonstrators with sniper fire, live fire that killed and maimed.
In the furthest place possible from the embassy opening in Jerusalem and the crowds celebrating Netta Barzilai’s victory in the Eurovision Song Contest, tens of thousands of desperate people without a present or future tried to cry for help. A series of broadcasts this week by Israel Television News shows the extent of the disaster that faces the two million besieged and trapped people in Gaza. The pictures are heartbreaking and horrific, and they are the real reason for the protest at the fence. Lethal weapons won’t deter young people who have nothing left to lose. There is no dispute over Israel’s right to defend its border, but this does not mean it has the right to do whatever it pleases to those who try to cross it.
Israel bears responsibility, although not exclusively, for the Gazan disaster. The 2005 withdrawal did not absolve Israel of its responsibility, certainly so long as it suffocates Gaza with a blockade.
The people on both sides of the fence are the same age. On one side are armed Israeli soldiers – whose lives are not in danger most of the time and none of whom have been injured – who are free people, citizens of their country, with their future ahead of them. Facing them are young Gazans, in general unarmed, unprotected, the vast majority unemployed, and hopeless as long as the siege continues. Most of them go to the fence demonstrations simply to cry out and express their despair
The IDF is responsible for preventing and deterring infiltration into Israeli territory, but the solution really lies in the Prime Minister’s Office. He must seriously examine the readiness of Hamas to negotiate a cease-fire with Israel, and announce steps to reduce the blockade considerably and allow those seriously wounded to be treated in Israel.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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