An estimated 35,000 Palestinians massed on the Israeli border with Gaza as part of their six-week-long March of Return protest against the US' decision late last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocate its embassy there. At least 59 unarmed protesters were gunned down by the Israeli military as they approached the border fence and over 2,700 were injured by the tear gas and other means that were used to disperse them. Hell had indeed come to the Holy Land after the violence that took place, but it was perceived differently by each of the conflicting sides.
The Palestinians were appalled at the disproportionate violence used against their unarmed protesters who were organizing in opposition to Trump's rejection of their claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state. Many Israelis, meanwhile, saw the violence as a ‘small price to pay' in order to defend their borders and were nevertheless overjoyed at Trump's decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.
These diametrically opposed attitudes to what just happened led to the jarring juxtaposition of many media outlets showing pictures of injured Palestinians in the smoke-filled Gazan warzone right next to scenes of Trump's dressed-up daughter and son-in-law celebrating the opening of the new embassy. The message couldn't be any clearer, and it's that the US and Israel were being portrayed as chillingly insensitive to the plight of the Palestinians that was happening right at the same time as their ceremony. Subsequent statements from Israeli officials justifying the violence that their armed forces used against the unarmed protesters contributed to this soft power fiasco and cast a dark pall over what was supposed to have been an historic day of pride for their people but which is now looking more like a day of infamy.
Altogether and regardless of the different attitudes over what took place, the bloody events of 14 May signal that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is once again heating up. If history is anything to go by, which it usually is, then this might portend the preparatory phase of another outbreak of large-scale conventional hostilities of the sort that last took place during Israel's so-called "Operation Protective Edge" in summer 2014.
Nedka Babliku, contributing editor at Eurasia Future, Vladimir Golstein, Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at Brown University and frequent commentator on current affairs, commented on the issue.
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