The Trump administration officially opened the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem May 14. The embassy move has been met with resistance by Palestinian civilians, who, just miles away, could be found protesting on the West Bank in response to the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
For Palestinians, the embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem comes at a time of commemorating Nakba (the Disaster), when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were exiled and forced from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war. Palestinians are a dispossessed people who have been displaced from land that was once their home, but now exists as illegally occupied settlements. In spite of being separated by a fence, Palestinians demonstrate so that they will one day be free from the military-imposed blockade and live normal lives.
By the afternoon, clashes broke out as protesters tried to move towards the fence surrounding the border. Tires were rolled towards the fence, while many tried to get close. Images of the protests showed civilians being carried out on stretchers and the death toll had climbed to 58, while thousands remained injured. Israeli snipers gunned down Palestinians who had exercised their right to protest. Protesting serves as a means of gaining agency and protecting a “Palestinian” identity from being further negated by a state that has actively sponsored violence. In demonstrating, Palestinians resist the economic instability and degradation of infrastructure that has become the norm. Protesters were met with tear gas and gunfire as they attempted to storm the fence. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, among those dead was an 8-month-old baby who passed after inhaling fumes from the tear gas used against protesters. Eight of the victims were children.
The Trump administration has blamed Hamas, the militant group, for the violence, and not the Israeli forces. At the forefront of the decades-old conflict, the narrative most clung to is that Hamas officials provoke violence and put civilians at risk. Yet, the narrative of the oppressed civilians is often neglected by Western media. These voices are silenced and often absent from mainstream media.
For Palestinian civilians who have undergone decades of displacement and have endured erasure of their own identity as Palestinians, the demonstrations are a means of resistance against occupation. The embassy move marks land that has been contested between Israel and Palestine and makes peace impossible.
Instead of remaining impartial, the Trump administration showed pro-Israel bias in deciding that the land was Israel’s. While the White House solely places the blame of Palestinian deaths on Hamas, it is the Israeli defense forces who have had not been held accountable for the state-sponsored violence directed at Palestinian civilians. The massacre of Palestinians has been met with Israel’s impunity. The celebration of the embassy starkly contrasted with the demonstrations which continued, even as Israeli airstrikes persisted. Jared Kushner said, “When there is peace in this region, we will look back upon this day and will remember that the journey to peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth.”
This notion of peace is paradoxical. The Trump administration arbitrarily exercised its power in a conflict where Palestinians have no say. In deciding that Jerusalem was Israel’s, Trump escalated tensions between Palestine and Israel. With the support of America, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel reserves the right to defend its sovereignty. But how does a nation with superior technology and military forces characterize dispossessing people of their land, basic resources and national identity as “defense”?
Palestinians have every right to demonstrate and reclaim their identity, as they are a people being threatened by erasure in the global landscape of politics. Civilians should be able to demonstrate without the threat of violence and incarceration. Leaders around the world are complicit in the injustices faced by Palestinian civilians if they fail to condemn the violence by Israeli forces against protesters.