PALESTINIAN CROSSROADS

May 15th  2018 will see the culmination of the weekly demonstrations by thousands of of Palestinians which began on March 30th in commemoration of the loss of their homeland following the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14th 1948. Human rights groups have condemned Israel for disproportionate use of deadly force. Demonstrators burned tyres to create a smoke screen to allow them to reach the fence, they  have been met with live ammunition resulting in the death of at least 45 Palestinians, there have been no Israeli deaths.

Palestinian cyclist Alaa Al Dally aged 20 was practising to participate in the Asian Games with Palestinian athletes. He lost a leg when he was shot by an Israeli soldier while protesting and faces an uncertain future in Rafah refugee camp.  He was one of 17 Palestinians who had limbs  amputated after they were refused access to appropriate medical care outside the Gaza Strip.

Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said Israel’s military should be investigated by the International Criminal Court.  Amnesty International called on Friday for the Israeli authorities to “put an immediate end to the excessive and lethal force being used to suppress Palestinian demonstrations in Gaza.” The United Nations has failed twice to agree on the release of a statement addressing the violence in Gaza.  According to two UN diplomats, the US prevented draft statements from being issued.

The  International community  does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the city  of Jerusalem. Peace negotiations towards a two state solution are dependent upon Palestinians having East Jerusalem as their capital. Donald  Trump’s  announcement in 2017 of the intention to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem was a statement of intent, a confirmation that Palestinians would never share sovereignty with Israel over the city which is central to the religious beliefs of both.  In response the UN General Assembly approved a resolution declaring that the recognition by the US of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is “null and void.”  In direct violation of the UN charter the new US embassy in Jerusalem will open on Monday 16th May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the declaration by Israel of the establishment of the Jewish state. 

Palestinians in Jerusalem, comprise almost 40 percent of its population, they are not citizens of the country and are dispossessed of their former rights.  One of these is land registration. The Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research states that the lack of land registration means that much of the equity owned by East Jerusalem residents cannot be realized, engendering a loss of 80,000 shekels ($22,700) per family, on average. There are other direct consequences, which include a shortage of infrastructure and schools, with massive illegal construction and deep, pervasive poverty.

Hamas the largest Palestinian militant group was founded following the first intifada, against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Its name means ‘Resistance’. Its twin goals are armed struggle and provision of extensive social welfare programmes. Formerly implacably opposed to the recognition of the State of Israel, the organisation has since supported a two state solution. Hamas has lately engaged in the Palestinian political process, winning  a stunning victory in the elections. While widely designated a terrorist organisation by the West it is viewed by its supporters as a legitimate resistance movement.

Around 70% of Palestinians are descendants of Gaza’s population of 2 million refugees. The confrontation at the Gaza border which has resulted in injury for thousands of Palestinian protesters will culminate on May 15th. If, as Martin Luther King once said ‘riot is the voice of the unheard‘, it is entirely possible that thousands of people will  attempt to walk through the fence which separates them from their ancestral homeland, to reclaim the homes left by their dispossessed parents and grandparents in 1976, remembered by Palestinians as Naqba,The Catastrophe. The Israelis confirm that they will use live ammunition to prevent any approach or damage to the fence, the result would be a massacre.  Let us hope that this does not prove to be the spark which ignites the tinder box which is the Middle East.

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