At least 52 Palestinians were killed on Monday, May 14, in the Gaza Strip and more than 2,400 others were wounded as the Israeli army fired live ammunition and tear gas at protesters assembled at five points along the border fence with Israel.
Monday’s demonstrations, held in the context of the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, were the latest in seven weeks of protests calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they were forcibly expelled from in 1948. Since the protests began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 90 Palestinians in the coastal enclave and wounded close to 10,500.
The seven weeks of protests which commenced on “Land Day” and were planned from the start to culminate on what Palestinians have come to call “Nakba (catastrophe) Day,” today May 15, commemorating 70 years since the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, which was marked by a violent campaign of ethnic cleansing during which some 700,000 Palestinians were driven out or otherwise fled from their towns and villages.
In parallel to the festive ceremony marking the transfer of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, another protest on Monday adjacent to the event turned violent on when police charged the crowd when demonstrators hoisted Palestinians flags.
As US and Israeli officials attended the inauguration ceremony of the controversial diplomatic mission in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona, police officers tore flags from protesters’ hands, at times using brutal force. Videos distributed on social media show policemen attacking, pushing and arguing with Members of Knesset from the Joint List, including all Hadash MKs.
Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List tweeted before the demonstration: “There’s nothing festive about transferring the embassy… The bullying of the Netanyahu-Trump alliance continues to deepen the conflict, to kindle racism, and to spread hatred and violence.”
After the protest, the chairman of the High-Follow Up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel, former Hadash MK Muhammad Barakeh said, “We will continue our struggle. Despite our having authorization to protest, police used extreme violence. As if what’s happening in Gaza were not enough, they cane after us as well. We’ll convene for an urgent session within the next 24 hours and make some decisions… The Follow Up Committee organized this protest to raise our voices against the US policy, which supports Israel’s occupation and settlements and destroys the possibility of creating an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Out of hundreds of protesters, Arabs and Jews, the police arrested 14 of the activists, among them members of Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel. MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) accused the police of attacking the demonstrators, including the lawmakers, when they raised their flags and signs. “They were aggressive and did not allow us to state our position in a democratic way: No to this criminal embassy move, and no to the massacre in Gaza.”
Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint List said Palestinian blood is on the hands of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, saying they’re “two hooligans who have set the area ablaze.” “Trump and Netanyahu are responsible for any escalation, and this is exactly what they planned in advance, in order to torpedo any attempt to bring about a diplomatic agreement and peace,” claimed Touma-Sliman.
In a statement issued before the demonstration in Jerusalem, Israeli peace movement Peace Now explained its opposition to the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “This populist move, taken unilaterally and without any recognition of Palestinians’ attachment to Jerusalem and their national aspirations for sovereignty over the Palestinian-inhabited parts of the city, is a boon to extremists on both sides.”
“Israeli Jewish extremists, who view the conflict and its resolution as a zero-sum game and reject any future Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem, interpret Trump’s move as an endorsement of their worldview. Palestinian extremists, particularly those who see the conflict as a religious war, interpret Trump’s move as an affirmation of the widespread view that the ‘Crusader West’ is colluding with Zionism to deny Muslims’ attachment to the third holiest site for Islam and thus to challenge their faith,” the statement continued.
“Playing into the hands of the extremists and framing the conflict as a religious one, even if inadvertently, weakens the pragmatists who should be emboldened as interlocutors for peace negotiations. Recognizing Israeli political claims to Jerusalem without any recognition of Palestinian aspirations in this holy city wrecks America’s role as an honest, effective broker.”
Other protests against the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem were held on Monday evening across Israel, including in Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, Sakhnin, Arabe, Kufr Yassif, Yfia, Tira and Tamra.