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As Trump celebrates his embassy in Jerusalem, a massacre in Gaza

Imagine the outrage western governments would express if terrorists were to kill more than 50 Israelis on the streets of Tel Aviv in a single day. Yet when it comes to the killing that Israeli forces carried out on Monday at the gates of Gaza – and have been doing for the past several weeks – the silence from most western ministers is deafening. Worse still, there are attempts to justify the deaths as legitimate self-defence. The Israeli government argues that the crowds of mostly young Palestinians at the Gaza fence offer a lethal threat to peaceful Israelis. The claim is as ludicrous as it is cynical. Even if one or two protesters broke through the fence they would have nowhere to go except into the arms of the Israeli security forces, who could easily detain them. The Palestinian interlopers have no allies on the Israeli side of the fence, nor any transport to take them to populated parts of Israel. Nor are they armed. It is clear from video footage that they have no suicide belts round their waists, or guns in their hands. Occasional stones were the only weapons.

Normal police methods of arrest and trial would be perfectly adequate to handle the issue. Yet instead, Israeli snipers used live ammunition against demonstrators, wounding thousands in the legs but also killing dozens. In spite of the outrage from international human rights groups on Monday, matched by a few courageous Israeli groups also, there was no sign on Tuesday that Israeli commanders had given their troops any new rules of engagement. With tensions raised as the funerals of victims got underway, the risk of new deaths remained high. A chief cause of the protests is the misery and despair created by 11 years of blockade that the people of Gaza have had to suffer – because they had the temerity to vote in a Hamas government in 2006.

Egypt shares some of the blame for the collective punishment inflicted on Gazans. So too does the Palestinian authority, which held back the payment of civil servants’ salaries in Gaza. But the lion’s share of the blame rests with Israel, which initiated and orchestrated the embargo and has repeatedly refused to end or even relax it significantly. Offers by Hamas to declare a ceasefire or truce with Israel in return for an end to the embargo have been spurned. The result is the hopelessness that encourages young Palestinians to risk their lives at the border fence. Hamas certainly encourages the protests, seeking to highlight Israeli intransigence and cruelty; but to dismiss the young demonstrators as though they were robots being manipulated to act as “Hamas’s human shields” – as official Israeli spokespeople do – is to minimise the genuine frustration and agony that many Gazans feel.

Jonathan Steele is a former chief correspondent for the Guardian.

Source : The Guardian

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