The Gaza protests are simply not about an embassy move – they are about Israel’s right to exist

By Jason Pearlman

There are media outlets which would have you believe that the protests on the Gaza border were against the relocation of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Frankly, this is false.

The US maintains several offices which are in contact with the Palestinian Authority. This was not a downgrading in US-Palestinian relations; nor does it really mark any great change in the relationship between the US and Israel. This was very simply the recognition that Israel, like any other country, has the right to choose its capital; and that the Jewish people have held Jerusalem as their capital for 3,000 years (and Israel for the last 70).

Does this mean that the Palestinians have no claim over Jerusalem? Not if one read President Trump’s declaration, in which he noted that the borders would be subject to final status negotiations. Does it mean that the holy Muslim sites in Jerusalem are not protected? Not at all – on the contrary, Israel has an excellent record of safeguarding not only Jewish sites, but the religious sites of all other faiths.

If it were acknowledging the Jewish connection to Jerusalem that has caused such upset, one would imagine outcry across the wider Muslim world. Strikingly, this has not been the case.

Only Turkey and Iran were moved to comment on the events. Saudi Arabia (the custodian of the holiest sites in Islam), Jordan and Egypt, Israel’s Muslim neighbours, may not agree with the interpretation of the religious texts or even the history; but they clearly understand (explicitly or implicitly) the place of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

These violent demonstrations were Hamas’ alone. They have been planned for months to coincide with the May 14 anniversary of Israel’s foundation. They were not about the embassy. They were about denouncing Israel’s very existence.

There will of course be those who wish to condemn Israel for defending itself. They may wish to castigate its leaders for acting with ‘excessive’ force. But they would do well to note that despite the chaos on the ground, 53 of the 62 people who lost their lives have been claimed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as active combatants. When they still decide that Israel should be condemned, they should understand that they are condemning the acts of a democratic government working to prevent the infiltration of its territory and murder of its civilians. They should also reflect that they are giving succour to a group which glorifies death and seeks to murder with no care for the lives of their own people; a group which sees the very existence of Israel and Jews as their only true reason to protest.

Bringing a gun to a protest is one thing. Bringing a child to a protest is another. Both Hamas called for. Laying the blame for the results with those who are acting to defend their people? Well, that is another thing entirely.

Jason Pearlman is Deputy Director at The Henry Jackson Society.

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