Death, division and denial as US embassy opens in Jerusalem
Trump applauds ‘a great day for Israel’ as hail of bullets kills dozens of Palestinian protestors
Simon Tisdall | The Guardian | May 14, 2018
Israel rained bullets on its own parade – and furnished a murderous metaphor for a divided age. On one side of the fence, or barrier, or wall, or call it what you will, American and Israeli dignitaries lined up in best bibs and tuckers to salute the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. The pompous grandiosity of this tacky ceremony conveyed the essence of Trump-ism: all sound and symbolic fury, lacking substance or sense.
On the other side of the gulf, down the road in besieged and impoverished Gaza, Palestinians – young men, mostly, but middle-aged women and children, too – gathered to protest, then ran for their lives in a screaming chaos of burning tyres, dust, sand, teargas and army live-fire.
In the world according to Donald Trump, schism, self-contradiction and paradox are the new normal. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s hardline education minister, had already put what the foreign ministry called the “murderous rioters” on notice. By taking part in the demonstrations, Palestinians were self-identifying as terrorists, he said. If they were shot dead, Bennett implied, it was their own fault.
“What a glorious day! Remember this moment,” shouted Benjamin Netanyahu to the assembled guests at an over-the-top embassy handover. Israel’s prime minister should rest assured: the day will be remembered – but for all the wrong reasons. Palestinians already had one Nakba (catastrophe) to memorialise and mourn. Now they have another.
Trump himself, architect of what most Arab and European governments see as an incendiary and unnecessary provocation at a dangerous moment, tweeted it was “a great day for Israel”. But Trump was not present to witness the trouble he had caused.
A large majority of the international diplomatic corps boycotted the ceremony, preferring to stay put in Tel Aviv – which they still regard as Israel’s capital. But the White House had supplied plenty of surrogates to bang the drum for the Trump-Netanyahu axis. In any case, those democratic fortresses Paraguay, Guatemala and Hungary all back the move.
Rehearsing the day’s theme of division and denial, the American ambassador, David Friedman, loyally praised Trump’s “vision and courage”. As a lawyer, Friedman specialised in bankruptcy proceedings, representing the Trump Organisation when its Atlantic City casinos went belly-up.
Some have questioned those credentials, but they seemed entirely appropriate on Monday. Anybody who carries on regardless, without batting an eyelid, as dozens of people are killed, then congratulates the principal author of the disaster for his “moral clarity” deserves some kind of diplomatic Oscar.
The divisions of the day – ideological, political and physical – were everywhere to be seen. Jared Kushner, Trump’s millionaire son-in-law, was on hand, along with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter. Trump had given Kushner the title “Middle East peace envoy”, but more than a year after Trump bombastically promised the “greatest ever” peace deal to end the Israel-Palestine conflict, the world still awaits the magic moment. According to reports from Washington, the administration has almost completed its peace plan, but is uncertain how it will be received.
This uncertainty is well founded. The delay is certainly not due to bashfulness. It may be connected to the fact Trump has already declared Jerusalem off-limits for negotiations and his administration considered by the Palestinians to be hopelessly, terminally biased.
If Monday was bad, what is going to happen on Tuesday? Forget the crass embassy shenanigans. Tuesday is the anniversary of the actual day, 70 years ago, when Palestine disappeared off the map.