Dozens killed in protests as U.S. embassy inaugurated in Jerusalem

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters

By Judith Sudilovsky

JERUSALEM (CNS) — As the new United States
embassy was inaugurated in Jerusalem May 14, violence broke out between
Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers.

International media reported that in Gaza, at
least 52 people were killed, including five under the age of 18, and some 2,000
were injured. The death toll was expected to rise.

Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their
capital and now feel that the U.S. cannot be a fair broker in the peace process
with Israel.

Many Israelis see opening the embassy as the
long-awaited official recognition of Jerusalem as their capital and the
fulfillment of a promise made by numerous U.S. presidents to move the building
from Tel Aviv.

Israel accuses many of the protesters of
being members of Hamas and of using Palestinians as pawns in the violent
protests along the Gaza border, which began March 30. The Israeli Defense
Forces has said that numerous protesters have been caught trying to break
through the border fence that imprisons them, and fire-lit kites sent by Palestinians
across the border have caused millions of dollars of damage to crops when they
have landed on Israeli farmland.

At St. Joseph Parish in Jifna, West Bank, May
14, Father Firas Aridah tolled bells at noon to mourn those injured and killed
in clashes, to mark the commemoration of the day Palestinians call al-Naqba — their
catastrophe — and to lament the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. On
May 14, 1948, Israel declared its independence; Palestinians commemorate that 250,000-300,000 Arabs living in the
British mandate of Palestine were forced off their lands and homes at the time.

“Jerusalem is at the heart of the
conflict,” he said. “Opening the American embassy without resolving
the conflict is going to the extreme. They can resolve the conflict of
Jerusalem and then do whatever they want. But why just move the embassy to
Jerusalem without resolving the conflict?”

The priest said although parishes in the Holy
Land tell their parishioners to resist occupation by educating
themselves and preparing for the future, people in Gaza see no future. He said
he can stress to his school’s Christian and Muslim students that throwing
stones is not worth dying for, but people in Gaza are desperate.

“They don’t have anything to lose,”
he said. “They are not living in dignity.”

On May 15 Palestinians will mark a moment of
silence in commemoration of the Naqba, much like the Israelis did a month early
on the Hebrew anniversary of Israeli independence.

Father Aridah said he would light candles
with his parishioners following 6 p.m. Mass May 15 and have a silent march to
the center of the village. He expects the demonstrations, including throughout
the West Bank, to continue for some time.

In a statement released May 14, Pax Christi
International said it recognized the 70th anniversary of two historic events
this year: the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel and the

“These two events are forever
interconnected. Pax Christi members and partners will once again stand in
solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially those who, after seven
decades, remain refugees, as they mark this solemn anniversary,” said the statement. It called for the right of return and/or compensation for
Palestinian refugees as a prerequisite for a just and fair Israeli-Palestinian
peace agreement, for which Pax Christi said an increased commitment from the
international community is “urgently necessary.”

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