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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 July 2018

Nakba Day is a reminder of the need for a peaceful solution for Palestinians

The bloodletting on the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem embodies 70 years of tragedy

Palestinian protesters carry an injured man who was shot by Israeli troops during a deadly protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel. Adel Hana / AP
Palestinian protesters carry an injured man who was shot by Israeli troops during a deadly protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel. Adel Hana / AP

There will be at least 55 funerals today as Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of an enduring occupation; 55 funeral rites and prayers read over the bodies of victims as young as 12 and 55 handfuls of earth scattered on their graves – earth from the very soil they are repeatedly and ritually denied from calling their own. The tragedy of the Palestinian plight is that this is nothing unusual; it amounts to yet more blood spilled in the falsehood peddled by Israel of protecting a state when in reality, it has been stolen from Palestinians.

But today's Nakba Day is not simply a moment to remember the violent, brutal dispossession of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948. In the 70 years since, Israel’s efforts to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the land have continued in earnest, through land occupation, ritual degradation and the denial of basic necessities like water and electricity. Today, while the diaspora of seven million Palestinians are spread across the Middle East and beyond, those in the occupied territories continue to inhabit an open-air prison. Any hope of real change and of a two-state solution to the conflict was all but shattered yesterday when the United States embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As besuited officials applauded politely in a masquerade of civility, 50 miles away on the border with Gaza, at least 55 Palestinians were being murdered and 1,800 injured by Israeli soldiers in protests. When will the world wake up to the brutality of an army that wilfully spills the blood of those it occupies?

Conflict in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere often diverts attention from Palestine but the grinding, unrelenting injustice cannot be forgotten. It is all too easy to fall back on hand-wringing but what the Palestinian people need is a fair and just solution – and one that can help stabilise the region. This is more than just a historic moment to remember the losses that continue to plague an entire people. It is a reminder of all the principles entrenched in trying to reach that solution, upheld over the years, at their heart the notion that Jerusalem is a shared capital. The US embassy move has violated those parameters. "We extend to Israel the right we extend to any other nation: the right to designate its capital city," boasted David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, at the embassy opening. But where is that right for Palestinians?

The Israeli cabinet is already advancing plans to build settlements in East Jerusalem. A peaceful resolution has rarely looked more remote. Successive US administrations have insisted that recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would present a security threat and undermine the US’s role as an honest broker; instead, Mr Trump has given Israel licence to occupy Jerusalem. It is in the interests of Israelis as much as Palestinians to find a peaceful path for co-existence. Without it, there can only be more bloodshed and violence. "Our greatest hope is peace," Mr Trump said. It is not yet clear how this peace will come about with the current developments but it is imperative to find a path to it.