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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

The US embassy opening in Jerusalem should not overshadow Nakba Day, marking 70 years of suffering

Moral bankruptcy of Israeli pageantry cannot eclipse the dispossession

A worker hangs a road sign directing to the US embassy in Jerusalem. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
A worker hangs a road sign directing to the US embassy in Jerusalem. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

Seventy years ago, in the blackness of the night, armed Israeli soldiers stormed the homes of Palestinian families in towns and villages. Acting on direct orders from Israel’s founders, they proceeded to force 700,000 Palestinians out of their homes, seize their property and turn them into refugees in their own homeland. As Palestinians this week remember the anniversary of the catastrophe that befell them seven decades ago with the creation of Israel, what is clear is that the Nakba is not only an episode of displacement lodged in their memory but a process of dispossession that is still unfolding.

On Monday, the US government will inaugurate its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, conferring unilateral recognition of Israel’s illegal occupation of the ancient city and kickstarting the process of legitimising its colonial oppression. Paraguay and Guatemala, encouraged by the American precedent, are also preparing to relocate their own diplomatic missions to Jerusalem. Adding insult to injury is Washington’s claim that moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will aid the peace process. The evidence to the contrary has been evident in the blood of Palestinians spilled since its catastrophic decision. When US President Donald Trump announced his decision to move the embassy in December last year, simultaneous protests erupted in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a betrayal of all who trusted the US, in spite of its historical pro-Israel bias, to play the role of impartial mediator. Over the past few weeks, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza – sealed off from land and sea by Israel by a blockade and forced to endure the most unimaginably wretched conditions – have staged mass protests on the border with Israel to shine light on their plight. Israel reacted to Palestinians’ peaceful demonstration by opening fire and falling back on racist tropes about violent Arabs. The 52 Palestinians who have been killed and 1,700 who have been wounded since March 30 tell their own tale of being victims of remorseless violence.

For the US to open the doors to its embassy in Jerusalem against this bloody backdrop hours before Nakba Day on May 15 is to completely abandon the fiction of America being an honest broker. As Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, has suggested, ordinary people can never again repose faith in Washington. There will be ceremony and pomp on Monday as Israeli and American officials toast the US embassy’s opening in Jerusalem. The morally bankrupt pageantry should not be allowed to eclipse or overshadow the sorrow and tragedy inflicted on Palestinians for 70 years and continues to cause suffering to this day. The cause of the Palestinians is one of enduring calls for justice in the face of unremitting brutality.