Marino de Medici: History will judge Trump’s embassy decision
“A great day for Israel!,” proclaimed president Trump in celebrating the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem while Israeli armed forces slaughtered dozens of Palestinians. The demonstrators were trying to dismantle the borderline that cages them in the Gaza strip. They had been warned not to try. Israel made good on its warning by sending out the tanks against unarmed protesters, many of them women and children. When a similar massacre happened in Soweto in June 1976, it changed the social and political landscape of South Africa, eventually leading to freedom for the black population and to the elimination of the hateful apartheid system.
Nothing of the sort will happen in Gaza and the West Bank, the occupied territories where apartheid is practiced on a large scale. In 1976 the American press covered intensely the uprising of the Sowetan students that was met by the unrestrained brutality of the Afrikaans government. Hundreds of protesters, possibly up to 700 people, were killed by the police. The government even asked hospitals to provide lists of the wounded to prosecute them for rioting. The world watched with horror and decided that the time had come to strengthen the international boycott of South Africa. The bloodshed plunged the country into a crisis. The political and economic instability and the international condemnation finally brought the racist government of South Africa to its knees. Fourteen years later, Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
There will be no international boycott of Israel, and the United States will surely not allow it. In fact, some U.S. senators pushed legislation to punish those countries and entities that support the boycott through the so-called “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).” Critics of the BDS reject the charge that Israel is an apartheid state and claim that Jews and Arabs “mix freely and increasingly live in the same neighborhoods.” Unfortunately, the evidence in Israel dramatically speaks to the contrary and the living conditions in the Gaza strip, a suffocating prison, can be defined as inhuman.
History will judge president Trump for his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, when good people, in the United States and around the world, forewarned him the consequences of such action. The world now sees that Trump’s disregard for reality has totally disqualified the United States from being an honest broker of peace between Jews and Palestinians. His move has legitimized not only Israel’s apartheid but also the ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinian population. Israel has no intention of recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. The haughtiness of the ultra-right has also made clear that Israel will not end its occupation and colonization of Arab land. Furthermore, Donald Trump has made clear that as far as his administration is concerned, Premier Netanyahu can do no wrong.
Any impartial historian will note while a majority of South African citizens in the 1970s were against the ferocious repression against the blacks, no such opposing majority can be found in Israel. In fact, Netanyahu is riding a wave of unconditioned approval for his repression of the Palestinians and for a course of action that is leading to conflict with Iran. He has Donald Trump in his camp, along with a substantial sector of Americans, starting with the evangelical church that supports Israel as the land of the prophecy. Trump is the guarantor of Israel’s survival as if a country with 200d nuclear bombs and $3 billion dollars of American yearly gifted armaments were in fact in dire danger of survival.
Americans should be asking themselves how long it is permissible to let their president put politics and the design to please evangelicals and other populist rabble-rousers ahead of national security in risking war with Iran under the relentless push of Bibi Netanyahu. Bibi was not elected president of the United States, but he behaves as if he were.
Marino de Medici is a Winchester resident and formerly the dean of foreign correspondents in the United States.