For all of us who care about achieving a better future for Israelis and Palestinians, yesterday’s events were devastating and infuriating.
What we saw at the opening ceremony for the US embassy in Jerusalem was a US-Israel relationship that, under President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, is grounded in extremism, callousness and contempt for the pursuit of peace.
While the ceremony took place, Israeli soldiers — a mere hour’s drive away — killed dozens and wounded hundreds of Gazans, the vast majority of whom were unarmed protesters. While Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and David Friedman celebrated, they seemed totally unconcerned and uninterested in the devastating violence taking place.
In the wake of this nightmare, J Street stands firmly with those expressing concern and frustration at Israel’s response to these protests, and at the shamefully incendiary and irresponsible actions of the Trump administration.
Without question, Israel has a right to defend itself against attempts to breach its border fence with Gaza, and against other efforts — whether by tunnel, rocket or other means — to threaten the security of its citizens.
But we don’t believe that Israeli leaders are making the effort that they should be to avoid casualties and protect lives. There is no way to justify the use of lethal force against unarmed protesters.
We reject the idea that blame for this tragedy should lie with the protesters themselves. The ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip provides insufficient basic necessities like food, water and electricity, and strangles any hope for a viable economy and future by restricting the movement of goods and people. Hamas is a vile terrorist organization that must be confronted and prevented from harming Israelis. But Hamas’ rule in Gaza does not justify the level of violence inflicted on the protesters.
In this moment, it is incumbent on pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy Americans to speak out and make clear that until the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is ended, until Palestinians are treated with the full level of respect and humanity they deserve and until this conflict is finally resolved via a two-state agreement, Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people will not be truly secure.
Over the past 24 hours, we have been encouraged to see many in the media and in US political life speak out and echo that message.
From Members of Congress to columnists to security officials and major mainstream progressive organizations, these prominent voices are challenging the disastrous status quo, slamming the shameful leadership of Trump and Netanyahu and calling for change.
No longer is our political discourse around Israel rooted in silence or fear of speaking out. The constituency for progress towards peace is growing rapidly.
Here are some of the notable reactions and strong analyses we have seen:
Yesterday, I held an urgent live discussion on the current chaos in the Middle East with Philip Gordon, former White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf Region under President Obama. You can watch the video of that conversation here.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to stand with those who believe that a different future is possible for Israelis and Palestinians, that this horrific violence can and must end and that we can change the leadership of our country — and our foreign policy — for the better.
We will continue the fight to open up our political discourse and to empower principled, pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy voices in our politics and our communities. We will do everything we can to promote the solutions and political change that will lead us away from extremism and violence and down a new path of diplomacy, compromise and peace.