J Street Statement on Renewed Protests and Violence on Gaza Border

April 6, 2018

J Street is saddened and disturbed by renewed violence today at the Gaza-Israel border, where tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered for another day of mass protest as part of the “March of Return” movement, promoted by Hamas. While the situation is still unfolding, reports indicate that at least six Palestinians have been killed and over 200 wounded by live fire from Israeli forces.

While there are reports of a small number of Palestinians attempting to breach the fence or otherwise attack Israeli soldiers, the vast majority of those who have gathered appear to be exercising their legitimate and important right to engage in nonviolent protest.

In the wake of last Friday’s violence, in which at least seventeen Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded by live fire, J Street urged the Israeli government and IDF to exercise maximum possible restraint and use non-lethal force in this type of situation. We reiterate that call today. Israel’s leaders must respect the Palestinian right to protest and take every possible measure to defend Israel’s border without endangering the safety of non-violent protesters.

Today’s events once again make clear the desperate need to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and to incorporate the fate of the coastal enclave into comprehensive negotiations towards a political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to the occupation. The people of Gaza need compassion, solutions and immediate assistance. Without urgent action, this tragic situation will repeat itself again and again in the coming weeks.

We call on Hamas to stop inciting violence within peaceful protests. We call on Palestinian leaders to resume efforts to negotiate a path to political reconciliation. And, echoing numerous Israeli peace organizations and political parties, we call on the Israeli government to ease the siege of Gaza, help alleviate the suffering of its people and actively pursue a two-state resolution to the underlying conflict.

We are also deeply concerned by the lack of US leadership to help prevent violence and mitigate this crisis. It is stunning that, according to reports, this week’s call between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu did not include significant discussion of the situation in Gaza. The ongoing failure by this administration to support a two-state solution or to seriously engage with Palestinian concerns and aspirations is exacerbating conflict, inflaming tensions and endangering Israel’s security and long-term future.