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Tension and violence is mounting in Israel and Palestine. The US has made the controversial move to relocate its Israel embassy to Jerusalem. At the same time as the opening ceremony of the new embassy on Monday, live ammunition was being fired by the Israeli army on unarmed demonstrators in Gaza.
We have received shocking reports from our partners on the ground about the violence.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights has reported from scenes in Gaza. In one day alone, dozens of people have been killed, including children. Hundreds more have been injured.
“Firing live ammunition at Gaza demonstrators shows appalling indifference to human life” says Hagai El-Ad, director of our partner B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organisation.
“The demonstrations held in Gaza today came as no surprise. Israel had plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches for dealing with the protests, apart from firing live ammunition”.
In Gaza, after twelve years of economic blockade, young people see no hope for the future. Depression is widespread, suicide is now common and there are few opportunities for any kind of personal development.
With a population of nearly two million people locked inside a tiny strip of land, the greatest desire of young people is for the freedom to move, a freedom denied to them.
The significant reduction in humanitarian funding for Gaza by the United States makes the 80% of the population who rely on this support even more vulnerable.
The remains of a building bombed during the 2014 assault.
In the West Bank the continuous expropriation of Palestinian homes, land and resources has gone on uninterrupted for decades. This has left people with deep feelings of being abandoned.
“Are we not human beings? Do we not have rights? Please don’t forget us”, is a common cry.
The Palestinian people have rights; to their homes, their land and the enjoyment and use of their natural resources. At a more fundamental level there is the right to have their humanity acknowledged and to be treated with dignity and as equals.
The reality, unfortunately, both in Gaza and the West Bank, is far from this ideal.
Of course, even in the midst of despair, the human spirit finds reasons to hope; it does spring eternal.
The Irish government can help keep hope alive by recognising the State of Palestine.
Such a step would be timely in countering Trump’s inflammatory move of the US embassy. This small yet significant step would send a clear message that the Irish people support a negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine. A peace that is based on mutual respect, dignity and equality.
We must try to do what we can to keep hope alive.