An argument we hear all the time these days, about annexation, is that “Nothing happened” when the U.S. moved the embassy to Jerusalem in 2018, so why be concerned about annexing the West Bank? Palestinians may complain a lot, but they won’t rise up, so what is anyone worried about.
This argument erases Palestinian humanity, because in fact Palestinians did rise up over the move of the embassy. The Great March of Return in Gaza was launched in large measure as a response to Trump’s 2017 decision, and those demonstrations brought a ghastly loss of Palestinian life and limb.
But first, let’s hear some of these tone-deaf statements. Dennis Ross speaking to WINEP on June 18:
[Netanyahu] doesn’t buy the story on the risks [of annexation]… “We were warned how there was going to be violence if the Trump moved on the embassy or Jerusalem. Nothing happened.”..So he looks at that and says nothing happened there. All the Cassandra like warnings were overblown.
Michael Koplow of Israel Policy Forum, on June 4:
Many people (very much including me) incorrectly predicted that one of the consequences [of moving the embassy] would be large scale violence that would create a real tradeoff between righting a historic wrong and causing unnecessary loss of life. When the predicted violence did not happen, the immediate reaction was to point to those who had warned about downsides and dismiss their concerns and analysis as silly pearl-clutching… ]T]he short term predictions of violence were incorrect.
Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in June:
[T]wo Trump administration decisions… changed decades of U.S. policy but triggered virtually no ripple of turbulence across the Middle East—the December 2017 announcement of Washington’s intent to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the March 2019 recognition of Israel’s sovereign claim to the Golan Heights, to which Israel formally extended its law in 1981, fourteen years after capturing the territory from Syria. Advocates contend that a West Bank annexation will similarly pass without much response.
Again, the Gaza protest began in March 2018 with one of its goals to protest the U.S. embassy move. “Once Trump declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year, Ahmed [abu Artema] said it was a game changer for his friends and him,” Allison Deger reported on a leader of the marches. “Trump, Ahmed said, was the reason Palestinians felt pushed to the edge.”
The day the US moved the embassy, Israel killed 59 demonstrators in Gaza and wounded 2200.
Thousands and thousands of Gazans went out to the fence on the Israeli boundary every Friday in 2018-2019, and in all, Israeli forces shot and killed 214 protesters, more than 41 of them children. The U.N. office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs in occupied Palestine said that Israel injured more than 36,000 Palestinians during the protests– 8,000 by sniper fire, and another 17,000 by rubber bullets and tear gas.
Many of those injured are still suffering.
Over 7,000 of the live ammunition injuries (some 88 per cent) were limb injuries, followed by injuries to the abdomen and pelvis. Hundred-fifty-six (156) of the limb injuries have resulted in amputations (126 lower limb and 30 upper limb). Out of these, at least 94 cases involved secondary amputations, due to subsequent bone infections.
The stories we’ve done about amputations and one-legged soccer games in Gaza are hardly aberrations: they typify the Gaza experience of violent occupation.
People who say that the U.S. embassy move didn’t cause any unrest are simply ignoring this river of suffering.
Of course, they have been aided by the New York Times, which ran four op-eds justifying the shooting of demonstrators.