The United States relocated its embassy in Israel from the city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14. Less than 60 miles away, Palestinian protestors and demonstrators were gunned down at the Gaza border by Israel Defense Forces, leaving 60 dead and over 2,000 injured, according to The Washington Post.
This was the deadliest incident in Gaza since the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict and has drawn condemnation upon Israel from around the world including the United Nations and Turkey, who expelled the Israeli ambassador. Israel maintains that the use of deadly force was justified because, while no demonstrators were armed, they still felt threatened, according to The Washington Post.
Palestine is currently under Israeli occupation which denies Palestinians citizenship and other rights, but Palestinians have long petitioned for their own formal statehood and have developed leadership and political parties of their own, according to The Washington Times.
Jerusalem Is a significant source of long-standing conflict between Israel and Palestine, as both see it as their capital city. Violence and bloodshed have spanned throughout decades over how to resolve this dispute, according to The New York Times.
The United States was viewed by Palestinians and Israelis as a mediator to help resolve this issue and maintain peace in the region. The decision of Jerusalem is viewed as the final piece of a very complex diplomatic puzzle. However, with the United States moving their Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, officially recognizing it as the capital of Israel, Palestinians no longer believe the United States should be involved in peace talks, according to The Guardian.
“The U.S is not a mediator anymore,” said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to ABC News.
Sahar Qumsiyeh, a math professor at BYU-Idaho and author of Peace For a Palestinian, was born in Jerusalem but is not allowed back because of her Palestinian heritage.
“The problem there is a lot of people don’t know that the Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation, we have nothing, we have no nationality, we have no identity, we are not allowed to travel as people living in what they call the state of Israel, we have no rights at all, we have no right to vote, we have no right to travel,” Qumsiyeh said.
Qumsiyeh said that the U.S. media depicts Palestinians, and especially the organization Hamas, in a false light which only hurts people even more.
“They portray Hamas as being terrorists, which they’re not,” Qumsiyeh said. “Hamas is just another Palestinian political party. That’s the goal, Israel is trying to project that image so that they can justify what they are doing to the Palestinians there.”
Qumsiyeh said that while events like the embassy move or the mass killing of demonstrators grab headlines here in America, the Palestinian people live with these harsh realities every day.
“I think the main tragedy is what is really happening in Gaza,” Qumsiyeh said. “We don’t have running water every day, we don’t have a nationality or citizenship, we are often not allowed to raise our flag, and we are searched and humiliated at checkpoints. … It’s like you’re living in a prison.”
Duane Adamson, a political science professor, said that while diplomatic efforts have not made any real progress in quite some time, ultimately, the decision to move the embassy was made out of political reasons rather than diplomatic ones.
“A number of years ago Congress passed a piece of legislation that called for the move of the embassy to Jerusalem,” Adamson said. “Now presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have not actually followed through on that, primarily because it has been seen, in the diplomatic community, as something that would completely derail the diplomatic peace process.”
Adamson said that while Hamas is officially recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel, there is more nuance to it than widespread generalizations.
“Hamas is much more complex then we depict it to be, and we often oversimplify it into black and white,” Adamson said. “It is true that Hamas has engaged in terrorist activities in its past, and it’s also true that it has attempted to become much more of a political party and start to deal with things like keeping the lights on, making sure that the grocery stores have food in them.”
Adamson explained the importance of finding the truth and learning as much as you can to be correctly informed.
“I think the most significant thing is, care to know the truth,” Adamson said. “We live in an environment where political truth is increasingly hidden behind ideological narratives in our media. … As Latter-day Saints, as BYU-Idaho students, you should care to get objective truth.”
Qumsiyeh also expressed the importance of truth and our role in sharing it.
“As more people become aware, the truth comes out,” Qumsiyeh said.