We, the Writers for Peace of PEN International, abhor Monday's (May 14th, 2018) clashes on the Gaza border, which resulted in the highest death toll in a single day since the end of the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
While the violent protests may have been triggered by the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, as well as the 70thanniversary of Israel's emergence from the Palestinian Mandate which forced so many Palestinians from their homes and land, the root cause of the problem remains the desperate situation of the Palestinians under Israeli rule and, in particular, the inhabitants of the Gaza strip.
Living in constant fear, Gazans make do with only a few hours of electricity a day, limited access to drinking water, poor medical care, inadequate access to education and no prospect of prosperity for themselves or their children.
We are aware the responsibility for Gaza’s situation does not lie with Israel alone. However, the government of Israel is recognized by the UN as “the occupying Power” and was in control of the actions of their troops on the ground earlier this week, who killed at least sixty people and wounded hundreds more. There were no reported casualties suffered by Israel.
We believe that responsibility for the deaths must also be borne by the President of the United States, Donald Trump. He was warned by many in the international community that moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and particularly on such a key day for the Palestinians, the Nakba, would result in an impassioned reaction from both sides. His appetite for conflict is, in itself, a serious obstacle to peace.
We strongly condemn the excessive use of force by Israel and support international efforts for an independent investigation.
70 years without a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians is many decades too long. It stains the reputations of all past and present members of the UN Security Council, especially those who claim permanent membership. It has brought misery to the people of the Middle East and continuing danger to much of the rest of the world. We call on all those in authority, whether states or political parties, to meet the aspirations of their people by abandoning entrenched positions and truly seeking a resolution.
Marjan Strojan, Chair of the WfPC, PEN International