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Eurovision to Gaza: From Best to Bad

By Ralph Seliger

This should be entirely a good news story for lovers of Israel; sadly, it cannot be.  Two days after Israel’s Netta Barzilai’s first-place finish in the Eurovision songfest, there’s the double whammy of the worst day of carnage at the Gaza-Israel border, as oblivious Israelis and Americans celebrate the official transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — peremptorily attempting to settle a sensitive international issue which can only be resolved diplomatically.  

Barzilai won with “Toy,” a catchy tune with a message of female empowerment from a performer without typical showbiz looks (part of her charm).  BDS reportedly campaigned against her, but she triumphed anyway, the fourth time Israelis have won in the four decades of the contest’s history.  Her victory argues against the view of many Jews that Europe is fundamentally antisemitic and therefore automatically anti-Israel.  Then, on Monday, Gaza and Jerusalem happened, with more Palestinian fatalities in one day than in the entire six weeks of protests leading up to it.   

Some media reports label Monday’s Gaza demonstrations as protesting the Jerusalem embassy opening, but it was meant to be the culmination of the “Great March of Return” campaign orchestrated by Hamas regardless.  This date on the Gregorian calendar coincides with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence, May 14, 1948.  On the one hand, it protested the humanitarian plight of Palestinian refugees and of the hemmed-in population of the Gaza Strip; on the other, it denounced Israel’s very existence.  A just solution would address the former but cannot endorse the latter.  

Israelis have every reason to consider these mass demonstrations an effort to forcefully invade sovereign Israeli territory and displace or otherwise harm its citizens.  Although not a conventionally armed force, these were not peaceful protests.  Whether this justified the widespread use of live ammunition, killing scores and injuring thousands, is an extremely difficult question, and viewing those scenes of mayhem is emotionally wrenching. 

It is said that since most of those shot were wounded in the leg, that soldiers were trying hard not to shoot to kill.  At the same time, there is some evidence (reported by the Times of Israel) that a significant number of those killed were “terrorists,” active in Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  

Gazans’ message via kite: “Zionists: There is no place for you in Palestine. Go back to where you came from.”

The Forward’s been good in covering the current Gaza imbroglio, publishing a variety of differing yet trenchant opinions and analyses.  This piece, “Is Israel Justified in Shooting Protesters on Gaza Border?“, rigorously examines the legalities of Israel’s response.   

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