What caused the escalation in Gaza?

Europe's journalists are preoccupied with the escalation of violence on the border between Gaza and Israel, where at least 60 Palestinians have died in an Israeli military operation against Palestinian demonstrators and Hamas targets. Among the most recent press voices is an article on Palestine's "victim myth" and criticism of Hamas for exploiting Palestinian civil society.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Hamas has shamelessly abused civil protests

Hamas has deliberately escalated the situation, the Tages-Anzeiger surmises:

“What began as a civil protest in the Gaza strip on March 30 has been exploited by fundamentalist Hamas for its own purposes. By calling on the Palestinians to break through the fence on the border with Israel, Hamas bears partial responsibility for the escalation of violence. ... Through its leadership Hamas has managed to focus the Palestinians' anger entirely on Israel and the US. ... Yet it was the representatives of civil society who originally organised the 'March of Return'. These citizens wanted to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel by commemorating the exodus and expulsion of the Palestinians.”

Observador (PT) /

Palestinians must give up their victim myth

Editor-in-chief José Manuel Fernandes writes in Observador that the Palestinian side is also blocking peace:

“It is easy and popular to blame Israel for all the killing. But it's more difficult to admit that there will never be peace as long as the Palestinians continue to entrench themselves in their myth-enshrouded culture of victimisation. Nakba is the identity myth that the Palestinians celebrate. And as long as it continues to be glorified, peace will be impossible. ... The question is the following: will the Palestinians ever overcome this trauma? Will they ever come to see the Nabka as a cornerstone of their identity rather than a catastrophe to be avenged? As long as this is not the case they will never be able to build a state capable of existing alongside Israel.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Alienating the friends it needs

With its harsh treatment of the demonstrators Israel has lost sympathy across the globe, Ria Novosti comments:

“The US is losing influence and power. It can no longer be ruled out that its possibilities for protecting Israel will one day be exhausted - and then the country will stand alone against neighbours that all want to destroy it. A day of national celebration that coincided with mass shootings broadcast live worldwide: that looks like someone was deliberately pouring fuel on the fire. As a consequence of this approach it is very possible that Israel will soon stand alone against hostile forces that are many times stronger than its own. Then the help of other states will be crucial for Israel. But will that help be forthcoming?”

Le Soir (BE) /

EU must impose arms embargo

The EU should take measures against Israel in reaction to the latter's conduct, writes Philippe Hensmans, director of Amnesty International Belgium, in Le Soir:

“It is high time to impose a complete arms embargo on Israel: no weapons and no more military equipment for as long as these human rights violations continue. The United States has committed to supplying Israel with military support to the tune of 38 billion dollars over the next decade. So we may not be able to count on the current American leaders for a change of strategy right now. But the EU member states also supply arms and military materials to Israel. The EU should - for once - take the lead in respecting its own rules for arms exports and suspend all weapons supplies to Israel.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Hamas putting on the pressure

Those who were killed in the clashes on the Gaza-Israel border were mostly members of Hamas, the organisation claims. The politician and foreign policy expert Gianni Vernetti explains the role of the Islamic fundamentalist Palestinian organisation:

“The radicalisation of the conflict in the Gaza Strip is a double battle cry from Hamas: against Israel, but also against the Palestinian National Authority and its president Mahmoud Abbas. ... Hamas is pursuing the goal of taking over the leadership of the entire Palestinian world and is backed above all by Iran. At the start of the Syrian civil war Hamas set up its headquarters in Damascus. And in the Syrian capital the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis has become consolidated.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Staged by Hamas

Hamas' share of the blame for the deaths and casualties should not be overlooked, Sydsvenskan points out:

“It is the declared goal of Islamist Hamas to annihilate the State of Israel with all means at its disposal. ... The conflict is about land, but Hamas's hatred of Israel is rooted in anti-Semitism and religious fanaticism. ... It is a maximalist, uncompromising stance that leaves no room for negotiations or peaceful coexistence. ... Gaza is often described as the world's largest open-air prison. ... As with all prisons, the guards are on the inside. Gaza's population is being held hostage by Hamas. ... Sweden's foreign minister should realise that the danse macabre on the border between Israel and Gaza is being staged by Hamas.”

Le Monde (FR) /

The Palestinians are being dehumanised

It's outrageous to think that the protests on the border of the Gaza Strip were prompted by Hamas, Le Monde writes:

“The Gaza inhabitants don't need Hamas' goading to hurl themselves at the Israeli barbed wire in the mad and deluded hope of escaping their prison and regaining the land of their forefathers. ... This 'Black Monday' also reveals how for most of Israel's political class and society the Palestinians have become almost totally dehumanised, as if they were nothing but Hamas's henchmen, even though the Great Return March proves that Palestinian society has chosen civil and popular protest over terrorism and armed struggle.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Each side only looking out for number one

Der Standard takes a look at who is benefiting from the bloodshed on the Gaza Strip, and how:

“Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is massively under pressure at home, is playing the resolute defender of the homeland and pointing arrogantly at the Palestinians' propensity to violence. Hamas, in turn, is happy to play the victim, and in so doing diverts attention from its own political, economic and administrative failures. Trump, meanwhile, is strengthened by the support from the Israeli public and the domestic Evangelical lobby for his crackpot decision.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Israel must not get away with this

De Volkskrant is appalled by the way the international community has reacted to the events on the Gaza border:

“The calm and even indifferent reaction of the international community to these events is worrying. It cannot be that Israel is allowed to get away with this deadly repression and its aggressive settlement policy simply because all hope of a two-state solution has faded. ... As long as Israel is able to ignore international agreements the Palestinians' sense of injustice will continue. That, in turn, forms the basis of Hamas' existence, which represents a permanent threat to Israel. This vicious circle must be broken.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

Nothing can justify this violence

The Israeli army's reaction to the Palestinian protests was completely out of proportion, the Catholic magazine Gość Niedzielny finds:

“Israel has had to fend off the attacks of its hostile neighbours for 70 years. The world often forgets this and sides with the Palestinians, who fire missiles at Israel on a regular basis. But apart from immobilising those trying to storm the border with explosives, Israel resorted to completely disproportionate means against the mostly defenceless people. No philo-Semitism, even that of a most profound biblical nature, provides a basis for defending what Netanyahu and his team of nationalists are doing. On the contrary, philo-Semitism makes such behaviour particularly painful.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Trump is responsible

President Donald Trump is to blame for the many victims in Gaza, Aftonbladet writes:

“A day of joy for Israel has become a day of grief for Palestine. And that is Donald Trump's fault. ... The root of the problem is the Israeli occupation. War and the threat of war have become the new normality for both sides. The walls, the soldiers, the terrorism and the abuse of power - a poisonous cocktail handed down by Israelis and Palestinians from generation to generation. In the long term there will be no winners, only victims and perpetrators, perpetrators and victims in a death spiral. With Donald Trump in the White House, the Palestinians have little hope of any help from the US.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Hamas is exploiting the people

The violence has nothing to do with Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, Deutschlandfunk counters:

“The current conflict on the border between Israel and Gaza began on March 30, the Palestinians' so-called 'Land Day'. They protested for their right to return home. For that reason, and not because of Trump's Jerusalem decision, Hamas has since been calling on its people to blindly attack the fence. ... Hamas is using its people's desperation and despair for its own propaganda purposes. ... On the other hand, the Israeli army must ask itself whether its harsh approach is justified. ... Donald Trump's power politics doesn't change a thing in the Middle East conflict. What is crucial now is that both Hamas and the Israeli government exercise restraint and put an end to the fighting. Otherwise another superfluous Gaza war will be unavoidable.”

Denník N (SK) /

Terrible timing

At the very least the timing of the US embassy's move to Jerusalem has been unfortunate, Dennik N concludes:

“This is the most difficult time to reach a compromise in the Middle East right now. The supposedly peace-seeking Palestinian leadership is in crisis and has radical Hamas breathing down its neck. This is nothing new. But on top of that Israel is currently led by a team with authoritarian traits, which is not making much of an effort towards compromise and whose militant stance is being fuelled by Trump. This is putting the whole Middle East on the brink of a potential explosion.”

Die Presse (AT) /

So far one sign has just been replaced by another

An intifada would be the dumbest response the Palestinians could give, Die Presse believes:

“For the Palestinians America has lost all credibility as a mediator. But it would be just as fatal if the Palestinian leadership were to react to this by opening the sluices for a third intifada. Perhaps all those concerned should stop and think for a moment and put the agitation in context. Trump's order for the move certainly isn't one of the most far-sighted decisions in the history of the world. But ultimately this all plays out on a symbolic level. So far the US has simply swapped a sign outside its consulate in Jerusalem. That doesn't justify violence.”

Yeni Şafak (TR) /

Religious rulers will save Jerusalem

The Islamic-conservative daily Yeni Şafak hopes that Jerusalem will one day go back to being as peaceful as it was under the rule of the caliphs and Ottomans:

“Jerusalem has been destroyed by invaders, burned down and plundered dozens of times in the course of history. But each time a ruler emerged afterwards who believed in the unifying power of god. [Caliph] Omar was followed by [the sultans] Saladin, Selim I. and Suleiman I. ... In Jerusalem a system was established, and it brought prosperity and unity for the people. ... This is the way it always has been and the way it will be once more. ... Because Jerusalem is the name of the city to which the Ottoman Empire brought 400 years of peace and stability! ... And even though we will leave this world one day, some day our offspring will produce another Omar!”