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Gaza Erupts, Next Year in Jerusalem, B for BDS

As US Blames Hamas for Gaza Deaths, World Condemns Israel

Itamar Eichner, Ynet News, May 14th 2018


Scores of Palestinians were killed during a Hamas fueled uprising at the Gaza-Israel border. The violence marks the highest single day Palestinian death toll since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, although, most casualties were members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The White House condemned Hamas's “recklessness and cynicism” for instigating the riots.

The Context:

  • 40,000 Gazans flocked to the Gaza-Israel border on Monday [1] to protest the formal relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. May 14th marks Israel’s 70th anniversary as well as the Palestinian Nakba, which commemorates the flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians upon the creation of Israel [2].

  • Most Gazans are descendants of refugees from the 1948 War. Israel unilaterally withdrew all troops and civilians from Gaza in 2005 and handed over the coastal enclave to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas subsequently seized control of the Strip and launched numerous wars against Israel in an effort to “liberate Palestine [3].” Gaza has been under Israeli and Egyptian blockade ever since.

  • The Israeli military defended its use of force saying protesters “hurled firebombs and explosive devices at the security fence and Israeli troops.” [4]. Israeli jets distributed leaflets warning Gazan’s against approaching the security fence, attempting to sabotage it or to carry out terror attacks [5].

  • This week, hundreds of Israelis protested Israel’s response to the rioters [6] and US Senator Bernie Sanders expressed that “Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters.” Following the confrontations, Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador in Ankara as did South Africa [7]. Palestinian officials castigated the US for the embassy move saying, " the US administration has cancelled its role in the peace process and created instability." The Arab League - a 22-member body of which Palestine is a member – held a meeting to discuss next steps regarding the embassy move and Gaza uprising [8].

  • This week, Hamas directed rioters to destroy key parts of the Kerem Shalom Crossing, Israel’s main passage for commercial goods and humanitarian aid in and out of the Gaza Strip. Gas lines were trashed and millions of dollars of damage was caused [9].

Conversation Points:

  • Would other Western countries act differently in the face of 40,000 people from a hostile entity amassed on its border?

  • Are news outlets misleading their readers by including Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in their casualty rates?

  • How should Israel handle civilians embedded in situations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants? Are civilian casualties in such situations to be expected?

  • Was selecting the date of the “Nakba” for the embassy move callous towards Palestinians? Would the violence have been mitigated if the move occurred on another day?

  • Does a lack of Israeli casualties prove disproportionate use of force or does 60 deaths (mostly militants) amongst 40,000 verify a level of restraint?

  • Is there a moral equivalency between a nation using force to defend its border and a militant group looking to breach it?

Eurovision Song Contest 2018: Netta Barzilai Wins for Israel

USA Today, May 13th 2018


25-year-old Israeli Netta Barzilai beat contestants from 42 countries to claim Eurovision’s top spot.

The Context:

  • Barzilai’s win marks Israel's fourth ever Eurovision win and its first since 1998. Israel will host next year's Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem.

  • Eurovision began as a competition between European countries but now also includes Israel and Australia among its performers. Past winners include Swedish pop group ABBA and Spanish singer Julio Iglesias.

  • Israeli actress Gal Gadot asked her 20 million followers to vote for Bazilai and congratulated her on her victory saying, “you represent the real wonder in women [10]!!!”

  • Over 15,000 people from Iceland signed a petition demanding that Iceland boycott the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Israel however, [11] Iceland will ultimately participate [12]. Dublin Mayor Micheal Mac Donncha also called for his nation to abstain from participating in the 2019 competition [13].

Conversation Points:

  • If pro-Palestinian supporters hold that Palestinian civilians should not be punished for their government’s decisions, shouldn’t that logic also apply to Israeli civilians?

  • Should Eurovision allow countries that use their contest as a political soapbox to participate in its events?

Natalie Portman Will Receive ‘Jewish Nobel’ Despite Refusal to Come to Israel

Times of Israel, May 14th 2018


The Genesis Prize Foundation will not rescind its honor to Natalie Portman despite her refusal to attend the award ceremony in Israel.

The Context:

  • The Genesis Prize was established in 2012 to “honor individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews.” Previous recipients include artist Anish Kapoor, violinist Itzhak Perlman, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and actor Michael Douglas.

  • Portman rejected the prize and issued a statement on Instagram saying she did not want “to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony.” Portman had originally asked Genesis “to cite a scheduling conflict, allowing her to back out of the Jerusalem ceremony quietly [14].”

  • Miri Regev, Israel’s minister for culture and sports, slammed the actress for “fall[ing] as a ripe fruit in the hands of BDS supporters [15].” Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a movement that encourages economic, academic and cultural sanctions against Israel to advance the Palestinian cause. It is widely viewed as an anti-Israel organization rather than a pro-Palestinian movement. Portman later clarified that she does not support BDS.

  • The foundation criticized Portman’s decision saying it offered her the opportunity to share her political views during her address, and that she missed out on promoting “women’s equality and empowerment,” the foundation’s theme for this year.

Conversation Points:

  • Is the pro-Israel camp quick to label critics of Israel supporters of BDS?

  • What is the difference in being an anti-Israel movement vs. a pro-Palestinian movement?


  1. 58 Palestinians said killed, including terror operatives, in Gaza border riots, Times of Israel, May 16th 2018

  2. Uneasy Calm Falls Over Gaza After Israel Kills Scores at Protests, THE NEW YORK TIMES, MAY 15TH 2018

  3. 58 Palestinians said killed, including terror operatives, in Gaza border riots, Times of Israel, May 16th 2018

  4. Hundreds in Israel And Beyond Protest Killings of Palestinians On Gaza Border, Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, Huffington Post, May 16th 2018

  5. 58 Palestinians said killed, including terror operatives, in Gaza border riots, Times of Israel, May 16th 2018

  6. Hundreds in Israel And Beyond Protest Killings of Palestinians On Gaza Border, Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, Huffington Post, May 16th 2018

  7. Turkey asks Israeli consul general to leave, Fox News, May 16th 2018

  8. US embassy opens in Jerusalem amid lockdown, Al Jazeera, May 16th 2018

  9. 58 Palestinians said killed, including terror operatives, in Gaza border riots, Times of Israel, May 16th 2018

  10. Gal Gadot To Israel Eurovision Winner Netta Barzilai: ‘You’re the Real Wonder Woman’, Forward, May 14, 2018

  11. Icelanders sign petition to boycott Eurovision in Israel, EU Observer, May 16th 2018

  12. Defying boycott call, Iceland says it will take part in Jerusalem Eurovision, Times of Israel, May 14th 2018

  13. DUBLIN MAYOR: IRELAND SHOULD BOYCOTT EUROVISION 2019, Amy Spiro, Jerusalem Post, May 14th 2018

  14. Natalie Portman Will Receive 'Jewish Nobel' Despite Refusal to Attend Ceremony in Israel, Haaretz, May 16th 2018

  15. Natalie Portman Reveals Why She Skipped Israeli Prize Ceremony After Government Official Slams Her, People, May 16th 2018

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