Israel fears ‘explosion of violence’ as US prepares to open embassy in Jerusalem: Decision to relocate into the disputed city in the same week as Israel’s 70th anniversary raises concerns of increased tension: Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem, The Observer,

The move on 14 May will mark the start of a potentially volatile week when Israel will celebrate its 70th anniversary and Palestinians mark the “catastrophe”, or Nakba, of their displacement on the 15th.

Nakba day has previously seen violence as the Israeli army responds to demonstrations in the occupied territories. This year, tensions are far higher than usual. Six weeks of protests along the Gaza border, during which Israeli soldiers have shot dead nearly 40 people and wounded hundreds, will culminate that week.

There are fears that those attending the rallies may attempt to breach the perimeter, a move that could lead to mass casualties as Israeli snipers are operating under rules of engagement that permit live fire.

“The situation between Israelis and Palestinians could not be more delicate,” wrote Ilan Goldenberg, who served as part of the US team during the 2013-14 Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, in an opinion piece for the Israeli paper Haaretz.

The embassy move, he said, may pass without significant violence, pointing to the lack of anticipated instability following Donald Trump’s December announcement to relocate the embassy. “Or it could explode – and we could find ourselves in the middle of a new war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Nobody knows, but it is irresponsible for the US to be dumping gasoline on this potential fire,” he said.

Israel’s police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said officers were assessing the level of security needed for theopening, including deploying CCTV cameras and guards in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Arnona, where the current US consulate is being retrofitted to become the embassy.

“We’re still waiting to see if the US president will come here for the opening move. The level of security will be raised accordingly,” he said. Trump has hinted he may attend, while Israeli media have speculated he will send his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Israeli police had not received information of any specific warnings, Rosenfeld said, but security forces were “taking into consideration the period we’re going to be in and other events, including Jerusalem celebrations and Nakba day. There are implications around the Gaza strip area, and of course the move with the American embassy as well. We’re talking about an intensive week,” he said.

On the weekend ahead of the embassy opening, thousands of Israelis are expected to mark what they say is the city’s reunification in a Jerusalem Day rally. Often made up of religious settlers, these marches pass through Muslim district of the Old City and in previous years groups have chanted anti-Arab insults.

In the south, demonstrations in Gaza have been supported by Hamas, which rules the enclave and has fought three wars with Israel. With two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million people being refugees or their descendants, protesters are demanding a “right to return” to their ancestral homes.

“The intensity of these marches will reach its zenith on 14 May,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University. He said opening the embassy in a week in which Palestinians remember what they see as their defining tragedy is misguided. “It’s like the US is insisting on making the Palestinians remember this day as a very sad day in their history and in their struggle against the Israeli occupation,” he said.

A week ago, a crowd of people moved towards the frontier, attempting to rip away barbed wire and set sections of the security fence on fire with burning tyres. Israel, which has rejected UN and EU calls for investigations into its use of live ammunition, accuses Hamas of exploiting civilians to break into its territory.

“When you have tens of thousands of people around the border there is no control over them,” said Abusada. “It would be my assumption that some protesters will try to breach the fence, will try to infiltrate into Israel. ”

The US embassy move will be preceded by the 12 May deadline for Trump to decide whether to walk away from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and reinstate sanctions on Tehran. Pulling out of the deal would add pressure on the Iranian leadership at a time when Israel has warned of open war and engaged in direct confrontation, targeting Iranian military sites in neighbouring Syria.

Goldenberg said the “flood of huge events” could be overwhelming: “A toxic witches’ brew of political instability and further potential violence is stewing in the Middle East.”

 Israeli occupation forces fire tear gas at Palestinian protesters east of Gaza City on 4 May.: photo by Dawoud Abo Alkas / APA Images, 4 May 2018
Tawfiq Ziad: Here We Will Stay

In Lidda, in Ramla, in the Galilee,
we shall remain
like a wall upon your chest,
and in your throat
like a shard of glass,
a cactus thorn,
and in your eyes
a sandstorm.
We shall remain
a wall upon your chest,
clean dishes in your restaurants,
serve drinks in your bars,
sweep the floors of your kitchens
to snatch a bite for our children
from your blue fangs.
Here we shall stay,
sing our songs,
take to the angry streets,
fill prisons with dignity.
In Lidda, in Ramla, in the Galilee,
we shall remain,
guard the shade of the fig
and olive trees,
ferment rebellion in our children
as yeast in the dough.

Tawfiq Ziad (1929-1994): Here We Will Stay

Tawfiq Ziad: Passing Remark

When they ran over her,
the mulberry tree said:
'Do what you wish,
but remember
my right to bear fruit
will never die.'

Tawfiq Ziad (1929-1994): Passing Remark