Israel, Gaza, and The March of Return
DRL: As we were venturing into the perilous waters of discussing relations between Israel and Palestine and the current violence on the border of Gaza, we received some comments from a Palestinian writer who lives in Gaza. I have published her piece below, but first some background on the situation and news from yesterday's violence which left many more dead and injured.
Brief Background: Let me first say, no narrative would ever satisfy both Palestinians and Israelis, but I will try. The current violence has its roots in the decades-old struggle of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and E. Jerusalem to build a Palestinian state. Negotiations with Israel have gone nowhere for years and the Netanyahu Administration has authorized more settlements in the occupied territories, further encroaching on land that Palestinians believe should be part of their future state. Israel views Hamas in Gaza as a terrorist organization that threatens their existence, believes the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority is corrupt and ineffective, and won't negotiate until they can ensure the security of their citizens. Making matters more complex, Netanyahu is supported by religious parties who believe the occupied territories belong to them because in the bible the land is promised by God to Abraham and his descendants. You can read a much more detailed and interesting history by Jay Rothman at Ohio State here.
Gaza's "March of Return" protest is an annual grassroots event meant to remind the world of Palestinian suffering. Israel claims that Hamas has played a role in planning the event, and that's likely true. This year, President Trump's decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem in May exacerbated the situation substantially, and Netanyahu has taken a hard-line stance against the demonstrations arguing that they are too close the border fence and threaten Israel's territorial integrity. Although estimates differ, approximately 41 Palestinians have been killed and 5000 wounded since the protests began, including Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja. His death and the escalating death toll have led to international condemnation of Israel's response to the protests.
According to a Reuters report, the situation escalated yesterday when 3 more Palestinians were killed and as many as 600 were wounded, and the United Nations issued a statement criticizing Israel's excessive use of force. Israel claims that some of the protesters were attempting to cross the border illegally, rolled burning tires at the fence, and threw rocks at Israeli border guards.
More demonstrations are expected next week and may intensify as America gets closer to opening its new embassy in Jerusalem in May.
Below is a piece written by a Palestinian writer who lives in Gaza, TSS. She wrote this for Illuminate before the violence yesterday, but after the death of Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja. We publish this to provide the perspective of a Palestinian experiencing the current violence first hand to get a window into the perspective of those who live in Gaza. Israel's point of view is covered well in a recent article in the Jerusalem Post here. And we would welcome the input of an Israeli citizen living near Gaza and their reactions to the violence.
TSS: THE GREAT RETURN MARCH
On the last day of March 2018, the people of Gaza decided to break their deep silence. Thousands of inhabitants of all ages went to the eastern borders with Israel, where our jail is formed by the barbed wires on the fence. All along the border, peaceful and ordinary people, women, men, the elderly and children gathered in protest. Gaza media channels launched this campaign and assured it would be totally peaceful and promised no violent acts. These protests are part of the “March of Return,” which will end in mid-May with “Nakba Day,” marking the displacement of Arabs after Israel’s creation, and Donald Trump's relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (the capital of Palestine).
Event supervisors built camps for the people to spend the day at the border and asked people to do activities like praying, cooking and playing in order to show the world our peaceful intentions. The participants were unarmed, and gathered in groups representing our home towns such as Majdal, Simsm, Herbie, and Yibna.
The Israeli army has tried to stop all public protests by Palestinians and our "March of Return" provoked the Israeli government to use guns with live-rounds to stop the peaceful campaign. They fired tear-gas and shot unarmed participants. They killed citizens of all ages. Their snipers shot and killed children, women, medics, and even journalists who were clearly marked as such.
Who is Yasser?
The whole world screamed when Yasser Murtaja was killed by the Israeli army. He was injured on the second Friday of Great Return March and passed away by the next day. Yasser was wearing his uniform, holding his virtual eye - the camera, and taking pictures to show the world the goodwill of his people and the spirit of their non-violent acts. Yasser had a genius for how to take a photo from a high point using his camera. On the first day of Great Return March, Yasser had taken a photo that represented the real attitude of people. His death was a shock. His funeral was very impressive and moving. The world had shaken the moment he got injured and killed.
The journey will continue and the Palestinians will move on. People like Yasser who would sacrifice themselves for the sake of Palestine exist in every Palestinian house. Despite all those countries who forsake the Palestinian issue, the Palestinians themselves are not waiting for an international decision to announce their eligibility to return to their homes. Israel is an unlawful and spurious entity. Palestinians will never stop asking for their right of return and a better life. Even with all the internal and external obstacles, they believe that Palestine is the Promised Land and one day will triumph.
DRL: Israelis and Palestinians must find a way forward to a lasting piece that guarantees the security and independence of both sides. A two-state solution is still the only viable solution, but how we get there is even more unclear today than a decade ago.
Photo credit: Corinna Kern