Gaza, Palestine: 60 anti-Zionist Israelis and internationals continued their coordinated protests in solidarity with Palestinians in the weekly Great March of Return after a week of brutal attacks and bombings on the besieged population of the Gaza Strip. They met with Ahmed Abu Artema who addressed them from the other side of the fence that imprisons the Palestinians in a growing, man-made humanitarian crisis.
Gathered on a hill east of the fence, visible to the Gazan participants of the Great March of Return from the Gaza Strip, the activists brought Palestinian flags and signs calling to “Free the Gaza Ghetto” and for the Right of Return.
“Our message today is to bring this struggle and our demands to the world. As the Great March of Return, we seek to hold Israel accountable for the illegal blockade, the illegal occupation and the subjugation of millions of people,” said Ahmed Abu Artema, a Palestinian member of the steering committee for the Great March of Return, while on the phone with Israeli protesters during the event. “Israel’s treatment of peaceful protesters and enforcing military presence that breaks international law and kills peaceful protesters is continuous and systematic. Today they shoot and kill us and bring iron rods to beat Israeli protesters who join our struggle. Today we are partners with you and you are partners with us in the continuous struggle for justice in this holy land. We will continue this struggle.”
“The army, as usual, called upon some residents of the area to confront us with metal rods in their hands. But our message with this protest is one of solidarity, calling for an end to Israeli aggression and a call for Palestinian refugees who have been uprooted from their homes and robbed of their lands to be able to return home,” said Israeli community organizer Yossef Mekyton. “Our determination to remain calm and de-escalate the situation by listening and not reacting in violence sends an important message: We want peace, not violence.”
On November 11, Israeli special forces conducted a deadly operation inside the Gaza Strip. At least 15 Palestinians have been killed and another 26 were wounded since the Israeli incursion and artillery bombardment. Israeli shelling in the densely populated area has also led to the destruction of an Hamas-run TV station and numerous homes. One Israeli soldier lost their life during the military operations in Khan Younis City, sparking fears that another large-scale Israeli military assault on Gaza like those in 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2014 might be looming. The tension at the protest was highlighted by the violence of the counter-protesters.
“Today’s march comes after the latest barbaric attack on Gaza by apartheid Israel. We’ve decided to give it the title ‘Normalization is Treason’ to highlight Arab governments’ growing complicity and coordination with Israel,” said Dr. Haidar Eid, a Gazan organizer and Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip. “Israel would never be able to conduct these war crimes and crimes against humanity without the complicity of some Arab governments.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed that at least 52 Palestinians had been injured by live ammunition, while others suffered from tear gas inhalation during this Friday’s protest.
The Gaza Strip, with a population of nearly 2 million, of which 70% are refugees, has been under an illegal Israeli land, air and sea blockade since 2007. The 11-year-old Israeli military siege has put the Gaza Strip into a state of de-development. The prolonged blockade, which imposes import and export restrictions on the Gaza Strip, has crippled the economy, resulting in one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 49%. This has been compounded by three wars in the last 11 years. Some 22,000 Gazans remain internally displaced as a result of Israel’s military campaign in 2014. The lack of construction materials, water, fuel, and electricity has put Gaza on course to be uninhabitable by 2020.
In response to the dire man-made humanitarian catastrophe that exists in the Gaza Strip, the Great March of Return protests began on March 30, 2018, as a nonviolent call for an end to Israel’s illegal military siege and a restoration of basic human rights.
Since the protests began seven months ago, Israeli forces have killed at least 210 Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave and wounded more than 24,000 people, according to a report by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. On May 14th, 2018, the day of commemoration of the Nakba–a day when Palestinians memorialize the approximately 750,000 Palestinians displaced in 1948–Israeli forces killed 59 Palestinians using live ammunition.
The massive death toll prompted an immediate investigation. Amnesty International described the live ammunition as “high-velocity military weapons designed to cause maximum harm to Palestinian protesters who do not pose an imminent threat to them,” and suggested the actions by the Israeli military amounted to “willful killing, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime.”
Facts on Israel’s blockade of Gaza
- 2,000,000 people live in the Gaza Strip, 71% are under the age of 30. ( Gisha.org )
- Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law. (ICRC, 50 others)
- 49% of Gazans are unemployed. 65% of young people are unemployed. ( Gisha.org )
- 70% of the population in Gaza receive humanitarian aid. ( Gisha.org )
- 96% of the water is from the taps is undrinkable. ( Gisha.org )
- The average supply of electricity in October was six hours a day. In November it increased to eleven hours. ( World Health Organization Situation Report )
- 47% of essential drugs are at less than one month’s supply. ( World Health Organization Situation Report )
About Return: Return is a group of anti-Zionist Israelis working in solidarity with Palestinians in support of the Great March of Return.
All our videos are taken by photographer Haim Schwarzenberg, who documents Israeli oppression in various struggles: http://schwarczenberg.com