Palestinian protests against the Israeli occupation are continuing this week as Israel begins to mark the country’s 70th anniversary of its founding in 1948. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, Israeli forces have killed 33 Palestinian protesters over the past three weeks since the Great March of Return protests began, to commemorate the mass expulsion of Palestinians during Israel’s establishment.
Palestinian authorities estimate nearly 4,300 Palestinians have been injured in the peaceful protests. Many were shot with live ammunition or rubber-coated steel bullets. Gaza authorities have also accused Israel of deliberately targeting journalists and medics. Since the protests began, one journalist, Yaser Murtaja, was killed and 66 journalists were injured. In addition, 44 medics have been wounded and 19 ambulances were reportedly targeted.
The protest marches are set to last until May 15th, recognized as the official Israeli Independence Day. Palestinians mark the date as Nakba Day or “Day of the Catastrophe” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, their expulsion began.
Rashid Khalidi talking:
It is remarkable that it has gotten as little attention as it has in this country, because this is a new phase. It is almost entirely nonviolent. The Israelis try and focus on other issues, claiming that it is violent or people are throwing things or whatever, but you have literally tens of thousands of people walking to the fence, camping along the fence, carrying out protest activities, which are then met with a hail of hundreds of thousands of bullets. The numbers speak for themselves—the hundreds of people who have been—the thousands of people who have been wounded, the dozens who have been killed.
What it shows is I think the Israeli security establishment is terrified of Palestinian nonviolence. Any narrative in which the Palestinians use violence is easy for them to master. But a narrative in which the Palestinians walk towards the fence and ask for their rights is one that they are very uncomfortable with.
The most underreported story in Palestine is the non-violent nature of an enormous amount of protests. We pay a lot of attention to violent actions. But the first intifada was largely nonviolent. For three or four years, Palestinians were engaged in massive nonviolent protests, which were met with systematic repression. Rabin said “Break their bones.” That was his order to his soldiers when he was defense minister. So it’s not the first time that the Israelis have used this kind of violence. I don’t think that they’ve ever gotten to the point of shooting down literally thousands of people in this way, so maybe that is unprecedented.
They are very, very worried about two things. They’re worried about the fact that the Palestinians might actually finally realize that nonviolent action is smarter and might be more effective. And secondly, they don’t like one of the demands of this protest movement, which is the issue of return. Because it brings up the issues that the Israelis hoped had been buried from 1948 onwards, which is to say their expulsion of three quarters of a million Palestinians back in April, May and so forth, of 1948, their confiscation of their property and their refusal to allow them to return. And that’s what this March of Return is about.
That is the main focus of it. That is the main focus of it. Almost the entire population of Gaza, with a very few exceptions, are refugees. And so they are living in this cooped-up enormous prison camp, right across the border from the lands that they once owned and cultivated.
This started off as a civil society initiative, which was then of course picked up, cynically, picked up by Hamas, which has realized the bankruptcy of its own approach and its unpopularity with Palestinians. But it started off as a movement by young activists who wanted to do something. They are living in this pressure cooker of Gaza.
They can’t get out. They can’t go anywhere. It is the highest population concentration on earth. To get a permit to go to get medical care or to study abroad or to visit your family in the West Bank or Jordan is almost impossible for the overwhelming majority of Gazans. So they are in prison in Gaza. They’re suffering without enough electricity. There is sewage. I mean, one could go on and on.
What Lieberman and the security establishment is essentially saying is the Palestinians are a terrorist people, and whatever they do is beyond the pale. And I think the thing to focus on here is the use of snipers to gun down people at a sufficient distance from this—you can see in the video we just saw—at a sufficient distance from the fence that it is impossible that they could cause any harm to the Israelis themselves.
So heavily armored Israeli soldiers with sniper rifles at hundreds of meters are picking off systematically Palestinian protestors or people who try to approach the fence or whatever. And that this is a policy that the government is proud of, that Lieberman is praising the snipers who have shot down literally thousands of people? I think it tells us a lot about Israel’s attitude toward Palestinians, that they are subhuman.
If you go back and look at the way in which Israel has dealt with the whole issue of Palestine and the Palestinian national movement, they always demonize whatever appears to be the leading movement. When it was the PLO or Fatah, whatever, they were terrorists, they were beyond the pale, you couldn’t talk to them. And the same is now true of Hamas. I think the interesting thing is not just Hamas—all of the political parties are discredited in the eyes of most Palestinians. They seem to have failed. Hamas with its policy of—so-called policy of—resistance, which in fact is a sham. Hamas prevents people from firing rockets from the Gaza Strip. It is carrying out without a security agreement the same kind of role of protecting Israel that the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is carrying out with a security agreement. Palestinians see that.
They see the cynicism of that and they see that both sides, that is to say the PA in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza in fact are bankrupt. Why are they doing it? Out of fear of Israeli retaliation.
– the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas fracturing?
It doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, sadly. I mean, this is the overwhelming demand of the Palestinian people, that these useless politicians get together and end this meaningless split, so that the weaker party, the Palestinians, can at least present a unified front.
– Palestinian journalist, Yaser Murtaja, who was fatally shot by the Israeli army while covering the protests along the Israel-Gaza border. Photos show the 30-year-old journalist wearing a flak jacket clearly marked “press” at the time of the shooting. officers presented a search warrant, arrested Hazem Naser without mention of what he’s being charged with. He works for Najah Broadcasting Channel, which frequently covers Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes, arrest of Palestinians. He’s arrested in the middle of the night. Murtaja was killed.
I think the thing to say about the murder of this journalist and the murder of many of these people is that there is a policy of targeted assassination. It is not just snipers just randomly shooting people. It is an intelligent system in which collects information on everybody who is in activist, and these people are then being targeted. They are murdering specific people. They’re not just shooting at random. They’re doing that as well, but some of these, many of these killings—there’s a wonderful book by a man named Ronen Bergman on the history of Israel’s targeted assassinations. This is a policy of killing Palestinian leadership. They have been doing it for decades and decades.
And now they realize that some of the most dangerous people are not people who are firing rockets, but rather people who are organizing popular demonstrations and nonviolent action.
Frankly, they’ve always had coverage from Washington for whatever they did. they have even greater impunity with a president like Trump who will give them complete carte blanche for whatever they want to do.
Jerusalem is the most important of all of the issues in the Palestine-Israel conflict. The Trump Administration’s decision that it recognizes, apparently from what they’ve said, the entirety of Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory, has implications for the entire conflict. It has implications for the rest of the occupied territories. It has implications for Israeli annexations, not just of Jerusalem—of Golan Heights, of other areas that they may choose to annex. So they are giving them a, basically, open season in terms of further annexations, further expansions and so on and so forth, by this Jerusalem thing. It is not just recognizing Israel’s capital as Jerusalem or moving the embassy. It has all kinds of other implications.
at the rate at which things are going, unfortunately, we’re probably likely to see even more savage, vicious, brutal murderous repression.
Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University. He’s the author of several books. His most recent is titled “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”
— source democracynow.org