No force can repress a people’s resolve to challenge injustice

Palestine Update 230

No force can repress a people’s resolve to challenge injustice
When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty (Thomas Jefferson)

Last weekend, Palestine Monitor reported how “throughout the Anglophone world, thousands of people stood in solidarity with Palestine on March 30, which marked the first anniversary of the “Great March of Return” protests and the 43rd anniversary of Land Day. Rallies, teach-ins and demonstrations were held around the world from Toronto and Miami to London, Vienna and Sydney as 40,000 Gaza Strip residents protested along the Israel-Gaza separation fence. The international solidarity movement demanded once again that Israel end the 70-year occupation that has wreaked physical, social and economic havoc on generations of Palestinians. This global outrage may just signify that the struggle has now grown international wings and this new energy and spread of forces against the occupation are ominous signals to Israel.

Israel’s genocidal ways may have caused huge suffering as in Gaza where a 10+ year blockade assigns people to immeasurable suffering. It has not dampened the will to fight back. The “Great March of Return” is the most recent form of Palestinian peaceful resistance against the Israeli occupation.” Despite peaceful intent from Gaza, a recent UN independent commission of inquiry report found “reasonable grounds” to conclude that Israel was guilty of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” for IDF personnel’s use of lethal force against civilians at the demonstrations in 2018.

Even though there are successes in terms of people mobilizing and strategizing, there is an alert out there. And that alert calls on people in Gaza and their international supporters not to let down the guard when small successes show up. Success must goad people to gain stakes of still higher impact.

Palestine Updates brings you two quick-read, yet insightful articles on the “Great March of Return”. They provide an understanding of how the struggle grows and how solidarity accompanies the struggle in ever increasing ways.

Ranjan Solomon

Coming together to end a dark era of injustice
By Ahmed Abu Artema*

The Great March of Return has reached its first anniversary. On Friday, thousands of Palestinian men, women and children from all political backgrounds marched, as we have done every Friday – but one year on, we are no closer to seeing Israel lift its illegal 12-year blockade on Gaza.

This densely populated strip of land, surrounded by Israeli barriers, has long been a prison to the Palestinian people who inhabit it. Look east and you see the fence, brimming with rifles and soldiers ready to execute any Palestinian who steps too close. Look west and you see Israeli military boats, a menacing form along the Mediterranean coast, prohibiting all entrance or exit – all this, despite Israel’s claim that it withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Awakening the behemoth
When I first called for the Great March of Return last year, I could never have anticipated the slumbering behemoth that I awoke. In the three months that preceded the march, Palestinians with different ideologies and political opinions were filled with motivation and hope. Civil society activists, youth groups, writers, artists, women’s rights associations and journalists expressed to me their absolute support for this peaceful alternative. Even members of armed factions were able to get behind it. They shot medics, journalists and even the disabled in this unprecedented violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. What started as a Facebook post turned into a historic movement, giving Israel an unprecedented opportunity: It could encourage Palestinians to adopt peaceful resistance, through words and culture, rather than guns and violence. But instead, Israel turned to violence. On 30 March, 2018, Israeli soldiers killed peaceful demonstrators who posed no threat. Snipers sat in military towers safe from the fight, willfully shooting and killing women and children. They shot medics, journalists and even the disabled in this unprecedented violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. These were avoidable deaths. They did not come as response to a physical threat posed by the Palestinian people, but from a desire to kill the very idea that these peaceful demonstrators represented. As the old adage goes, it’s easier to kill a man than an idea.

Undeniable right of return
For Israel, the Palestinian “problem” is a concept more easily sold to the international community when Palestinians are labeled as violent and armed. The reality, however, is that the Great March of Return represents the peaceful faces of the men, women, children and elderly residents of Gaza. The significance of the march cannot be understated. It is symbolic of the intent of the Palestinian people to peacefully continue to fight for our undeniable right of return. It sends a message that millions of refugees, spread around the globe, must return home. This is their right; it must no longer be treated as an academic exercise or a theoretical question. It is practically achievable and must be treated as such. The vast majority of the land on which refugees lived before Israel expelled them in 1948 is either still empty or has a low population density. With the right political will, we would be able to end the tragedy that has engulfed millions of Palestinian refugees, and ensure a peaceful existence alongside their Jewish neighbours.

We want a solution based on the foundations of justice, equality and freedom. This means a country where indigenous Palestinians can coexist with their Jewish neighbours according to the shared values of citizenship, equal rights and international justice – not a state “only of the Jewish people,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contends, but one that we can share together.

Redefining the Palestinian-Israeli relationship
What is certain is that the current situation is unsustainable. When Israel expelled the Palestinians in 1948, it hoped they would resettle in their destination countries and quickly forget their homeland. But today, 70 years after being expelled, millions of Palestinian refugees still yearn for a homeland long denied to them. The right of return is more than a political statement: it is ingrained in the very nature of what it means to be Palestinian, rooted in Palestinian culture, literature and the minds of refugees residing in camps and foreign countries around the globe. It exists in artistic works, on the names of stores and buildings, and in oral memory – and this is what the Great March of Return represents. This is a right that cannot be forgotten or questioned. Fear exists about the right of return, but fear comes from injustice. A solution exists, but we must redefine the Palestinian-Israeli relationship on the basis of human equality, rather than expulsion and racial discrimination. We must accept coexistence founded on the joint principles of humanity, rather than occupation and hate. Let us come together to end this dark era of injustice and suffering, and put in place the basis for peace and stability, built on the recognition of the right of all peoples to freedom, equality and return.

*Ahmed Abu Artema is a Palestinian journalist and peace activist. Born in Rafah, in 1984, Abu Artema is a refugee from Al Ramla village

Gaza’s Great Return March massacre: A turning point?
By Nada Elia**

 The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on 14 May has rubbed salt into gaping wounds.  As “presidential adviser” Ivanka Trump stood gleefully next to a triumphant Benjamin Netanyahu at the heart of the illegally annexed city, Israel was engaging in yet another massacre less than 100km to the southwest. Dozens of people were killed in Gaza and thousands injured in the six weeks of the Great Return March, between Land Day and Nakba Day, and many of the injured still languish in Gaza’s ill-equipped hospitals. The siege of Gaza, whose population largely comprises refugees, continues to choke the region, in what has been described as an “incremental genocide”.

Ongoing Nakba
This is what Palestinians mean when they say the Nakba is ongoing. The wrongs against us were not perpetrated just once, in 1948; they continue to this day, with more displacement, more land theft and more mass killings. As has been happening after every massacre for a few years now, protests erupted globally, while a growing number of people of conscience publicly denounced Israel’s actions and announced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) solidarity campaign.   We are finally seeing cracks in Israel’s mask, in the facade of democracy with which it has fooled much of the West. The protests are necessary venues to express solidarity with Palestinians and to show politicians that the public does not approve of this latest offensive move. The public denunciations by artists of Israel’s criminality are welcome and long-overdue steps in declaring Israel as a pariah state, rather than an attractive destination for culture and tourism.  As Electronic Intifada co-founder Laurie King and I asked in a 2011 editorial: Why would one be critical of artists such as Beyonce, Usher and Mariah Carey – all three of whom gave private performances for the Gaddafis – when one thinks nothing of the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga cosying up to Netanyahu and sometimes literally wrapping themselves in the Israeli flag, while many others defend Israel as it openly embraces apartheid and ethnic cleansing?

But today, with Israeli politicians’ brazen declaration that there are no innocent protesters in Gaza and that all marchers are legitimate targets, and with Israeli citizens repeatedly declaring their support for the killing of Palestinians, we are finally seeing cracks in Israel’s mask, in the facade of democracy with which it has fooled much of the West.

Old imperial order
However, we cannot relax just yet. Instead, we must keep exposing Israel so that it does not recover from the momentary criticism, as it has done time and again after previous massacres and the protests that followed them. The Nakba Day massacre, and the inauguration of the new US embassy, does not constitute an aberration. Analysts who argue that the US embassy move to Jerusalem is a continuation of its long-standing policy in the Middle East, beginning in 1967, rather than a departure from it. I would add that it is a continuation not just of US policy, but of an even older imperial order – indeed, the old imperial order that gave birth to the US. The past century of Palestinian history has been a painful loop of extreme injustice imposed upon indigenous people, followed by uprisings, which in turn are violently suppressed, until the people rise up yet again, demanding justice.  The revolts, including the 1936-39 uprising against the British Mandate and the intifadas starting in 1987 and 2000, have taken many forms, from armed insurrection to peaceful protests. They have invariably been met with disproportionate violence on the part of the colonial oppressor, beginning with England, which first imposed martial law and crafted many of the measures Israel still employs to this day in its discrimination against Palestinians, to the full-blown massacres Israel now routinely engages in.  Those massacres are today made possible by the US, which gives Israel the necessary financial and diplomatic support to act with impunity. In his conclusion to the groundbreaking 1978 book Orientalism, Edward Said wrote that the US ascendency to global dominance put it in the position Great Britain once had, when it arrogantly claimed that “the sun never sets” on the British empire. The US embassy in Jerusalem illustrates Said’s wisdom, years after his untimely death.

Vision beyond protests
Over the past few years, another regular feature of massacres has emerged – namely, the declaration that “this is a turning point”.  Most recently, the Great Return March has been compared to the crossing of the Edmund Pettus bridge in the US south, while the Nakba Day massacre has been described as the Palestinian Sharpeville.  However, the Great Return March will only become a turning point if we make it so. If we want the pattern to change, we need to organize with a vision beyond the protests. For now, most protests have been spontaneous uprisings against injustice, with little planning for what comes after we have gathered on street corners and in public parks to scream our pain, our outrage and our solidarity.

As we move past the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, amid the renewed hubris of today’s imperial leaders, it is imperative that we focus on planning for the future, rather than merely protesting. Ultimately, it is not the scope of the massacre that determines whether it is a turning point. Rather, it is how well we sustain our mobilizing and organizing, so that this is not just another episode in a long string of injustices.
It is incumbent on us to honors Palestinian resistance not by simply reading the names of the dead, but by mobilizing, organising and strategising to ensure this massacre is not the latest, but the last.

**Nadia Elia is a diaspora Palestinian writer and political commentator. She is a member of the steering collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Don’t befriend me for a day, and leave me a month. Don’t get close to me if you’re going to leave. Don’t say what you don’t do. Be close or get away.

 لا تصاحبني يوماً .. لتهجرني شهراً ولا تقربني .. لتبعدني .. لا تقل ما لا تفعل كُن قريباً .. أو ابتعد.

Mahmoud Darwish.