Occasions to protest


There are now so many reasons why Palestinians have been protesting at the Gaza-Israeli border for over two months. It started on March 30 to demand the right to return to their lands and that of their ancestors lost to Israel in the 1948 war of its creation that forced the departure of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. It was also a protest against Donald Trump’s announcement that the US was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the subsequent transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a day which coincided with the killing of over 60 Palestinians at one go protesting against the move. This week alone the protesters were marking the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, and Israel’s capture of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the June Six Day War of 1967 which coincides with Al-Quds Day in which Israel turned the establishment of Israeli control over Jerusalem into a national holiday. And always looming large is the decade-old Israeli blockade, during which two million Palestinians in Gaza have sunk into poverty.

For their largely peaceful protests, at least 125 Palestinians have been killed by live Israeli fire – three shot dead on Friday - and tens of thousands injured, drawing international censure because the use of force was wholly disproportionate to the so-called threat posed by the demonstrators.

The majority of the Palestinian casualties are nameless faces in the crowd, although the death of Razan Al-Najjar was particularly shocking. Al-Najjar, a volunteer health worker just 21 years old, was killed by a bullet in her chest last Friday. Even before her death, Al-Najjar had become an icon in Gaza, often photographed with her white coat splattered with the blood of her patients. On her last day, it was her own blood that seeped through the coat that she thought would protect her.

Why Al-Najjar and hundreds more had to die was a question put to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a European swing, by Michael Howard, a former leader of the UK Conservative Party. Howard, a prominent Jewish figure in British politics who is now a member of the House of Lords, challenged Netanyahu by saying that many would understand the need to prevent protesters scaling the border fence during violent demonstrations, but he asked whether killing them was the only way to stop them. Netanyahu responded that everything suggested by Howard had been tried, along with other methods, but that they had not worked.

Maybe nothing else worked because it was not tried. Instead there were high velocity bullets that shattered knees and ankles and tore through abdomens, backs and heads. They crippled hundreds of Palestinians for life, whereas not a single Israeli has been killed and only a handful slightly injured.

In this river of blood and sea of tears, the international community has failed to convince the US government to alter its position, whether on the humanitarian situation in Gaza or the peace process, and it seems that the US administration is not open to criticism. Since the Trump administration there are no peace negotiations taking place. We hear about the “deal of the century” but have not seen it. What we have seen is a US administration that has decided to defy international legitimacy based on the two-state solution and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Eid Al-Fitr, which will possibly fall next Friday, is yet another occasion for the Palestinians to demonstrate peaceably. It is unfortunate that on this day, which marks the end of a solemn period of reassessment and gives Muslims a moment to reflect on their Islamic faith, Israel will be picking off Palestinians who yearn for nothing more than their basic human rights.