For the third consecutive Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinians exercised their right, under international law, to protest. The “March of Return” focuses on their rights, guaranteed under the Geneva Convention, to return to the land their ancestors have inhabited since before recorded history.
For the third consecutive Friday, Israelis violently attacked Palestinian protestors. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed, including two minors, and hundreds have been injured by Israeli forces. There is video evidence of Palestinians being shot in the back and of others shot while bowed in prayer.
For the third consecutive Friday, Israelis blamed Palestinians for the violence. Yet, there have been no reports of any Israelis being harmed. Nor have any Palestinians crossed the fence from Gaza into Israel.
The roots of the “March of Return” go back to 1948, when faced with terrorist attacks by Israeli forces, 750,000 Palestinians fled some 600 villages and towns. Many ended up in Gaza where today 1.3 million of Gaza’s 2 million people are refugees.
Gaza has become known as, “the largest open air prison in the world.” The Palestinians who live there do not have adequate hospitals. Also, the water is undrinkable, electricity is available for only a few hours a day and raw sewage is being pumped into the Mediterranean. This is mainly because much of Gaza’s vital infrastructure was destroyed by Israel in 2012 and 2014.
The Gazan economy is in collapse because of the 11-year long blockade by Israel and its ally Egypt. A few supplies are allowed in but it is insufficient for the needs let alone rebuild after the destruction in 2014. Unemployment is around 50 percent.
International groups are pleading with governments to send medical supplies to hospitals in Gaza that are severely under stocked.
Israeli human rights groups have joined international groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, in condemning the current harsh response from the Israeli military. B’Tselem said Friday that the open-fire policy was “manifestly unlawful.” Breaking the Silence issued a statement by five former Israeli snipers who said they were “filled with shame and sorrow” over the recent attacks on protestors. They also stated, “Instructing snipers to shoot to kill unarmed demonstrators, who pose no danger to human life, is another product of the occupation and military rule over millions of Palestinian people, as well as of our country’s callous leadership, and derailed moral path.”
Even the New York Times, one of the most pro-Israel newspapers in the world, has called for an independent investigation into the Israeli response to what have been peaceful demonstrations.
Israel is about to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its creation. It has much to be proud of. But, it also seems to have forgotten its roots within Judaism where the Biblical prophets focused on the call of God for the people; to beat their swords in ploughshares, to do justice, to care for the foreigner and for all in need. Israel continues to dehumanize Palestinians and it ignores the rule of international law and uses violence against the Palestinian people.
The demonstrations will continue until the middle of May.
It seems there is little I and others can do except to contact our respect governments, the governments of Israel and of Palestine to express concern the violence being directed against Palestinians and the long term injustices Palestinians have faced for 70 years including the right of return.
Also, for Christians, I encourage you to pray for Palestinians who were the first followers of Jesus. And for all people of faith, I encourage you to pray that God’s peace with justice may prevail across the entire world and especially in the land many of us call Holy.