Gaza: Protest Is Not Terrorism
Originally posted on www.SocialistWorld.net, the website of the Committee for a Workers’ International which Socialist Alternative is in political solidarity with.
Walking in your own land is not generally considered a crime, but for two million Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza such action is viewed as a threat to the state of Israel by right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
When the residents of Gaza, the largest prison in the world, launched a mass protest against the backdrop of the brutal siege by both Israel and Egypt and the terrible distress they are in, the Netanyahu government sent the army against them.
The result was the death of 18 Gazans and the wounding of over 1,500 on the Palestinian ‘March of Return’ walk to the Gaza/Israel border to mark Land Day (commemorating Palestinians killed on 30 March 1976 protesting against the expropriation of their land by Israel), and to demand the lifting of the current siege of Gaza by Israel and Egypt.
Netanyahu’s corrupt capitalist government mobilised an army force, including 100 snipers, to quell this civilian protest. The Socialist Struggle Movement (CWI in Israel/Palestine) has called for protest and a fight against incitement, oppression and the massacre of unarmed demonstrators, while also expressing solidarity with the mass protest against the background of the brutal siege and the terrible distress imposed on the Palestinians.
Despite threats and heavy repression, 20-25,000 people, including many families and children, took part with inspiring bravery in the Friday March 30 demonstrations, organized in six locations, near Gaza’s border with Israel. The Netanyahu government fulfilled its despicable threat to attack the demonstrators and continues to justify it. Senior members of the Southern Command have even made it clear that the deadly repression will continue in future demonstrations: “We will continue to act against the demonstrators in Gaza as we did last Friday”.
An 18-year-old demonstrator, `Abd al-Fattah `Abd a-Nabi, who was documented in a video escaping with his back towards the sniper who shot him in the head, was one of the 18 Palestinians who were shot dead during the protest by the Israeli military. About 1,500 demonstrators were injured, including many children. Most of the wounded were hit by live ammunition while others were injured by rubber-coated bullets and tear gas grenades fired from terrifying drones that circled over the heads of protesters. Hospitals in the Gaza Strip reported a shortage of blood.
Thus Netanyahu’s government, with the backing of nationalist media and a variety of nationalist capitalist elements, responded to a mass nonviolent protest, which it falsely labeled “a violent terror attack”, in the words of Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon. The protest rallies did not threaten the security of anyone.
It is typical of the “Hasbara” (propaganda) machine of the occupation to turn reality upside down and tag any Palestinian protest as ‘violent’. In other words, daily military aggression and a siege that strangles about two million people are not considered violent, but mass protest against their situation is “violence”.
The suppression of the protest by the Netanyahu government is not intended to protect the peace of the Israeli public in any way. No. The incitement, demonization and military war against unarmed civilians are intended to deter the Palestinian people from fighting for its rights and to drown its protest in blood. It is intended to protect the continuation of the siege, the national oppression of the Palestinians, poverty and distress. And it is intended to throw sand in the eyes of the Jewish workers and young people and mobilize them against the struggle of Palestinian workers and young people for a dignified life. For Netanyahu in particular, the war on protest provides another opportunity to exploit security fears among the Israeli public in order to divert public attention from suspicions of corruption against him personally and his government’s huge failures.
It is important to emphasize that a regime that freely assaults demonstrators is a potential danger also to the future struggles of Israeli workers and young people who will face fierce opposition and denunciation from the ruling class. Moreover, the massacre of Palestinian demonstrators and the very continuation of the siege and the occupation not only remove any horizon for peace but is a warning sign of the danger of a further deterioration in the lives of working people in the immediate future. The trigger-happy policy threatens to exact many more casualties, and the price of blood will certainly not stop only with Palestinians. The escalation in military repression by Israel could lead to a round of general escalation in violence, from which Israeli civilians will also be harmed. It is important that Israeli workers and young people express their opposition and participate in protests against the bloody policy of the Netanyahu government.
In light of the provocative transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, ignoring the Palestinians’ right to their own state and capital in Jerusalem, and the 70th anniversary of Israel, which officially is celebrated by ignoring the Palestinians’ situation and rights, the recent protest is part of a series of a month and a half of planned protests. These will mark the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba – the systematic destruction of hundreds of occupied Palestinian villages and communities and the forceful uprooting of over 750,000 residents during the 1948 war.
Over the next few weeks, rallies and protests are planned in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem, plus in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The protest initiative, supported by the leading factions of the Palestinian National Movement, is the most extensive for the rights of the Palestinian refugees since the stormy demonstrations of thousands of refugees on the borders with Israel on Nakba Day in 2011, against the background of the revolutions dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’. Fifteen demonstrators were killed and hundreds wounded then.
The first day of protest this year occurred on March 30, Land Day, commemorating the Arab-Palestinian strike in Israel in 1976, in which six demonstrators were shot to death. At the same time, the eve of the Passover holiday, which this year was March 30, again served as an excuse for imposing a general closure on the crossings in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and was another reminder of the brutal policy of abuse and collective punishment routinely carried out. The policy of de-facto execution of Palestinian demonstrators is also quite common.
“What is dangerous in children standing hundreds of meters from tanks and armed soldiers? All we’ve asked to express in the march is merely our intolerable lives”, said Hasan al-Kurd, one of the organizers of the protest, to the Israeli ‘Local Call’ website. “We have had many dead and wounded today. But do they really think that’s what will stop us? After all, we have no other choice but to continue to demonstrate. I want to appeal to the Israeli public and ask it to put pressure on its government. People here will continue to die and in the end it will explode in their face”.
“We did not come here to fight, we came to return to our land”, read signs in Hebrew during the Palestinian protest. About 70% of the residents of the Gaza Strip are refugees, that is, a population that was uprooted by force in 1948 and pushed into the Strip, which became one of the most densely populated areas in the world and a besieged ghetto of poverty and terrible crisis.
Almost every week, some Palestinian individuals from the Gaza Strip come to the fence with Israel, most of them seeking refuge from the deteriorating situation and even preferring to be imprisoned in Israel. At the same time, frequent demonstrations and confrontations are taking place along the Gaza Strip border. Over the past week, four “incursions” by Gazan residents have caused embarrassment to the Israeli army. In one case, two residents walked about 20 kilometers on foot to the training base at Tze’elim. In another case, four Palestinian activists set fire to military engineering equipment as a protest and returned to the Gaza Strip.
“The world must understand that we live in a big prison, every citizen in Gaza feels it in his own flesh and wants to convey this message”, one member of the organizing committee was quoted as saying in Haaretz. “The march is for the sake of return, it is supposed to convey to the world a message: ‘Enough with the siege, enough with the occupation’”, he explained in response to Israel’s claim that Hamas was forced to “hire” demonstrators for payment.
While Netanyahu’s government of capital and settlements is organizing celebrations to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary – and in effect to mobilize public sympathy through nationalism – the rights of the Palestinian refugees and the rights of Palestinians in general continue to be rudely trampled on daily.
On May 15, when Nakba Day is marked, the protest demonstrations are scheduled to reach the peak of the “One Million March”. The heavy military repression is aimed at thwarting the expansion of the protest movement because a scenario in which further masses are going out to fight for their rights threatens the occupation regime, as with any dictatorship. The mobilization of further tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, could enable, among other things, a mass protest outbreak on the fences of the siege on the Gaza Strip — a scenario that not only the Israeli government fears but also Hamas. Hamas is not really interested in an independent mass struggle that will slip out of its control and prove that the Palestinian masses can do what the military power of Hamas is not really capable of: actually threaten the order of the siege and occupation.
In light of the heavy military repression, it is not clear yet to what extent this movement will be able to expand in the coming weeks. The expansion of the grouping that organizes the protest activities can help strengthen the protest, by organizing independent democratic committees of residents and holding meetings to discuss and decide on the next steps in the struggle and ways to organize the self-defense of the demonstrators.
The constant drive of the Israeli ruling class to exploit the fears of Israeli population has to be challenged, something which can only be done by offering a real alternative.
Socialists support a mass and independent Palestinian struggle, as it was organized during the first intifada. We emphasize that it is in the interests of the Israeli working population and young people not to be misled by the incitement of the Netanyahu government, but to extend a courageous hand of solidarity and peace to the Palestinian protest demonstrations and to protest against the Israeli capitalist government and against the occupation and siege. The interests of the Israeli working and young people is to fight for peace based on genuine recognition, including the historical injustice of the Nakba, and profound social change, a socialist change that will enable the uprooting of a reality of extreme inequality, and will facilitate also the return of the refugees who wish to do so, while guaranteeing well-being, life and personal security to all and equal rights without any discrimination for both national groups.
While fighting now to end repression and win democratic and social demands, a broader alternative needs to be offered. As we have previously written “although significant struggles could definitely gain important achievements, only on a socialist basis will it be possible to equate the living conditions of the Palestinians with those of the Israelis – and to raise, in fact, general living standards far beyond the best conditions that could possibly be achieved under capitalism – and to guarantee a complete equality of rights in all spheres. Only that way would it be possible to make sure that all resources in society serve rationally and democratically the welfare of the masses, and also allow the necessary investment of resources for the Palestinian refugees – a just solution to their plight requires a struggle to guarantee conditions of welfare and equality in the region, and advancing of direct dialogue and consent, which would include recognition of the historic injustice and the right to return.” (Israel/Palestine: The Marxist left, the national conflict and the Palestinian struggle)
• The establishment of an independent commission of inquiry – comprising of Israeli, Palestinian and international representatives from workers’ organizations, community organizations and independent human rights organizations – to investigate the killing of demonstrators. Prosecute the chain of those responsible for the killings, including the political echelon.
• Solidarity with the Palestinian protest. Enough with the trigger-happy policy, enough with the killing of demonstrators! Enough incitement, protest is not terrorism!
• Yes to joint demonstrations by Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, against the siege, occupation, poverty, inequality and Netanyahu’s government of capital and settlements.
• Yes to expanding the protest movement, yes to mass struggle of the Palestinians for national and social liberation. The establishment of democratic action committees to help organize protests and defend the demonstrations.
• Enough with the policy of “Conflict Management”, enough with the war for the peace of the settlements. Stop the warmongering and nationalist-racist incitement.
• Get the military out of the territories now! Enough with the occupation, enough with the siege on the residents of the Gaza Strip. Enough with the imposing of poverty and distress, enough with the nationalist expropriation, an end to the national oppression of the Palestinian people.
• A just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. Recognition of the historical injustice of the Nakba – the destruction of hundreds of villages and the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of residents – and the right of the refugees who wish to return, while ensuring a life of welfare and equality for all inhabitants.
• An end to the denial of the right to self-determination – for an independent, democratic, socialist and equal Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside a democratic and socialist Israel that will guarantee true equality of rights to all.