Wednesday May 22, 2024

Palestine’s tale of repression

By Khalid Bhatti
May 18, 2018

Over the years, the world has watched the unfolding violence perpetrated by the Israeli state against Palestinian protesters with horror. On May 14, Israel once again used brutal state force to repress the protesting Palestinians in Gaza. Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 others during mass protests on Monday along the Gaza border.

Meanwhile, Israel and the US held a festive inauguration ceremony just a few miles away for the new American embassy in disputed Jerusalem. US President Trump is one of the most pro-Israel presidents that America has ever had and has ignored the gross violations of human rights that the country has committed. The US president’s policies in the Middle East are also fuelling new wars and further destabilising the region.

Israel is using the presence of Hamas in Gaza as an excuse to kill innocent civilians. Its strategy is simple: occupy the land, force people out of their homes, and then build an illegal wall to continue the occupation. When people demand an end to the occupation, return their land and demolish the apartheid wall, and then, they face death, destruction and brutality.

The mass resistance movement by Palestinians in Gaza to demand the return for Palestinian refugees of 1948 and an end to the 12-year-blockade by Israel has been growing despite the climate of repression spread by the Israeli Army.

Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has further radicalised the movement. This was a conscious provocation against the core demands of the Palestinian national struggle. The date was also deliberately chosen to coincide with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of the state of Israel in 1948, which precipitated the forced expulsion of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. This is a date remembered by Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe).

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (who presided over the celebrations as senior White House advisers) were photographed smiling along with Netanyahu and the cream of the Israeli ruling class, making the position of the US government abundantly clear. Jared Kushner’s remark that “those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” was just another show of the hypocrisy that has become a trademark of US imperialism’s diplomacy – especially at a time when dozens of peaceful demonstrators were being gunned down in Gaza.

The relatively peaceful character of the protests in the face of brutal repression serves as a testament of a renewed will to carry out resistance on a mass basis as the only means to undermine the effective Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The Gaza border has been built with the most advanced technologies and is constantly monitored and defended by an overwhelming military force. Images and video footage showed peaceful protests by families along the border turning into carnage by a rain of fire and tear gas.

Young Palestinians can be seen defying the most advanced military force and weaponry in the hands of trained snipers by flying kites across barbed-wire fences; attempting to beat back tear-gas canisters with tennis rackets; or simply showing that they won’t be cowed by bullets, even at the risk of their own lives.

What has become all the more apparent to anyone with no vested interests in spreading the Israeli state’s propaganda is the growing heroic defiance by the Palestinian youth against the intolerable conditions they find themselves in. With each passing day, protests along the border over the past month have been peaceful despite the lethal response by the Israeli Army.

There are no casualties among Israeli citizens or soldiers while the death toll among the people of Gaza since March 30 is now well above 100 (and growing) and more than 12,000 people have been left critically injured by live ammunition or tear-gas canisters that have been lobbed on peaceful protesters.

More than once, and even now, the Palestinian population of the occupied territories has been used as a scapegoat to overcome internal divisions that are developing in Israeli society, with the ruling elite riddled by all forms of corruption scandals and society becoming an increasingly polarised. Netanyahu’s aggressive anti-Palestinian policy is also designed to divert attention from the corruption scandals that have plagued his authority over the years.

More than three years after the Gaza shelling of 2014, living conditions in the Gaza Strip have seen no improvement. Unemployment stands at 29 percent in the Palestinian Authority. But it is above 44 percent in Gaza and well above 60 percent among the youth, according to the World Bank. Around 80 percent of the population rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

Over 70 percent of Gaza’s population are refugees who once lived on land that is now within the borders of Israel. But the sense of hopelessness among Gaza’s population, especially the youth, cannot be conveyed by mere figures when hopes are shattered by a daily routine of endless oppression, abuse and injustice.

Gaza is a narrow strip of land, about 40 kilometres long and between six km and 12 km wide, that is squeezed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. It is the third most densely populated area that is enclosed within boundaries in the world (after Singapore and Hong Kong), with over 5,000 people per square kilometres.

An extensive Israeli buffer zone within the Gaza Strip renders most of the land off-limits to Gaza’s Palestinians. The population is expected to increase to 2.1 million in 2020. If present trends continue, Gaza may be rendered unliveable.

Palestinians need a viable, independent and strong state to live a dignified, free and prosperous life. It is the responsibility of the world powers to establish a Palestinian state and end Israeli occupation from Palestinian lands. Palestinians should not be treated as children of a lesser god.

The writer is a freelance journalist.