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Killings shouldn’t be necessary for world to hear Gaza voices

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Living conditions in the Gaza Strip are, to put it bluntly, what most civilized people would consider “unlivable.” But this state of affairs is nothing new. The UN and other humanitarian agencies have been predicting calamitous outcomes for years. Yet conduct a Google news search and, other than the little “blip” when another such report is released, Gaza barely breaks the news or sends even solidarity activists into the streets in any numbers until people die — and die in large numbers.

Thus, our understanding of Gaza is marked by milestones drenched in blood — the Israeli assaults of 2008/9, 2012 and 2014, and now, the massive protests called the Great Return March. Since the launch March 30, 128 Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 14,600 injured. To put those numbers in perspective, the 2012 Israeli war on Gaza (the shortest of its three major assaults on the Strip) killed 174 and injured “just” 1,000. And yet few (except Israel, of course) contest the fact that the Return March protests have been largely nonviolent.

As the founder of We Are Not Numbers, a Gaza-based project that helps youths develop their English-language skills while sharing with the world their personal narratives, I have been struck by the high rate of depression among the nearly 200 members. A confidential assessment found that 56 percent qualified as clinically depressed. One might predict that a constant threat of violence would be a top contributor, but surprisingly, it was not. Rather, the most common causes of a depression so entrenched that suicides have skyrocketed in this otherwise deeply religious society are: their inability to leave the small, cramped space; chronic, persistent power outages (the average for electricity is just four hours a day); and the astronomically high unemployment rate (60 percent among youth). Those grinding, soul-sapping realities are 24/7; yet they have been going on for so long — more than a decade now — that the external world has come to treat them like a “necessary evil.” The message we collectively are sending the people of Gaza is that it is only violence — which ultimately means their deaths and injury — that will put them back on the agenda.

No wonder, then, that one of the members of We Are Not Numbers who is participating in the protests, Rana Shubair, wrote:

“I’ve been working at my writing all of my life, struggling to make the voices of my people heard. I believed that everyone has the capacity to serve their people, even if it is by writing and advocating in the security of their homes. Yet, what has been the result? My words seem to have fallen on deaf ears. My writing seems a mere token compared to the acts of the many others at the forefront, literally forcing change while they risk their lives.”

Haneen Abo Saud

Another of our writers, Haneen Abo Saud (Sabbah), captures this same struggle in a poem, in which she is torn between joining the “death-defyers” on the front lines of the demonstrations and living to protest through her stories:

An inner voice pleads, “What if you get shot?”
My other voice responds, “So what? At least you tried.
You tried to break the silence and the chains.
Maybe you will feel better if you die fighting for your dreams.”

I know many people in Gaza and elsewhere who have lost faith in the Great Return March as the body count rises and the only result, in their minds, is “talk, talk” in support of Israel’s “right to self-defense” or milk-warm condemnation with no teeth. But my conclusion is totally different. The series of Great Return March protests has generated a steady stream of media coverage of Gaza that has actually focused on the inhumane living conditions and probed the “why” behind residents’ willingness to risk their lives (thus finally challenging the ridiculous trope that they don’t value life or are mere puppets of a genocidal Hamas):

The New York Times, notorious for hiring Jerusalem bureau chiefs with personal ties to the Israeli military, published three op-eds written by previously unknown Gazan Palestinians. One was titled, “Gaza Screams for Life.” In a piece attacked by Fox News and the Zionist lobby, the paper headlined one story, “Israel Kills 58 and Injures Over 1,300 by Gunfire at Gaza Border.”

The Huffington Post published a split-screen image, juxtaposing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in front of the Great Seal of the United States with a graphic photo of a Palestinian man carrying a child as he runs from flames.

The Guardian, which has a strong reach in the United States, featured a similar split screen, of the violence alongside Ivanka Trump opening the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, above a banner headline reading,” Israel: Trump’s new embassy opens — and dozens are killed.”

The New York Daily News went even further with this headline: “Daddy’s Little Ghoul: 55 Slaughtered in Gaza, but Ivanka All Smiles.”

CNN invited Palestinian Noura Erakat on camera several times to destroy the Israeli party line.

And the Washington Post gave her the bully pulpit for an unusual video op-ed.

Yes, “mainstream” media coverage continues to be, on average, conflicting and incomplete at best and Zionist at worst. But the fact remains that in the wake of the Great Return March, Palestinian voices and perspectives are significantly more apparent than in the past. That leads to public opinion shifts — a very necessary step before official policies and practices (like foreign assistance and UN votes) can begin to change.

Would this kind of high-profile attention have resulted from the March if Palestinians had not exposed Israel’s brutality by provoking its soldiers to shoot unarmed protesters? Sadly, I think not. Just as the large media don’t cover hunger strikes by Palestinian political prisoners until it begins to look like they might die, it’s Israel’s killing of nonviolent Palestinian protesters that inspired this wave of attention that has caused what I believe is the beginning of a sea change in the media/public landscape — an example of which is a video featuring Palestinian voices by a prominent, Jewish U.S. politician. The 128 deaths and about 8,000 injuries by gunshot were not in vain — although the price was steep.

But….wouldn’t it be so much more humane and just of the “world” — of which we are members — if we were as activated by the everyday structural violence imposed on Palestinians as we are when they are killed or maimed? And if we as activists showed Palestinian youth we will support and give visibility to their stories and art as much as we do calls for emergency relief and news of their murder/arrest?

Fortunately, in her poem, Haneen shows she has yet to conclude she can only be effective by sacrificing her life. She writes:

I imagine a hand extending from that far-away land.
I will just take that hand
And go home.
Still….how will anyone hear me then?
Who will read my words?
I will be shot for trying to reach for my dreams.
I want the world to hear my reasons, my reasons for marching.
We want to have a normal life with happy moments.
We want to breathe and have other worries besides what we will eat for the day.
We must be heard.
We must be free.

Let’s show Haneen (and the rest of the young writers and artists) she is right. That we will listen and support her when she shares her words.  We Are Not Numbers is dedicated to doing just that, but we must fight for every penny of donation and live in a constant state of worry about lack of funds. We could do so much more if we had just a bit more support! Please consider helping however you can.

Pam Bailey

Pam Bailey is founder of and international secretary for the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. She is based in Washington, DC, and travels to the Middle East frequently.

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20 Responses

  1. echinococcus on June 19, 2018, 7:37 pm

    Would this kind of high-profile attention have resulted from the March if Palestinians had not exposed Israel’s brutality by provoking its soldiers to shoot unarmed protesters? Sadly, I think not.


    Ask now what changes by getting high-profile attention. There has been a lot of “high-profile” attention generated over the years.

    Getting “attention” in the so-called Western (and some less so) countries by itself isn’t enough of a result. When organized opposition against the imperialist support given to the Zionist invaders is weak and diluted, as it most certainly is at the current time, or even non-existent, as it is in the US, attention washes off without leaving any appreciable result.

    It hurts to say it but exposing the enemy with no organized follow-up is not useful by itself, no matter the huge commitment and heroism of the masses.

  2. Citizen on June 20, 2018, 4:27 am

    Cable TV news today mentions Trump pulled out of a UN agency because it was “biased against Israel.” No mention of the dead and wounded toll on mostly unarmed Palestinian protesters at Gaza fence.

  3. Marnie on June 20, 2018, 8:17 am

    Nikki Haley is just another pit bull working for tRUMP. What a despicable human being. Palestinian deaths don’t matter.

    2018 Gaza border protests – Wikipedia

    “As of 21 May 2018, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, the casualty breakdown was as follows:
    112 Killed of whom 13 were under 18
    13,190 Injured

    The injured
    7,618 struck by Live ammunition or rubber bullets
    5,572 affected by Tear-gas causing symptoms of suffocation
    332 Critically injured
    3,422 Moderately injured
    9,436 Lightly injured
    2,096 Children injured
    1,029 Women injured

    32 amputations

    Medical personal
    1 paramedic from the Palestinian Civil Defense killed
    223 medics injured by either live fire or tear-gas suffocation

    Material damage.
    37 ambulances partly damaged.

    2 journalists were killed.
    175 journalists were injured.[198][199]

    On 17 April 2018, The World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concern that nearly 350 people may be temporarily or permanently disabled.[200]

    The head of WHO’s office in Gaza, Gerald Rockenschaub, described the casualties as overwhelming an already weak health care system: “the deteriorating humanitarian situation is extremely worrying. Hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed with the influx of injured patients. With further escalations expected during the coming weeks, the increasing numbers of injured patients requiring urgent medical care is likely to devastate Gaza’s already weakened health system, placing even more lives at risk.”[201]

    The Commissioner General of UNRWA stated that the ammunition used by Israel caused severe internal damage to internal organs, muscle tissue and bones. A Palestinian doctor interviewed by CNN stated that about a half of the wounded people would never walk normally again. The head of Plastic and Reconstructive surgery of the Shifa Hospital in Gaza wrote a letter to the British Medical Journal stating that “from the appearance of the wounds there appears to have been systematic use by Israeli Defence Force snipers of ammunition with an expanding ‘butterfly’ effect.”, and stated that since the surgical procedures and rehabilitation facilities are not available in Gaza due to 2014 conflict and the blockade of Gaza, “mass lifelong disability is now the prospect facing Gazan citizens, largely young”. The Israeli military stated that they only used normal sniper ammunition, and fired at the feet and legs to minimize civilian casualties.[202][203]”

    • Misterioso on June 20, 2018, 2:25 pm


      “Life in Gaza with Norman Finkelstein” – June 16/18

      “Norman Finkelstein, Scholar & Author of ‘Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom,’ discusses Gaza, its people, and its future.”

      • echinococcus on June 21, 2018, 12:05 pm

        to “Nathan”

        Just so you don’t go on looking for hidden agendas, getting rid of the occupation in Palestine obviously means respecting strictly the will of the legitimate inhabitants, or entitled heirs thereof. Which means of all established Palestinians (some 4% of them Jewish) as of the day Zionist colonizers publicly declared their hostile intent to subvert the sovereignty over Palestine –in 1897. Not, as you seem to think, 1967 or 1947.

        Unless a general plebiscite of all these Palestinians, including all who had to leave and excluding all invaders, in the total absence of duress (=threats or any occupation) returns a decision to admit some of the invaders, or offspring thereof, as citizens, all these invaders are there illegally and can go to their legal homelands or the cushy embrace of their too-powerful protector. Those with any conscience left already.

        Just so you don’t “hear a hint”.

        Meanwhile, every little bit helps. Like stopping the flow of American goons or breaking the blockade.

    • Nathan on June 20, 2018, 8:36 pm

      Marnie – Your comment is very, very convincing. Indeed, the demonstrations along the fence are simply not worth it. There surely must be a better way of demonstrating, because life is so precious. I’m glad that there’s someone in the comments’ section who understands that the strategy of the Great March of Return was a terrible mistake.

      • echinococcus on June 20, 2018, 10:54 pm

        Very well, Nathan. We’re all ears, what is the strategy you recommend instead to get rid of you Zionists?

      • Marnie on June 21, 2018, 12:21 am

        I’m puzzled that my comment would be commended by you nathan. My point was not against the protesting or the way the protests are carried out, but the IOF’s response to the protests. Lethal and maiming for life. I don’t understand why you would twist my intentions but realize that being a supporter of the IOF and ‘state’ of israel is a lonely job and you’re looking for assistance but you won’t find it in my posts no matter what you say.

      • Nathan on June 21, 2018, 5:20 am

        echinococus – You seem to be saying that the Great March of Return is a strategy to get rid of the Zionists. “Getting rid of the Zionists” can be understood in a number of ways. Maybe you could be specific about the nature of the strategy that you have in mind. Many times, someone says that “the occupation must end” – and the listener naively assumes that the issue is the West Bank or whatever. If, however, one asks in return “which territory is occupied and which territory is not occupied”, then one might find out that there is a misunderstanding (“ending the occupation” is quite often a code for “ending the existence of Israel”). So, I’d like to avoid a misunderstanding before answering your question. What exactly is “getting rid of Zionists”? Is it the dis-establishment of Israel, or is it the expulsion of her population, or is it just founding a Palestinian state next to Israel? What exactly is the outcome that you envision? Generally, one hears (in English) that the demonstrations are a protest against the conditions in Gaza, but with your comment I hear a hint that you have something else in mind.

      • Talkback on June 21, 2018, 9:25 am

        Nathan: “(“ending the occupation” is quite often a code for “ending the existence of Israel”).”

        Nope. It’s not “code”. Some consider not only the territory beyond the 67 lines as occupied, but all of historic Palestine, because Zionists acquired the territory for Israel only through war and expulsion and not by any referendum.

        Would the Nonjewish minoriy of Israel have a right to go for war to create a state within Israel?

      • echinococcus on June 21, 2018, 11:30 am

        Way too many stupid words, “Nathan”. The Propaganda goons of yesteryear that you are emulating were better at that job.
        Getting rid of Zionists mean getting rid of all invaders in Palestine. Like your good self, an American squatting illegally and illegitimately on other people’s land. Vamoose.

      • Nathan on June 21, 2018, 1:48 pm

        echinococus – Now that you have clarified that “getting rid of the Zionists” means expulsion, you have me wondering why you would think that the Great March of Return is a means to that end. As Marnie has pointed out so clearly, many people have been killed and wounded at the fence, but there isn’t any progress towards your goal of expulsion. In the past (1948), the Palestinians asked for the aid of the Arab states, but that didn’t work. Later, it was the Palestinians with the Arab states and the Soviet Union – but that didn’t work out either. Perhaps, people (like you) who support the idea of expulsion could organize an invasion and show us how it’s done. My suggestion is revolutionary, and sadly it’s hard to follow (but I’ll try anyway): Maybe it would be better to end the conflict.

      • Nathan on June 21, 2018, 2:11 pm

        Talkback – You asked if the minority in Israel would have the right to go to war and to create a state within Israel. The issue is one of success or failure. If someone succeeds in creating a state by a force of arms, then that state comes into being. That’s that. It’s really quite simple – and quite legitimate. On the other hand, if that community fails in its effort for independence, then they will have to face the consequences thereof. It’s happened so many times in history, so really I can’t imagine that you need to ask.

        Marnie – You have pointed out the very heavy cost of these demonstrations at the fence. It is a very convincing argument that shows that the demonstrations are a mistake, a miscalculation, an act of recklessness, etc. I understand that you gave all those details in order to express hatred of Israel, not to criticize the Palestinians for their irresponsible tactics. My response to you was an attempt to show you that there is a different way of seeing the events. The actions of the Palestinians are an important part of the story. They knew that the results of the demonstrations would be terrible from their point of view. Strangely, they think it was worth their while, and apparently their “friends” in the west don’t have the courage to express a word of reservation. How sad.

      • Talkback on June 21, 2018, 5:35 pm

        Nathan: “The issue is one of success or failure.”

        No, it’s not. The issue is one of territorial integrity and majority ruling.

        Nathan: “If someone succeeds in creating a state by a force of arms, then that state comes into being. That’s that.”

        No it isn’t. See Rhodesia.

        Nathan: “It’s really quite simple – and quite legitimate.”

        To the contrary. It is actually quite illegitimate to secede without a referendum.

        Nathan: “It’s happened so many times in history, so really I can’t imagine that you need to ask.”

        It’s obvious that your understanding of international law is stuck in pre 1945. Or to be more precise: In colonial times and fist law.

        That’s undestandable. You gotta make a case for Zionist settler colonialism, it’s beligerent take over of Palestine and its expulsion of its nonjewish majority. It has been totally corrupting you.

      • Mooser on June 21, 2018, 7:41 pm

        “If someone succeeds in creating a state by a force of arms, then that state comes into being. That’s that”

        “Nathan”, don’t get overexcited! I was only kidding when I said there was 180 million Jews.

        You really think enough people to fill one medium-sized city should start arrogating the right of conquest to itself?

      • Marnie on June 22, 2018, 12:32 am

        Nathan – “My response to you was an attempt to show you that there is a different way of seeing the events.”

        No, it wasn’t nearly as straightforward as that. I’m not interested in your opinion and am familiar with the POV from the occupation side. Nothing can whitewash it or make it more palatable. The ‘state’ of israel is an evil enterprise and it’s existence is a gigantic stain on humanity. When I hear pundits decry the so called ‘bias’ of the u.n. against the zionist state, it’s really just too much to bear. The cancer that is zionism has an unmovable hold on its host (the rest of the world). It was set up with criminal intent and death aforethought; herzl, ben gurion and co., were very clear about the future of the palestinian people and their land. This can’t be fixed, only destroyed. The israeli jews who are on board with a democratic state for all, citizenship for all, the same laws for all, etc., fantastic, hallelujah and it will be great. A religious supremacist state is not the future, it’s the past. The status quo is untenable. And that’s it. I can’t be more clear. Except for one thing – mass murderers and criminals in the israeli gov’t cannot be allowed to participate in any future ‘state’ or any future, period. One of the biggest mistakes the u.s. made, besides the election in 2016, IMO, was to allow the secessionists to live after the south surrendered in 1865. Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, along with officers of the confederate army should have been executed. That would have sent a very strong message of justice and deterrence I think, much like the trials and subsequent hangings of nazi big shots and little shots in nuremberg.

  4. Stephen Shenfield on June 23, 2018, 5:11 pm

    ‘Would this kind of high-profile attention have resulted from the March if Palestinians had not exposed Israel’s brutality by provoking its soldiers to shoot unarmed protesters?’

    Even if the march had been conducted in a totally non-confrontational manner, as its original organizers had wanted, Israeli soldiers would still have shot unarmed protesters. They shot people at long distances from the fence and set tents on fire. According to the report on the B’Tselem site, defense minister Lieberman defined the march in advance as violent and a provocation. That is, he was going to treat it as violent even if it was non-violent. He urged Gazans not to keep the march peaceful but to stay away and ‘get on with their lives.’

    So there was never any ‘danger’ of non-violence on the part of the IDF. At most a completely non-confrontational approach would have reduced casualties. That may well have been worth doing though, because the numbers killed and maimed were surely greater than necessary to attract media attention.

    • echinococcus on June 23, 2018, 9:45 pm


      I hope you’ll excuse my asking myself of you ever were in a crowd, let alone a large one of young people who all have suffered exile and persecution over several generations and are now kept exactly as caged animals in a hunting reservation. A crowd of people who before anyone else in the world can say that they have nothing to lose.

      Are you serious in your contention that they could be controlled by anyone into a “completely non-confrontational approach”, or even, once the idea was floating around, dissuaded from participating? By the “organizers”?

    • Citizen on June 25, 2018, 8:42 am

      Why Americans Oppose Investigating the #GazaMassacre: a stunning 81.5% of Americans say they never heard about the #GazaMassacre through any channel. #journalism #hasbara #MSM

    • Sibiriak on June 25, 2018, 10:52 pm

      Stephen Shenfield: Even if the march had been conducted in a totally non-confrontational manner, as its original organizers had wanted, Israeli soldiers would still have shot unarmed protesters.

      Perhaps, but the numbers killed and injured would have been drastically reduced, and the effectiveness of the protests as well.

      Civil disobedience has always been an essential feature of the non-violent strategy adopted by Gandhi, MLK et al.

      Civil disobedience is meant to challenge and disrupt the daily operations of the oppressive regime as well as trigger a violent response that sparks public outrage and delegitimizes the authorities.

      Civil disobedience involves direct confrontation and breaking unjust laws, not non-confrontational, law-abiding protests.

      Consider Gandhi’s confrontational tactics in the famous Salt March ( ). Or MLK’s call for “direct action” and the willingness to “break laws” in his Letter from Birmingham Jail ( ).

      But Gaza is not like Ghandi’s India, or the U.S, or the West Bank, for that matter. There are no accessible targets for civil disobedience inside Gaza because there is no Israeli occupying regime on the ground there. The only potential targets are the border itself and the blockade, and confronting those targets requires confronting the Israeli military head on. And that, of course, guarantees a bloody outcome.

      I’m not saying non-violent civil disobedience should be the only, or even the main tactic of Palestinian resistance or that by itself it can produce any great results. (It would likely be far more effective in the W.B. with both the PA regime and the Israeli apartheid apparatus as targets.)

      But are you suggesting that the Gazan Palestinians entirely abandon any strategy of civil disobedience? If not, how can they engage in civil disobedience if they don’t directly confront the Israeli military?

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