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Gazan youth: ‘Stop protesting in return for not getting killed? We want more than that’

Israel/Palestine
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March 30 is the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Great Return March protests in Gaza—called officially to demand Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homeland, but really about the continuing suffocation of the Strip’s 2 million population in ways both large and small for the past 12 years. In the most basic terms, the protests are the “what-else-can-we-do” action of a people who know they only get attention when they are being killed and wounded in large enough numbers to make the international news.

“We’re tightening the security ring around the Gaza Strip,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says. “I’ve recently ordered that [military] units be reinforced, that tools be added, in preparation for an extensive campaign.”

To prevent a massive, brutal pushback, he is demanding that Hamas halt the weekly demonstrations and assure this weekend’s expected massive protest be nonviolent. That is a rather jaw-dropping demand to make, given the conclusions of the recent U.N. Human Rights Council investigation into Israeli conduct during the weekly protests:

With the exception of [two incidents,]the commission found reasonable grounds to believe that, in all other cases, the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces against demonstrators was unlawful. Victims who were hundreds of metres away from the Israeli forces and visibly engaged in civilian activities were shot, as shown by eyewitness accounts, video footage and medical records. Journalists and medical personnel who were clearly marked as such were shot, as were children, women and persons with disabilities. The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities.

Support for the Great Return March within Gaza is a complicated subject these days. The number of dead and maimed has mounted so high (271 killed and 15,528 injured severely enough to require hospitalization) that to many, the price is not worth what they see as zero tangible benefits. Add to that a perceived increasing control of the protests by Hamas, compared to the more grassroots-led start of the marches, and you have a lot of mixed emotions. But how would Gazan youth respond to this Israeli ultimatum? A few members of We Are Not Numbers respond:

Abdalrahim Alfarra. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Abdalrahim Alfarra. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Abdalrahim Alfarra

It’s as simple as this: We protest because Israel is attacking us. The GRM calls for lifting the siege and our right to return and this is non-negotiable! Israel cannot impose a suffocating siege on Gaza for over 12 years, murder our children, deprive us of our basic rights as human beings, then tell us not to protest. And by the way, does the offer to not attack us include giving us our freedom, dignity and human rights? Does it also mean lifting the siege, letting us live in peace and recognizing our right to self-determination? I don’t think so.

Basman Derawi. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Basman Derawi. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Basman Derawi

This is ridiculous. Regardless of my opinion of the GRM, Israel doesn’t have the right to link the protests to an agreement not to terrorize us. It is Palestinians’ right to return [to our ancestral lands] and to live with no blockade or siege. Even international law confirms that, yet Israel always ignores the international community.

Raghad Hasanein

What would guarantee Israel would keep its promise? Nothing. Israel is known for breaking promises throughout history.

As for the Great Return March, I don’t think it can make Israel change, but we have gotten attention in the media—although that still didn’t change anything, in real life. We just receive prayers and thoughts. And that’s not enough. What we really need is for Israel to be forced to comply with international law, for once in its history.

Sami Albreem. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Sami Albreem. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Sami Albreem

I am not a supporter of the return marches, but they are a right for every Palestinian. Bargaining away our rights is unacceptable. Thus, in that sense, I believe they should continue, despite the continued attacks and Israeli bombardment, until Israel’s ugly reality is revealed to the world.

Salsabeel Hamdan. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Salsabeel Hamdan. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Salsabeel Hamdan

They offer us what? That is just stupid and sort of funny. People here started the Great Return March because Israel already was harming us. It should be the other way around: “Israel, give us our rights and then we will stop protesting.”

Orjwan Alshurrab

So, Israel stops attacking our people for a bit and then what? We have to suffer in silence. When we protest, it is the only time our voice seems to be heard. In any case, stopping the protests without achieving anything would be a betrayal of those who were killed at the borders.

Malak Hijazi

We will continue marching! If marching is annoying Israel, then I say, “let’s march!’

Ahmed Alnaouq. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Ahmed Alnaouq. (Photo: We Are Not Numbers)

Ahmed Alnaouq

The Great Return March isn’t really the reason why Israel is attacking us. They have been doing it for years now. So, no matter what we do, it won’t stop.

These voices have a message for international NGOs, governments and activists alike: The youth of Gaza believe that Israel will keep terrorizing them whether they protest or not, and that risking their lives (being killed or maimed) is the only way to get our attention. Only we have the power to show them such a huge price isn’t necessary.  

This post was originally published by We Are Not Numbers on March 28, 2019. 

Pam
About Pam Bailey

Pam Bailey is founder of WeAreNotNumbers.org 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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9 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    March 29, 2019, 9:35 am

    … “We’re tightening the security ring around the Gaza Strip,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says. “I’ve recently ordered that [military] units be reinforced, that tools be added, in preparation for an extensive campaign.”

    To prevent a massive, brutal pushback, he is demanding that Hamas halt the weekly demonstrations and assure this weekend’s expected massive protest be nonviolent. …

    The women chained in his basement insist on lashing out at the rapist.

    Why, he wonders aloud, can’t you ungrateful bitches just lie back and enjoy my right to self-determination?!

  2. bcg
    bcg
    March 29, 2019, 11:13 am

    “Israel wants March of Return to stop in return for easing Gaza siege”:

    https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190329-israel-wants-march-of-return-to-stop-in-return-for-easing-gaza-siege/

    Israel has offered a package of moves that would ease the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip in return for stopping the Great March of Return, local media reported.

    Israel’s Ynet News site said the Egyptian security delegation presented the Israeli proposal to Hamas and representatives of other Palestinian factions. It included increasing the number of goods trucks entering the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) crossing and raising the UN temporary employment project to 40,000 people.

    According to the news site, Tel Aviv has also proposed expanding the fishing area off the coast of Gaza to 12 nautical miles, developing the power lines from Israel to Gaza, increasing the facilities for exports and imports and allowing the introduction of some dual-use material to the besieged enclave.

    • annie
      annie
      March 29, 2019, 4:29 pm

      raising the UN temporary employment project to 40,000 people.

      bcg, i read about this. and it occurred to me this is the netanyahu/kershner/trump MO for their deal of the century:

      withdraw unrwa funding, end all these jobs and food for refugees, let them eat cake for 6 months and then repackage what you just took away and offer it as if it’s an improvement.

      Tel Aviv has also proposed expanding the fishing area off the coast of Gaza to 12 nautical miles

      that’s the proposal? what hamas proposed and they declined before. besides, isn’t 12 nautical miles what they are supposed to have anyway. and how many days weeks or months would that stand, before israel started shooting fisherman again. this is like a bad joke. like offering prisoners a prime time station to watch on tuesday nights, it’s not freedom.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      March 29, 2019, 11:07 pm

      Hold on. I thought that the protests were totally ineffective.

      Why, then, is Israel offering these “concessions”?

      Have I been misled by Nathan and Co.? Surely not!

  3. annie
    annie
    March 29, 2019, 4:14 pm

    i love what Salsabeel Hamdan said “They offer us what? That is just stupid and sort of funny. ”

    they think palestinians are sub human, as if they don’t know why they are protesting. if ‘stop or we’ll kill you’ was a compelling argument there wouldn’t have been a protest. all of these kids have seen multiple wars death and destruction in their short lifetimes. israel may not realize it but they are producing a new breed of youth, and they do not seem to be the hobbled kowtowing sort, just the opposite.

    it’s election season, like clockwork israel smashes gaza. we see it from a distance but up close i can’t imagine being them. i am in awe of them.

  4. Kay24
    Kay24
    March 29, 2019, 8:45 pm

    The numbers are always shocking. Israel can never convince the world that it is the victim in this conflict, and that the Palestinians are wiping them out, when it is obvious, that whether with precision bombs, snipers, or other deadly weapons, the zionists are killing Palestinians unmercifully at the slightest excuse. The Palestinians are being wiped out, their lands stolen, farms destroyed, crops stolen, and they are suffering the consequences of this bloody occupation. No amount of Hasbara trolls can convince the world of that. The world also knows that the zionist leader is a stinking liar, and justifies that killing by saying Israel was defending itself (from unarmed civilians?)

    Unfortunately, AIPAC has been able to make our American leaders pretend they cannot see, hear, or remember what democracy and human rights is really like, when it comes to the crimes of the zionists.

  5. Kay24
    Kay24
    March 30, 2019, 6:00 am

    Anyone has faith the Palestinians will be protected? Nothing will stop the Zionazis.

    After Israeli Army Injures 30,398 Palestinian Protesters in Gaza, Rights Groups Call on UN to Protect Them

    https://www.juancole.com/2019/03/palestinian-protesters-protect.html

  6. CigarGod
    CigarGod
    March 30, 2019, 9:28 am

    IDF Snipers shot women, children and people in wheel chairs and on crutches for a total of 15,528 Palestinians injured and 271 shot dead.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      March 30, 2019, 11:15 am

      That’s what DaBakr calls “relative quiet” and dimadok Israel’s “right to protect its civilian population.”

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