It all started because of a bird. Ahmed Abu Artema, the unlikely leader of the largest popular Palestinian movement in decades, strode beside the separation fence that divides his home in the Gaza Strip from Israel on a January evening last year. At twilight he saw birds fly overhead, soaring past the fence “and no one stopped them.” Abu Artema talks with Allison Deger about life in Gaza and the enduring power of the Great March of Return: “Our demands were simple and honorable, we want to return, we want a dignified life”
Category Archives: Great March of Return
Forty-seven years after 14 Irish protesters were killed on Bloody Sunday 1972, a British soldier faces charges in two deaths. The dead were unarmed protesters who were a threat to riot in British eyes. Very much like the thousands of unarmed Palestinians shot at the Gaza fence in the last year, shootings the UN and B’Tselem says are war crimes.
The Gaza protests will mark their one-year anniversary in 2 weeks, with real political potential for the Palestinian struggle. Gaza has always been a crucible for political movements in part because its population has such a high percentage of refugees of the Nakba in 1948. Helena Cobban traces the history.
Ahmad Kabariti reports from the 50th week of the Great March of Return, which took place on International Women’s Day.
Jen Marlowe follows Palestinian paramedics as they try to keep up with dozens of injured protesters during the Great March of Return protests on March 1, 2019.
Jen Marlowe shares a day in the life from Gaza: “The Great Return March earlier that day had been a blur of action. Ribbons of tear gas and repeated bursts of live fire, sometimes followed by shouts of “Someone’s wounded!” Was the last of these incidents that I witnessed the moment that Yousef had been shot in the chest and killed?”
A Palestinian teen, Hassan Nabil Ahmed Nofal, 17, died on Tuesday in Gaza, four days after he was struck in the head by a teargas canister fired by Israeli soldiers during the Friday protests for the Great March of Return.
Haidar Eid writes from Gaza on the 10th anniversary of Operation Cast Lead: “In 2009, we argued that Gaza 2009, like the Sharpeville 1960 massacre, cannot be ignored. It demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. We never thought that we would witness worse massacres! Now is the time to boycott the Apartheid Israeli state, to divest from its economy and to impose sanctions against it. It is high time that the world imposes a military embargo on Israel the same way it did against the apartheid regime of South Africa.”
On December 22, 2018, the 39th week of the Great March of Return, anti-Zionist Israeli activists joined Palestinian protestors at Khuza’a Return protest camp from the east side of the fence. Soldiers shot live rounds to prevent the activists from reaching the fence. Despite the military’s aggression, a phone conversation was held with Sabrine al-Najjar, the mother of Razan al-Najjar. She recognized the BDS movement as a positive factor in ending the occupation and contributing to the Palestinian cause of freedom and equality.
Gaza photographer Mohammed Asad has just turned away from the fence protest Friday when he felt a sting on his cheek and his camera strap jerk and saw Mohammed al Jahjuh, 16, writhing on the ground Al Jahjuh had been killed by an Israeli sniper. Asad narrowly escaped death, but his $2500 Canon camera was destroyed. He will borrow equipment, he vowed, to return to the protests. Israelis don’t understand “the Palestinian’s stubborn brain.”
November 30th marked the 8 month anniversary of the Great March of Return. Every Friday since March 30th, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have taken to the borders with Israel to demand the right of return of refugees to their ancestral homelands in present day Israel, and an end to the siege on Gaza. Despite reported efforts from political officials to bring the Great March of Return to a close, protesters maintain that they will continue demonstrating until the siege is lifted once and for all.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports on water & sanitation crisis in Gaza, increase in Israeli settler violence. “97 per cent of ground water extracted in Gaza is unfit for human consumption, generating the risk of a waterborne disease outbreak.”
Palestinians are still demonstrating along the Gaza-Israel border on Fridays, but in fewer numbers and with less fury than seen in recent months as Egyptian mediators work to lessen confrontations along the fence. Ahmad Kabariti asks Palestinians in Gaza if they believe the protest should be suspended in exchange for an easing of the blockade.
Haidar Eid writes from Gaza: “As we, Palestinians of Gaza, embark on our long walk to freedom, we have come to the conclusion that we can no longer rely on governments; instead, we request that the citizens of the world oppose these ongoing deadly crimes. In fact, we expect people of conscience and civil society organizations to put pressure on their governments until Israel is forced to abide by international law and international humanitarian law. It did work last century; without the intervention of the international community which was effective against apartheid in South Africa, Israel will continue its war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Yesterday Israeli forces shot Aed Abu Amro in the leg, the Palestinian protester from the Gaza Strip who reached internet infamy after photographer for Anadolu Agency Mustafa Hassouna captured a shirtless Abu Amro gripping a Palestinian flag firmly in one hand and a slingshot in the other during a protest at the fence that divides the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Writer Susan Abulhawa was detained for 36 hours at Ben Gurion airport before being deported and managed to sneak a pencil into the detention center and leave messages on the wall– Free Palestine — and read Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad.
A group of 50 Anti-Zionist Israelis joined the Great March of Return from the Eastern side of the fence that besieges the Gaza Strip.
Shahd Abusalama writes, “Palestinians’ legitimate claims continue to be silenced at the expense of sustaining Israel’s longstanding myths of being the safe haven for world Jewry and a democracy with the world’s most moral army. As if we are not as worthy as the children of Holocaust survivors of freedom, security, justice and dignity.”
Haider Eid writes after returning from a protest at the Gaza fence as part of the Great March of Return: “The final judgment is approaching. Either exist, or be wiped out from history. Therefore, it is the moment of truth, either be steadfast during this certainly delusional settlement, the settlement of a state, a Bantustan, with partial authority over the Palestinian people, or the delusion of a settlement under Israeli citizenship, regardless of the right of return. We, marchers at the Eastern fence of the Gaza Ghetto beg to differ! We want the full menu of rights, or nothing!”
The Great Return March, which began on March 30th, was an attempt across a broad spectrum of Gazan society to mount a peaceful action that world could not help but recognize as such. After 6 months, the March has largely dropped from the headlines, even though the death toll continues to climb. But the March has nevertheless continued and some of the seeds it has planted are already bearing fruit.
Friday marked one of the deadliest days at the fence that divides the Gaza Strip from Israel since protests began in Gaza last March, as Israeli forced killed seven including two children.
Given recent history, it is surprising Israel has not invaded Gaza again. Previous massive Israeli ground attacks, in 2008, 2012 and 2014, required fewer pretexts than we see today with the success of the Great March of Return. But Israel’s ground forces stay put. Two respected analysts of Israel’s military explain why: the Hamas resistance movement has prepared strong defenses inside Gaza that have raised the costs of an invasion above an acceptable level.
According to multiple reports, in early September the Trump administration will issue a report recognizing no more than half a million Palestinian refugees, will reject any right of return, and ominously will ask Israel to ‘reconsider’ UNRWA’s mandate to operate in the West Bank. Marilyn Garson writes, “Trump and those around him have spent the year trying to obviate – rather than solve – Palestinian claims. Now they wish to deny the refugee status of 90% of Palestinians. If Trump has his way, only a few elderly refugees will remain. The Right of Return will be moot. It would not exist now, he says, if UNRWA didn’t keep it alive. He will make the right disappear by de-funding UNRWA and de-registering its five million phantom refugees. The realization of Palestinian rights may be a marathon, but right now, it is also a sprint. The race is on, to be made to vanish or to be seen and heard.”
On Friday, 24th of August, Return demonstrated from the Eastern side of the Gaza fence in solidarity with the weekly Great March of Return in Gaza, which took place for the 22nd Friday in a row. Yossi, a Return activist, explains, “We arrived to demonstrate in solidarity with the Palestinian demonstration on the other side of the fence. We got stopped by the soldiers and we couldn’t get close, but we could get to this sort of hill here from which they can see us waving the Palestinian flag. All of us here, Jews and internationals are here to support the right of return.”
Aida Winfred explains the reason why Israel can not defend its border with Gaza — there is no border with Gaza. Gaza is not a state, it is a besieged enclave under Israeli control.