A year has passed since Ahmed Abu Artema posted on Facebook his thoughts on being a prisoner inside Gaza: staring through the fence at his ancestral land, but not able to ever walk upon it. His post gave birth to a social movement which became “The Great March of Return”.
“We will keep knocking at the doors of international organizations and our Israeli jailers until we see concrete steps to end the blockade of Gaza” , he said. It is difficult to mobilize global support and concern for Palestinian rights, when there are so many other conflicts in the region which can dilute sympathy.
The right of every refugee to return home is enshrined in international law, and a UN resolution which has been reaffirmed 135 times. Israel was admitted into the UN with the expressed understanding they would comply with the resolution, but never did. Instead, over the years Israel has enacted laws which further strip away at the rights of Palestinians: the Law of Return prohibits any Palestinian from returning to their home in what is now called Israel, or in the occupied territories; the Nationality Law strips away the civil rights of any Palestinian; the Absentee Property Law and Land Acquisition Law allows Israel to confiscate and seize Palestinian owned land or properties.
The Gazans are prevented from access to the land, sea and air by the 2007 Israeli imposed blockade, which has never led to greater security in Israel. The movements of almost 2 million are restricted by the Israeli military. They are prevented from commerce, fishing and travel. The water supply is 90% contaminated; access to a third of the farmland is prohibited by the Israeli military, thus preventing them from feeding themselves. Almost 40% live in poverty and the same amount of youths are unemployed. With that level of suffering, protests are inevitable.
Hamas is considered by Israel to be a terrorist group; however, they won the elections in 2007 after the Israeli military occupation forces withdrew from Gaza, and Israel imposed the blockade in retaliation to their election. Hamas is an Islamist political party, with an armed wing which has fought since 1987, and currently promotes a concept of resistance and steadfastness.
A UN inquiry into the Gaza protests found at least 189 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in the period of March to December 2018. 35 of those killed were children, 3 were paramedics clearly identifiable as such, and 2 were journalists, also clearly identifiable as the press. The findings by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that Israeli snipers likely targeted the children, medics and press even though they were easily identifiable as such. Israel’s military in a tweet wrote, “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
The Trump-Kushner “Deal of the Century” is yet to be revealed, but analysts predict the right of return will not be on offer to the Palestinian side.
Mohamed Jardali, who became a refugee in 1948, once said, “Oppression and depravation perpetuates violence. The cycle of violence is fed by the Israeli side of the conflict.” He didn’t live to see Palestine in peace, but he believed that Israeli security could only be achieved by granting the Palestinian people their rights.