By JOHN LESLIE
The Great Return March culminated on May 15, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, known to the Palestinian people as the Nakba (catastrophe). Israel hit Gaza with air strikes and tank fire, claiming to be targeting Hamas positions.
A day earlier, a mass mobilization of more than 100,000 Palestinians took place on the border between Gaza and Israel. Israeli occupation forces opened fire on protesters with live rounds and tear gas, killing 65 and wounding more than 2400. Among the dead were at least 10 teenagers and an eight-month-old baby, Laila Anwar al-Ghandour, who died from exposure to tear gas. One of the wounded was a Canadian doctor, Tarek Loubani, who was shot while treating the wounded. Dr. Loubani was clearly marked as a doctor.
The Gaza border protests began on March 30 with a large protest of more than 30,000. On that day, 23 were killed and more than 1400 wounded. In over six weeks of mass protests, at least 115 protesters were killed and more than 9000 wounded by either exposure to tear gas or gunshot wounds.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 20 journalists were wounded by Israeli fire, with two others, Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein, killed while covering the protests. No Israelis have been killed or wounded during any of these protests.
Palestine solidarity activists around the world responded to the May 14 Gaza massacre with protest. In Philadelphia, more than 200 marched from City Hall to the Kimmel Center concert hall, protesting the Philadelphia Orchestra’s decision to play in the apartheid state. In London, tens of thousands marched. Large protests were held in South Africa, New York, New Delhi, and Paris.
At the same time that Israeli forces were mowing down unarmed protesters, U.S. President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, represented the president at the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. The decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem signals Washington’s endorsement of the illegal Israeli annexation of the city seized during the 1967 Six Day War. The decision has bipartisan support, with Democrat Chuck Schumer and others endorsing the move. This action is an admission that the U.S. is not, and never has been, a fair or impartial arbiter between Israel and the Palestinians.
During the ceremony marking the opening of the embassy, Kushner praised Israel, saying, “We stand with Israel because we both believe in human rights, democracy worth defending, and believe that we know that it is the right thing to do.” Outside of the ceremony, unarmed Palestinian protesters were beaten by Israeli security forces as Israelis, on hand to celebrate the embassy opening, chanted, “Burn them, shoot them, kill them.” Many U.S. allies were conspicuously absent from the ceremony. On Tuesday, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and withdrew its envoy from Israel.
During a session of the United Nations Security Council, called in response to the border violence, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley defended Israeli violence against Gaza protesters, claiming that Israel acted with “restraint.” Haley walked out of the Security Council meeting as the Palestinian representative rose to speak.
The U.S. vetoed a UN Security Council call for an independent investigation of the Gaza violence. U.S. support for the Gaza massacre has isolated Washington from some of its allies in Europe and elsewhere, whose governments have condemned the violence. Avigdor Lieberman, the racist Israeli defense minister, rejected criticism and calls for an independent inquiry into the violence, stating, “Our soldiers deserve a commendation.”
In a statement, Doctors Without Borders whose medical volunteers have been working tirelessly to treat the wounded, said, “This bloodbath is the continuation of the Israeli army’s policy during the last seven weeks: shooting with live ammunition at demonstrators, on the assumption that anyone approaching the separation fence is a legitimate target. Most of the wounded will be condemned to suffer lifelong injuries.”
Israel, a colonial-settler state, was born of violence and ethnic cleansing. In the 1948 Nakba, the Israelis forced more than 700,000 Palestinians into exile, driving them from their homes and denying their right to return to the place of their birth. Israel’s Palestinian citizens (so-called Arab Israelis living inside the 1948 border) are treated as second-class citizens.
In the occupied West Bank, Israel is creating the facts on the ground for annexation, in violation of international law. Construction of illegal settlements on confiscated Palestinian land continues, despite condemnation by the international community. Settler attacks on Palestinians go unpunished. Settlers have dumped garbage and toxic waste on Palestinian land. Rightist Israeli politicians openly advocate the expulsion or “transfer” of Palestinians and the annexation of the West Bank and Golan Heights.
Conditions in Gaza are dire. Israel has enforced a blockade of the area for years, creating what many call an “open-air prison” or a concentration camp. Residents of Gaza lack clean drinking water, access to education, adequate food supplies, and medicine. Electrical service is only available for a few hours daily. Ninety-six percent of drinking water is unfit for human consumption. Forty-five percent of children in Gaza suffer from anemia, and malnutrition is widespread.
The lockdown of Gaza has resulted in an unemployment rate of more than 45 percent, the highest in the world. Youth unemployment exceeds 60 percent. As a result of Israeli attacks over the years, the city is a maze of ruins.
Security zones in Gaza, established by the Israelis, have barred farmers access to one-third of Gaza’s arable land. Entering these zones is punishable by death, as Israeli troops can attack with impunity. Fishing off the coast of Gaza is also restricted by Israel, with fishing boats regularly attacked by Israeli naval vessels. The Egyptian government, in collusion with the Zionist state, restricts access to and from Gaza at the Rafah crossing into Sinai. In short, Israeli policy has rendered Gaza uninhabitable.
Now is the time to redouble efforts to build solidarity with the legitimate national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people. Israel’s continued violence against the Palestinian people must be rejected. Claims by apologists for the Zionist state, including the capitalist media, that there is “violence on both sides” ignore the imbalance between a people resisting occupation and the violence of the most heavily armed military power in the region.
The capitalist media are complicit in U.S. imperialist support for Israel. Media reporting excuses Israeli violence by referring to “clashes” and “conflict” at the Gaza border. As the watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) noted, “The term ‘clash’ is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself.”
A statement released by the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) places responsibility for the violence squarely on the United States and Israel: “The Trump administration has given the green light to the right-wing Zionist government of Israel by declaring that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and by moving the U.S. embassy there. This has led to increased repression for the Palestinian people, ranging from more arrests of children like Ahed Tamimi to the massacres of unarmed protesters in Gaza. But this joint U.S./Israeli aggression does not end with Palestine: In recent days, we have witnessed major Israeli missile attacks on Syria following U.S. missile attacks.”
Broad, united front, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns, aimed at isolating the Israeli state, can help force a change in the balance of forces. Support for BDS actions, like the campaign to stop the Philadelphia Orchestra’s trip to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, can raise public awareness and increase support for the Palestinian people. Similarly, campaigns to stop cooperation programs between Israeli security forces and U.S. police forces can help build alliances against state violence here and in Palestine.
Labor action against apartheid is also essential. The Tunisia General Labour Union is threatening to refuse to unload U.S. ships. Dock workers around the globe could play an essential role in the struggle by “hot cargoing” U.S. and Israeli products.
Stop the violence against Gaza and end the blockade! Free all Palestinian prisoners, including the more than 400 children! For the right of Palestinians to return! End all military and economic aid to Israel!
Stop Israeli training of U.S. police forces! End the slanders against the BDS movement! For a democratic secular Palestine, with equal rights for all!