Ongoing popular Palestinian resistance in Gaza, referred to as “The Great Return March,” has directed the world’s attention toward the Palestinian non-violent, persistent struggle to gain fundamental human rights. It has also highlighted how the israeli* occupation has and continues to target peaceful protesters demonstrating for Palestinian rights.
From the British Mandate to the israeli occupation, Palestinians have been continuously resisting foreign occupation. They have employed all means at their disposal, including public strikes, political and media efforts that raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle, uprisings (Intifadas), economic, political and academic boycott movements, and armed military confrontations. Increasingly, Palestinians have been using peaceful resistance, with unarmed masses demanding the most basic human rights guaranteed under international law. A large number of Palestinians believe in these peaceful protests, which have opened the eyes of the world to their marginalization and oppression at the hands of the israeli occupation and siege.
Through these efforts, Palestinians are saying they have had enough – enough of the occupier’s efforts to end the Palestinian cause through further expulsions, enough of efforts to destroy the Palestinian refugees’ demands, and, enough of the siege that forces people to sacrifice their fundamental rights in exchange for their basic needs.
The Gaza protest march is undoubtedly threatening to israel, which considers it a thorn disturbing the status quo. This is why the israeli occupation will not hesitate to fight the protests and disperse protesters with the most brutal methods. Targeting all five Return Camps, which are the organizing points for the protest march, israel has used brutal force against unarmed civilians in order to intimidate and terrorize Palestinians. Occupation forces have intentionally targeted unarmed Palestinian protesters and have had little regard for children, journalists, and medics who are present.
This is part and parcel of israel’s wider policies toward the Palestinians. The occupation strategically terrorizes protesters in order to break their courage and prevent them from participating in the marches. Senior occupation officials speak in Arabic through media outlets and social media accounts, aiming to instill their propaganda in the minds of Palestinians and Arabs. They hope to instill fear of injury by bullets and gas projectiles. They want Palestinians to fear being killed or permanently disabled. They hope to force Palestinian mothers and fathers into stopping their sons and daughters from participating in and continuing their peaceful resistance.
Through the media, israel attempts to spread lies and distract from the obvious fact that the Great Return March is a peaceful, legal way of protesting and expressing popular demands. Instead, it portrays the peaceful demonstrations as subversive or chaotic riots.
As part of its media strategy, the occupation tries to demonize the march by linking it to “terrorism,” and focusing on the backgrounds of some murdered protesters – especially where they are affiliated with Hamas. It is as if these individuals do not, regardless of political belief, have ample reasons to protest and demand the right of return to their land, freedom, and other basic rights. Indeed, these peaceful demonstrations are the results of grassroots efforts by the Palestinian people themselves – and are not the brainchild of any political faction. Nevertheless, by exploiting the fact that Hamas is considered a “terrorist” organization by a number of Western powers, israel is trying to create international consent for crushing the protests.
While israel claims to target only “terrorists,” this is completely false. All of the occupation’s victims have been civilians. None of them were armed in any way or posed any kind of threat to the occupation and its soldiers. This is evidenced by the casualty numbers. While dozens of Palestinians have been murdered and thousands injured, there have been zero casualties on the israeli side. israel’s explicit manipulation of facts is based on concerns about its public image, which have been damaged by these demonstrations. Indeed, the deliberate targeting of unarmed civilians has exposed israel’s true nature in front of its allies, especially the Western community.
With every new protest, the Great Return March is gaining more international support. And with every bullet that hits a peaceful protester, israel’s fake mask of democracy and humanity is broken, exposing its racist face.
* The author has chosen to write the words “israel” and “israeli” in lower case to indicate he does not recognize the legitimacy of the occupying power (Israel).