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Palestinians are marking the one-year anniversary of the Great Return March. Since March 30, 3018, thousands of Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied and illegally besieged Gaza Strip have engaged in protests against Israel, demanding the right to return to their homes inside Israel proper. Through the weekly manifestations, Palestinians have protested their continuous imprisonment, occupation, and dispossession by the Israeli regime. Individuals from all sectors of Gazan civil society have participated in the popular grassroots movement.

Israel has responded to the protesters with military violence and targeted killings, which have sometimes resulted in massacres. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, at least 271 Palestinians have been killed and almost 30,000 injured by Israeli forces. An investigation by the UN Human Rights Council found that “the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) killed and gravely injured civilians who were neither participating directly in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat to life. Among those shot were children, paramedics, journalists, and persons with disabilities.” The report noted that “[u]nless undertaken lawfully in self-defense, intentionally killing a civilian not directly participating in hostilities is a war crime.”

In defending their actions, the Israeli government has relied on traditional Orientalist and Islamophobic talking points. According to this logic, Hamas is an “Islamist terrorist organization” and all Palestinians deserve to be killed because they are one and the same with Hamas and, therefore, an existential threat to the “Jewish state.”

The latest justification for this genocidal policy comes in the form of Islamophobic and misogynist depictions of niqabi Palestinian women attending a Great Return March protest as “ISIS women.” On March 30, Ofir Geldelman, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, labeled the group of women terrorists and added that “Hamas IS the Gazan branch of ISIS.”

Indeed, Israel depicts everything coming from Gaza as terrorism, including balloons and kites. Under the hashtag #StopHamas, the IDF has equated “riots” with “rockets,” claiming the goal of the Great March of Return is to kill Israeli civilians. According to these relentless Orientalist depictions, Palestinians are attempting to break the so-called “border” and massacre Israeli families.

Under the Israeli government’s narrative, Palestinians have no legitimate reason to protest. They are, instead, captives in a cage who endanger the survival of Western civilization. This dehumanizing rhetoric has long relied on and continues to depend upon the reproduction of Islamophobia and misogyny, all in the service of justifying continuous killing in Gaza.

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