Contributed b Joe Montero
For Palestinians, this year’s Easter weekend will be remembered for the latest severe attack on civilians by the Israeli army.
An estimated 30,000 took part in March of Return, which aimed to set up new camps within several hundred metres of the militarised fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. Israel’s brutal response with live tear gas and ammunition, was based on these people having venturing too close to the wall.
Early news reports said that 17 were killed and hundreds wounded. If this has happened anywhere else, there would at least been world wide questioning. There was a wall of silence instead, from political leaders and much of the big media. This turning of a blind eye gave the Israeli head of state, Netanyahu, the confidence to openly praise Israeli army for killings Palestinians.
Why could such as thing happen? The answer is simple. Ever since 1948, when the land was taken from the Palestinian population, Israil has maintained its control through systemic violence.
The former colonial powers of the West, which did not relish the prospect of the peoples of the Middle East and Persian Gulf asserting their independence after the Second World War, came to see the newly emerged religious state, as a useful tool on the scene. The United states, which had emerged form the war as the preeminent power, wanted a piece of the action and became Israel’s principal backer.
The old colonial powers had carved up the region into their own spheres of influence and wanted to maintain political influence and control over resources. The Palestinians became the meat in the sandwich. Whatever punishment was meted out to the Palestinians was blamed on the Palestinians.
History set the pattern. This is what has bred blindness to the existence of a population incarcerated in the world’s biggest ever concentration camp, which is what Gaza has been turned into.
How else could you describe an area surrounded by a wall, guarded by soldiers, where the right of free movement is not permitted, where the authorities that run the camp have control over food, water, medicines and everything else, and impose the boot of authority through routine military means?
The guards have power over whether the residents of Gaza live or die. Every family has experienced its members being detained. Many of them have been tortured and some of them killed over the decades. All because as a people, they have refused to accept less than the rest of us take for granted. This is their crime.
Yes, Palestinians have returned the violence with their own, as is typical of the subjugated and dispossessed. But the occasional missile and gunshot is small stuff, in comparison to the systemic violence of the Israeli occupation.
And in any case, the main form of the Palestinian resistance is civil disobedience, and it is this that has brought on them the greatest brutality.
Last Friday’s march towards the Gaza wall underlines this. It was not about a mob coming to tear the thing down, but much worse in the eyes of Israel’s rulers. Thousands were positioning themselves, to become a visible public monument of their imprisonment. They had to be stopped.
The irony is that for Jews, this was Passover, the time for observance of the ancient deliverance from Egypt. For the Palestinians, it marked Land Day, the date when in 1976, Israel responded to a general strike by Palestinians in Israel over confiscated land, with guns that killed 6 and wounded hundreds.
In Gaza and the West Bank, the situation has always been much worse. When the young throw stones at the soldiers or illegal settlers under military escort, when they get angry at the latest round of shooting or bombing, they are talking the language of those who are denied a voice.
Back in 1987, the Palestinians began their first Intifada of strikes and civil disobedience. Israel responded by imposing curfews and mass arrests. By 1994, more than 23,000 had been interrogated by the secret services and one percent of the population tortured.
There has been little improvement since then. The Palestinians still refuse to surrender, and the Israeli jackboot remains in place.
The tragedy will continue until the world says that it has got to stop and has the courage and fortitude to make it happen.