Palestinians’ legitimate claims continue to be silenced at the expense of sustaining Israel’s longstanding myths of being the safe haven for world Jewry and a democracy with the world’s most moral army. As if we are not as worthy as the children of Holocaust survivors of freedom, security, justice and dignity.
Palestinian family retracting at the Great Return March encampment after being fired at by Israeli soldiers. (Photo: Mahmoud Abusalama)
As I write this, I recall the many times I had to sit in a room where Europeans discuss their deep-felt guilt over the atrocities committed against their Jewish communities. I recall the many deeply painful times I felt completely unseen during discussions over racism, colonialism, social justice and refugee and migrant rights. My racing heartbeat that overcome me as countless memories of terror and pain surface, silenced a cry that desperately wanted an answer: Why is there no guilt felt towards us as European countries fuel and enable more Israeli terrorism against Palestinians? Or do we not count as people? How about Palestinians’ most longstanding refugee problem in our modern history?
I wish I could shake people’s consciousness and face them with a century of complicity which if they acknowledged, they would have a feeling of backbreaking guilt towards Palestinians. The situation was, is and will continue to be grim until concrete action is pursued to halt (not ease) these grave injustices happening in daylight before the eyes of the whole world for 70 years of Israeli colonial occupation and apartheid.
Until then, the unfulfilled desires of our grandparents who died while clinging to their right of return to the last breath, will haunt you. The lives of the many patients who died of minor illness due to shut barriers and checkpoints, will haunt you. The dreams of our children. The cries of Palestinian mothers. The stolen years of our political prisoners. The pictures of all our victims, young and old. The drops of blood that shed from every and each wounded person. The amputated limbs. The uprooted olive trees. The demolished houses. The memories made at each of its corners. The deserted lands. The sleepless eyes that long waited for a dawn of freedom. The executed bodies that were left bleeding until they were drained of blood. The lifeless body of Malak Rabah Abu Jazar, a Palestinian girl from Gaza whom the sea waves pushed to Turkish shores after a failed escape from Gaza’s open-air prison to a more secure life. All that will haunt you, and ignoring it is at our peril.
Along Gaza’s separating fence, massive crowds still confront Israeli snipers hiding behind sand mounds and in their military jeeps, going forward and backward depending on Israel’s level of lethal force used against them. The Great Return March continues for its 7th month, with the field repeatedly turned into a traumatic scene of bloodshed and repression, all documented by local news and people on the ground who want to remind the world of the gruesome injustices Palestinians endure and push for an action that could bring it to an end.
As these atrocities continue with impunity, dominant western media discourse is turning these horrific events into a spectacle that diverts attention from the unjust reality that Palestinians live under Israel and their legitimate claims, and still start every news report with an Israeli military statement justifying its crimes. If the media succeeded in desensitizing you, just remember that if you accumulate the tears of all the families who are grieving at least a member killed, maimed, or drawn in the sea, or jailed, those floods of tears would bury earth underneath the sea.
Despite this longstanding and ongoing process of dehumanization, demonization, and pacification, and the consequently intensified Israeli repression, protesters are not deterred from returning to the fence. For them, the choices remain between a living hell or a dignified death. They are desperate for the world to bare witness to Israel’s criminality. They express the urgency of a political solution that is not limited to the boundaries of Gaza and lifting the siege, hence the demand for the Right of Return.
Palestinians also call out for a competent Palestinian leadership to invest in this inspirational popular resistance and sacrifice. They call upon them to correct the path that 1993 Oslo peace accords marked with internal divisions and marginalization of the backbone issues of our anti-colonial struggle for delusional autonomy over bantustan-structured territories (where they are actually servants of the Israeli occupation).
Palestinians sacrifice to remind internal and external actors that our anti-colonial struggle is about liberation, not independence. This was, is and will continue to be the nature of our struggle despite the damning hands that attempt to redefine it and distort it.