The world saw two starkly opposed moral cultures on 14 May. On one side were unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip calling for the right of Palestinians to return to the homes and lands they were driven from by the creation of Israel 70 years ago. Palestinians call that the Nakba (“catastrophe”).
On the other side were Israeli snipers at the eastern perimeter of this “open air prison” of 2 million Palestinian inmates. To the west is the Mediterranean Sea, part of Israel’s border. To the south is the crossing from Gaza to Egypt. Egypt’s dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a traitor to all the Arab people, keeps that virtually closed, under orders from Israel.
The snipers on this one day shot dead 62 Palestinians and wounded 2,000 others, many severely. The bullets the sharpshooters used to pick off demonstrators fracture inside the body, tearing more tissue and creating fist-sized exit wounds.
There were no casualties among the Israelis. It was a massacre, an evil criminal action by an oppressor nation against its oppressed people.
This was the largest of the demonstrations in Gaza that began on 30 March to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba. Great March of Return participants each Friday walked to near the barbed wire prison fence to shout their demand, and were met with deadly sniper fire. The total murdered is at least 109, with 12,000 wounded.
The US press characterised the situation as “violence” or “clashes”, giving the false impression that there were two opposed armed forces in battle. Only slowly did the truth dribble out. The right of return was hardly mentioned, if at all.
One had to turn to the small alternative press, such as Democracy Now!, with a reporter, Sharif Kouddous, on the scene in Gaza on 14 May.
“There’s a simply massive protest all along the eastern [barbed wire fence] of Gaza, throughout the entire length of the Strip, from the north in Beit Hanoun, to the south in Rafah”, he reported.
“I was at the biggest protest site, just east of Gaza City. There are thousands of people converging on the site – men, women and children. And it’s a really surreal scene. There are people gathering, mostly young men and boys, up near the [fence] of three sets of barbed wire.
“And you can see, just a couple of hundred yards away, Israeli soldiers, under canopies, on mounds of sand, sometimes in jeeps, and they are picking people off. I’ve seen people who weren’t even close to the fence being shot. Most of the people are being shot in the lower extremities, in their legs. I saw one person shot in the throat. The latest number of killed keeps going up, including a paramedic and a disabled person …
“No one is carrying weapons here … People insist that this is peaceful. There are no military uniforms allowed [among the protesters]. There are no weapons allowed. Despite the fact that there are very heavily armed groups in Gaza, this was a decision made by the committees that are running this movement …
“Hamas is involved, but so is Fatah, so is PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], so is Islamic Jihad, all those political parties. But more than that, there are women’s committees, civil society committees, legal advocates. All of them are taking part and making these decisions …
“There are no party flags allowed. Only the Palestinian flag. And in the back of the protest just a couple hundred yards away, there’s a festive atmosphere. There’s art. There’s music. There’s celebrations of Palestinian heritage. So, this is really a broad-based, grassroots movement. I don’t think even if Hamas wanted this to stop, it could stop it.
“What most people are doing is just walking to the fence. Some people place the Palestinian flag on the barbed wire. Some cut the wire and try to cross, saying they are implementing the right of return themselves. We have to remember that people are trapped in Gaza. There is really no way out. Most have never left the Strip. So this is a way of pushing their bodies up against their confinement.
“This is happening in a buffer zone. Israel imposed a buffer zone a couple of hundred meters inside Gaza from the fence. And so, over the years, farmers and people living on that side of the Gaza Strip have been regularly shot at by Israeli troops. And so, even reclaiming this space in Gaza itself is an achievement.”
Israel has laid siege to Gaza since 1991. Nothing can go in or out without Israeli approval, which is slowly squeezing Gaza to death while the Israeli military intermittently invades, inflicting huge casualties and destruction. A UN agency says that Gaza could soon become unlivable.
About targeting protesters’ legs, Kouddous said, “It reminds me of the first intifada. Israelis would break the arms of Palestinians who were throwing stones. Now it’s Palestinians walking, and so they are taking out their legs”.
He visited a hospital where many of the wounded were being treated. “There was a wailing of pain in the orthopaedic wards and young men and boys walking around on crutches, many lying in beds, their legs bandaged up with rods and pins protruding”.
While this was going on, 40 miles away in Jerusalem, Israelis were celebrating the founding of Israel. Britain and the United States enabled its creation, supported by the other imperialist powers. The objective was to establish a pro-imperialist beachhead in the Arab world. This imperialist support has maintained Israel ever since.
So it was fitting that the centre of the celebration in Jerusalem was the symbolic opening of the US embassy. The move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a provocation against the Palestinians, who view Jerusalem as their capital. It also clarified, for even the most dim-witted, that the “two-state solution” is dead.
Israeli prime mister Netanyahu was at the embassy opening, heaping praise on US president Donald Trump for making the move, and declaring that Jerusalem has been “the capital of the Jewish people for millennia, and the capital of our state from its inception”. This comes close to declaring that Israel is the state of all Jews everywhere – something he would like to say, but right now it is impolitic to do so.
Among the dignitaries present from the White House were Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, who heaped praise on Netanyahu. Kushner is supposed to release the White House plan for “peace”, which is reported to reject the right of return for Palestinians and back Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prayers were said by two extreme right US preachers, Robert Jeffress and John Hagee. The later is a prominent “end of times” Christian, who once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to what became Israel. The ideology of both includes that the Jews had to return to the ancient land of Israel because they had to be there for Armageddon to occur.
That anti-Semites can be pro-Israel is nothing new. Both positions are held by many fascists in the US and Europe. It is odd that Trump would invite these two to Jerusalem – or is it?
Some of Jeffress’ other statements: “Here is the deep, dark secret of Islam. It is a religion that promotes paedophilia, sex with children”; “Islam is wrong! It is heresy from the pit of hell. Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of Hell. Judaism, you know, can’t be saved”; Catholicism “represents the genius of Satan”.
He has equally nice things to say about Buddhists, Hindus, LGBT people and so on.
Trump and Netanyahu both blame the Palestinian deaths and wounding on the Palestinians themselves and defend the Israeli killings. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, repeated this at a meeting of the Security Council.
As Malcolm X said, the oppressors turn the criminals into the victims and the victims into the criminals. Much of the mainstream press in the US follow suit.
An exception was one writer in the New York Times, who wrote: “The juxtaposition of images of dead and wounded Palestinians and Ivanka Trump smiling in Jerusalem like a Zionist Marie Antoinette tells us a lot about America’s relationship to Israel right now”.