Although unarmed Gaza protesters posed no threat to the Israeli soldiers, reports say that 15 has been killed and more than 2,000 wounded. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers were deployed to the buffer zone between the besieged Gaza and the border of Israel. The reasons for their deployment are massive protests and rallies organized by the Palestinian families.
On March 31, the Israeli army tweeted: “Yesterday we saw 30,000 people. We arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
The tweet was soon deleted and posting such a thing on social media is cruel even for the Israeli soldiers. The Israeli had hoped that they would chase away the Palestinians by killing some of them and wounding a bunch, which would eventually lead the protest to quiet down, but that was not the case. The Palestinians showed that they could be powerful when they are united and that their arch enemies have every reason to be afraid. This gathering disrupted Israel’s political and military tactics, and Tel Aviv has assumed a defensive position.
But what led tens of thousands of Palestinians to camp at the border with Israel? Multiple reasons are behind this act. First of all, Gaza is being suffocated, and Israel’s ten-year blockade prevented the Palestinian factions from uniting. The people are led to the brink of starvation and political despair and inferiority. The act of mass mobilization that took place last week was not about commemorating Land Day, which united Palestinians since the protests of 1976. It was about giving the voice back to the people and reclaiming the agenda.
At this point, we need to take a look at what preceded the First Intifada or uprising in 1987 to get the idea of the mobilization. Before the uprising, the Arab governments in the region considered the Palestinian cause to be “someone else’s problem.” The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was exiled to Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and the surrounding countries together with thousands of fighters. This happened by the end of 1982, and with major forces exiled, the leadership of Palestine became irrelevant to the affairs at the time. A few years later, people stepped out of their homes, and the non-violent mobilization lasted for a year, which culminated in the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993. Today, the leadership is irrelevant as it was back then, but it is also divided with Fatah holding the West Bank and Hamas Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is losing credibility among its own people because of numerous corruption accusations. This caused PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to resign, and last year, Donald Trump further helped in diminishing PA, as he proclaimed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This was done against the international law and without the UN consensus. Hamas is also weakened by the political isolation.
However, the hope still exists. Last October, the two sides stepped closer to the reconciliation, and they signed the deal in Cairo, Egypt. Unfortunately, just like in the past, there is a great chance that this deal will break. First, there was an assassination attempt on the PA Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah when he was on the Israeli border crossing.
And now this happened last week. The Palestinians gathered in the buffer zone peacefully, waving their flags, but the Israeli soldiers shot 15 unarmed protesters and wounded 773 people on the first day only. But the event didn’t go unnoticed. Respected figures around the world such as Pope Francis and Human Rights Watch condemned the killings, and this may give Palestinians the opportunity to do something big. But this is no consolation to the families of the dead.
To end on a positive note, Palestinians found a way to express outside the factional interests and this time the world cannot and must not turn a blind eye.