Médecins Sans Frontières issued a statement: “What happened today is unacceptable and inhuman. The death toll provided this evening by Gaza health authorities—55 dead and 2,271 wounded—including 1,359 wounded with live ammunition, is staggering. It is unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time”. You can read more of what they say here.
The #Great Return March which has been taking place during the last seven weeks was planned to culminate today, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophe which the establishment of the state of Israel has meant for the Palestinian people.
The myth perpetrated by Netanyahu and his spokespeople, including the Israeli Ambassador to Britain, Mark Regev, is that this mobilisation is entirely orchestrated by Hamas. What is clear to anyone who wants to understand, even following the biased mainstream media, is that this is a blatant and conscious lie .This is a rising of a people – perhaps the embryo of a third intifada – involving Palestinians of different political persuasions and none.
Anniversaries are politically powerful. 70 years of illegal occupation, of theft of your land and villages is a trigger for millions. But so too is the immediate reality of how people are forced to live in Gaza today; the brutal siege imposed by the Israeli state, as testified by UN agencies and many NGOs. Chris Gunness, local head of UNRWA, said: “There is 80% aid dependency and 44% unemployment… deep poverty has gone up three times.”
The lie that Israel has ‘withdrawn’ from the strip – with the implication that Palestinians in Gaza control their own destiny – needs to be more vigorously counteracted by the solidarity movement and the left. This allows Netanyahu and his co-thinkers to reiterate the claim that all suffering by Palestinians in Gaza is down yet to Hamas…
And of course the insult that has been added to so much injury was the decision of Donald Trump to move the US Embassy to illegally occupied Jerusalem. The further gesture of humiliation was to open the new Embassy yesterday, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli state, beaming pictures of a smiling, waving Ivana Trump around the world. And the sight of Christian Zionist preachers, peddlers of gross antisemitism, being feted as part of this grotesque ceremony, in the same time frame that an eight month old baby was dying in Gaza is unbearable.
It was important that Emily Thornberry, as shadow Foreign Secretary, issued a strong statement condemning the actions of the Israeli government. This follows a statement from Jeremy Corbyn condemning earlier deaths during the protests.
But I won’t have been the only person whose heart was in my mouth when I started to read Thornberry’s words. That’s because Emily is a supporter of Labour Friends of Israel who predictably blamed the victims of yesterday’s massacre, in a tweet they apparently withdrew later with no apology. Palestinians, the many Jews who support their struggle and all who believe in justice would feel the Labour Party was a much more welcoming place if Thornberry were to renounce that association.
The protesters – many of them refugees from areas inside the state of Israel – have the right to return to their homes and lands. There needs to be an immediate end to the slaughter and the occupation, an end to all discrimination, and for progress towards a just and peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis.
To this end we call on our readers to participate in protests today, but beyond that, to step up their involvement in campaigns for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.