Once again, the Israeli military has turned its guns on Gaza—this time on unarmed protestors, in a series of shootings over the last few weeks. Gaza’s already under-resourced hospitals are straining to care for the thousands of protesters who have been injured, on top of 40 killed.
What they need isn’t more aid. …What they need is freedom from the conditions that make life unlivable—like the blockade itself—and a long-term political solution.
According to a group of United Nations experts, “there is no available evidence to suggest that the lives of heavily armed security forces were threatened” by the unarmed demonstrators they fired on.
The violence is getting some coverage in the news. But the conditions in Gaza that have pushed so many to protest remain largely invisible. So do their actual demands.
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The Great Return March was organized by grassroots groups in Gaza as a peaceful action with three key demands: respect for refugees’ right to return to their homes, an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Seventy years ago, Palestinians were expelled from their homes en masse when their land was seized for the state of Israel. Many became refugees, with millions of people grouped into shrinking areas like Gaza. Fifty years ago, the rest of historic Palestine came under Israeli military occupation.
While these refugees’ right of return has been recognized by the international community, no action has been taken to uphold that right. Meanwhile, the occupation has become further and further entrenched.
For over a decade, the people of Gaza have lived under a military-imposed blockade that severely limits travel, trade, and everyday life for its two million residents. The blockade effectively bans nearly all exports, limits imports, and severely restricts passage in and out.
In over 20 visits to Gaza over the last 10 years, I’ve watched infrastructure degrade under both the blockade and a series of Israeli bombings.