Dienstag, 8. Mai 2018
Palestine: "The Great March of Return"
30 April 2018. A World to Win News Service. Israel's existence began with the violent expulsion of about half the country's Palestinian population. Today tens of thousands of refugees, their children and grandchildren now living in Gaza, a narrow strip lying between the sea and the desert, have been massing near the barbed wire fences that imprison them every Friday for five weeks now in a "Great March of Return" planned to culminate on 15 May.
That date is Nakba Day or the Day of the Catastrophe, the anniversary of the date in 1948 when these expulsions reached full spate with the proclamation of the state of Israel. Today the Israeli government is trying to inflict yet another catastrophe on Palestinians with a clear political purpose: to crush every form of resistance.
During these protests, there has not been a single Israeli causality, while as of 27 April, Israel soldiers had killed 43 Palestinians, including at least five children. More than 3,500 Palestinians have been wounded by live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and shrapnel, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza.
Stationed all along the border at a safe distance, Israeli soldiers with sniper rifles shoot from jeeps and firing points on top of tall bulldozer-made sand hills overlooking Gaza. They aim at Palestinians approaching the fence, massed at a distance from the fence, walking away from it or just standing alone in the background and waving a Palestinian flag. All this has been captured on news videos, despite the sniper bullets seeking out journalists, killing two wearing clearly marked vests.
More than 2,200 people have been shot in one or both legs. Doctors without Borders reports "an extremely high level of destruction to bone and soft tissue, and large exist wounds that can be the size of a fist."
This is all the more cruel in that the effects of the years-long Israeli blockade of Gaza has left hospitals there under-equipped to deal with the severity of the trauma and the numbers of injured. Doctors are often forced to amputate legs because they lack the means for more complicated surgical procedures to save the lives of patients in danger of bleeding to death within minutes. In other cases, when patients have been stabilized, the Israeli military has refused to allow Gaza health facilities to transfer the wounded to nearby, vastly better equipped hospitals on the other side of the Israeli border, or the West Bank, where their legs could be saved. At least 17 Palestinians have lost one or both legs due to gunshot wound, says the health ministry. (This article draws on reporting in a Washington Post article of 28 April 2018)
In an official statement on its Twitter account after the first protest, the Israeli army tried to rebut charges that its soldiers were firing at protesters indiscriminately by bragging, "Nothing was carried out uncontrolled, everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.." (Guardian, 31 March 2018) From the evidence of these wounds and past Israeli practice it seems likely that Israeli troops have been given orders to shoot people in the legs, sometimes one after another, using what may be explosive bullets, in a planned campaign to cripple and terrorize a growing part of a generation of youth in Gaza.
This kind of practice has long been standard for the Israeli army and security forces. Break their arms and legs Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered in 1987, during the first Intifada (Uprising), when Palestinian youth took up stones to confront the troops occupying the West Bank as Israel continued expanding its borders. Some Palestinian villages are full of men in their forties with disabilities from those days. It's especially significant that this order came from the Israeli leader awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Accords, which were supposed to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians through a compromise Israel never implemented.. This shows that "force, might and beatings", as Rabin put it, have always been Israeli policy and always will be because of the injustice that is at the heart of Israel's existence.
The other basic factor behind Israel's existence is that for decades it has served as an enforcer of Western European and especially U.S. interests in the Middle East. In today's complex situation in the region and the world, the U.S. has more need than ever for an outpost and army whose dependency makes it the U.S.'s only truly reliable regional ally. In this situation, President Trump has taken U.S. unconditional support for the Zionist state to a higher level and threatened to use the Israeli military as a battering ram in a new war or wars meant to bring about a reconfiguration of the region more to U.S. imperialism's liking.
This heightens the stakes for both Israel and the Palestinians. Never has it been more urgently required to understand, strengthen and act upon the link between the struggle of the Palestinian people and the global struggle against imperialism, including U.S. imperialism's fascist leader Trump.