[News] What have the Palestinians gained from a year of protests? - Tens of thousands mark the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Apr 1 12:22:19 EDT 2019

*/Two articles follow/*


  What have the Palestinians gained from a year of protests?

By Motasem Dalloul - March 30, 2019

On 30 March last year, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took part in 
the Great March of Return, an example of popular resistance initiated by 
activist Ahmad Abu Rtema and then adopted by the factions. They then 
established the National Committee for the Great March of Return and 
Breaking the Siege in order to run the protests. Protests have been held 
weekly ever since.

The Committee adopted the goals laid down by Abu Rtema, which remain an 
end to the 12-year-old Israeli-led siege imposed on the territory, and 
highlighting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes 
and land inside what is now called Israel, from where their families 
were forced out by Zionist terrorists prior to the creation of the state 
in 1948.

Over the past year, Israeli occupation forces have killed 273 protesters 
and wounded more than 25,000 others. The so-called Israel Defense Forces 
also carried out several military operations while trying to suppress 
the protests, prompting the Palestinian resistance groups to respond by 
targeting Israeli cities and towns with homemade rockets. This, in turn, 
prompted urgent international mediation, with Egypt and the UN getting 
involved in an effort to calm the situation.

Putting the bloodshed to one side, the Palestinian factions and many 
observers argue that the protests have achieved a lot on the political, 
national and humanitarian levels. They have, for example, put the 
Palestinian issue back to the top of the regional and international 
agendas. The protesters have also undermined the implementation of the 
US “deal of the century”, which has not yet found the quiet and stable 
environment necessary for it to be unveiled.

Perhaps more than anything else, the protests have exposed the brutal 
reality of the Israeli occupation state, which claims to be a beacon of 
democratic values. Israel used lethal force against peaceful, unarmed 
protesters who, according to the UN and other international bodies, 
posed no danger whatsoever to its soldiers. The shocking death toll 
illustrated the fact that Israel has no respect for the right of the 
Palestinians to demonstrate in support of their legitimate right of 
return to their land.

In addition, the protests led to qualitative progress in the fractured 
relationship between the Palestinian resistance factions and a number of 
countries in the region, especially Egypt, which has been mediating a 
truce between the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza and the Israeli 

Palestinian resistance activists in the occupied West Bank have been 
inspired by what they have seen in Gaza, as have the millions of 
Palestinians in the refugee camps in neighboring states and in the wider 
diaspora. They have seen their right of return being discussed at the 
highest levels.

Regarding the national gains, the Great March of Return protests are the 
largest ever popular resistance action. The fact that they are now 
coordinated by the unified National Committee is significant. This body, 
which includes rival factions, has had an impact on all national 
activities organised by any of the Palestinian factions in the Gaza 
Strip. This unity was reflected in the formation of the Joint Control 
Room for the military wings of the factions, which has been taking 
decisions regarding resistance efforts.

On the humanitarian side, the protests have pushed Israel to ease its 
siege imposed on Gaza, even before any comprehensive understanding or 
truce has been agreed. In an effort to reduce or end the protests, 
Israel has allowed more electricity, paid for by Qatar, into the Gaza 
Strip; allowed Qatar to fund a job creation program for 13,000 
unemployed graduates and workers in the enclave; increased the fishing 
zone; allowed more exports and imports; afforded monthly cash payments 
to over 10,000 poor families; and opened the Rafah Crossing for people 
and trade. This has had a very positive impact on the devastated Gaza 

The Great March of Return protests have, therefore, achieved much for 
the Palestinians in the still besieged territory. Moreover, they have 
also shown that when they are united, the people are capable of great 
things, making everyone much more optimistic about achieving their 
national goals.

/- Motasem A Dalloul is MEMO’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip.


  Palestinians mourn boys killed by Israeli forces in Gaza rallies

April 1,2019

Gaza, ALRAY -- Thousands of people in the besieged Gaza Strip 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/06/guide-gaza-strip-170614124611554.html> have 
attended the funerals of the four young Palestinians killed by Israeli 
forces during mass protests along the perimeter fence with Israel 

Tens of thousands of Palestinians on Saturday gathered 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/gaza-great-march-return-thousands-rally-anniversary-190330103843689.html> at 
the fence to mark the first anniversary of the Great March of Return 
rallies, facing off against Israeli tanks and soldiers who used live 
rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas on the protesters.

Tamer Abu el-Khair, 17, was shot in the chest east of Khan Younis in 
southern Gaza and later died at a hospital, according to the health 
ministry in the coastal enclave, which has been under a crippling 
Israeli-Egyptian blockade for the past 12 years.

Two other 17-year-olds - Adham Amara and Belal al-Najjar - were also 
killed. A fourth Palestinian, 20-year-old Mohamed Jihad Saad, was killed 
in an overnight protest before the main demonstration.

Since March 30 last year, Palestinians in the Hamas-run Strip have been 
demanding the right to return to lands from which their families were 
violently expelled during the founding of Israel in 1948. Protesters in 
the weekly rallies are also calling for an end to the blockade.

At least 207 people were wounded on Saturday, the health ministry said.

On Sunday, local media in Gaza published images of Ismail Haniya, 
the political chief of Hamas, walking alongside el-Khair's relatives 
during the funeral.

Separately, Israeli authorities on Sunday reopened the Karam Abu Salem 
commercial crossing and the Erez crossing with Gaza, six days after 
shutting them down amid an exchange of heavy fire 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/hamas-announces-egyptian-brokered-ceasefire-israel-190325193456277.html> between 
Israel and Hamas.

Israel regularly seals off the two crossings, which facilitate the 
movement of Palestinians with hard-to-obtain Israeli permits, as well as 
goods and services.

The Karam Abu Salem crossing is the primary passageway that transfers 
necessities to Gaza's nearly two million residents, including cooking 
gas, wheat and flour.

It is usually closed during official Israeli holidays and on weekends, 
and also facilitates in the delivery of foreign aid to Gaza.

Al Jazeera's Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Gaza, said the opening of 
the crossings was a "clear indication" that Egyptian-led mediation 
efforts were on a positive track.

"There is a mood of cautious optimism in Gaza," he said

One of the reasons behind the relative calm, Jamjoom said, is that 
despite flare-ups the situation at the protests on Saturday remained 
"far less chaotic than people had feared it might become".

    Easing restrictions

Meanwhile, Nizar Ayash, the head of Gaza's fishermen's union, told local 
media that Israel would expand the fishing zone that it enforces in the 
waters off the Strip from six nautical miles to 15, starting April 1.

Expansions occasionally occur and usually last for only three months at 
a time with the objective of boosting Gaza's economy, which is heavily 
reliant on the fishing sector.

Hamas-affiliated news outlets reported on Saturday that an 
Egyptian-brokered deal had been reached between the two sides, paving 
the way for the easing of these restrictions.

On Saturday, Abdullatif al-Kanoo, a spokesman for Hamas, confirmed the 
agreement to Al Jazeera, saying Egyptian mediators "succeeded in 
extracting approvals" from Israel to ease restrictions on employment, 
fishing, electricity and aid from Qatar 

Humanitarian agencies blame the blockade for the high rates of poverty 
and unemployment in Gaza - a main reason for the weekly protests.

More than 260 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the 
demonstrations, mostly by Israeli fire, according to the health ministry 
in Gaza. Thousands of others have been wounded.

Israel's use of lethal force against protesters has drawn criticism from 
the United Nations 
<https://www.aljazeera.com/topics/organisations/un.html>, as well as 
rights groups.



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