By Ramzy Baroud
Sixty Palestinians were killed in Gaza last Monday, simply for protesting and demanding their right of return as guaranteed by international law. That came after 50 others had been killed since March 30, the start of the “Great March of Return.” More than 10,000 have also been wounded and maimed in this time.
“Israel has the right to defend itself,” White House officials announced, paying no heed to the ludicrousness of the statement when understood within the current context of an unequal struggle. Peaceful protesters were not threatening the existence of Israel; rock-throwing kids were not about to overwhelm hundreds of Israeli snipers, who shot, killed and wounded Gazan youngsters with no legal or moral boundary whatsoever.
Eight-month-old Laila Al-Ghandour was one of those killed last week. She suffocated from Israeli tear gas. Many like her were wounded or killed despite being some distance away from the border. Some were killed for simply being nearby, or for being Palestinian.
Meanwhile, the US ushered in a new era of international relations when it unveiled its new US Embassy in Jerusalem. This was at the exact same moment that hundreds of Gazans were being felled at the border. Gaza’s already-dilapidated hospitals had no room for most of the wounded. Instead they bled in hallways awaiting medical attention.
At the border, many Gazan children have been coloring their bodies in blue paint, dressing up in homemade costumes to imitate characters from the Hollywood movie “Avatar.” They hoped that, by hiding their brown skin, their plight and suffering could be more relatable to the world. But, when they were shot, their blood gave them away. They were still human, still from Gaza.
The international community has already condemned the White House’s decision to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and declared this recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void,” but will it go further than mere words?
Will the international community remain trapped between hollow statements and no action? Will it ever truly recognize the humanity of Laila and all the other children, men and women who died and those who will continue to perish under Gaza’s besieged skies? Will it ever care enough to do something?
The plight of the Palestinians is compounded by the burden of having a useless “leadership.” The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has been busy of late, demanding allegiance from the occupied Palestinians in the West Bank. Large signs and banners have been erected, with families, professional associations, unions and companies announcing, in a large font, the “renewal of loyalty and support to President Mahmoud Abbas.” Renewal? Abbas’ mandate expired in 2009. Besides, is this what Abbas and his Fatah party perceive to be the most urgent matter that needs to be addressed, while his people are being massacred?
Abbas fears that Hamas is using the blood of the Gaza victims to bolster its popularity. Ironically, it is a concern shared by Israeli leaders, including the likes of army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, who said that Hamas had won the PR war at the Gaza border by a “knockout.”
This propaganda is as false as it is utterly racist, yet it has persisted for far too long. It proposes that Palestinians and Arabs lack human agency; they are incapable of mobilizing and organizing their collective efforts to demand their long-denied rights; they are only pawns, puppets in the hands of factions, to be sacrificed at the altar of public relations.
It did not dawn on Conricus to note that perhaps his army lost the “PR war” because its brutes shot thousands of unarmed civilians, who did nothing aside from gather at the border demanding an end to their perpetual siege. Or that, just maybe, it was lost because Israel’s leaders proudly announced that Gazans are fair game, with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying: “There are no innocents in Gaza.”
Palestinian resistance is fueled by the sacrifices of the Palestinians themselves, and by the blood of Laila, who was denied even a celebration of her first birthday on this besieged earth.
The US government has decisively and blatantly moved to the wrong side of history. As its officials attended parties, galas and celebrations of the embassy move, whether in Israel or in Washington or elsewhere, Palestinians dug 60 more graves and held 60 more funerals.
The world watched in horror, and even the Western media failed to hide the full, ugly truth from its readers. The two acts — of lavish parties and heartbreaking burials — were beamed all over the world, and the already struggling American reputation sank deeper and deeper.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have thought he had won. Comforted by his right-wing government and society on the one hand, and the US and its angry UN bully Nikki Haley on the other, he feels invulnerable.
But he should rethink his power-driven logic. When Gazan youths stood bare-chested at the border fence, falling one after the other, they crossed a fear barrier that no generation of Palestinians has ever crossed. And, when people are unafraid, they can never be subdued or defeated.