The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) sent sharpshooters to attack peaceful Palestinian protesters who were demonstrating near the border of Gaza and Israel last friday. In total, at least 17 protesters were killed and more than 1,400 protesters were wounded. Only one word can describe the attack: massacre.
The protesters were marching toward the border, as part of the The Great Return March, with plans to demonstrate along the border and attempt a mass-march for 46 days between two Palestinian holidays, Land Day and Nakba Day. “Return” implies the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their native cities, land and villages inside what is now Israel and the West Bank.
In 1948, between 750,000 to one million Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by the Israeli military in what has been called al-Nakba — the catastrophe. Since then, Palestinians have been living in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and inside Gaza and the West Bank. The message is simple: Palestinians want to return home.
For Palestinians living in Gaza, there are plenty of reasons to protest against Israel. Aside from the mass-bombings of hospitals, schools, power plants and basic infrastructure in 2009, 2012 and 2015, Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip for more than a decade. The situation has become so unbearable that the United Nations has stated that the continuation of the blockade will render Gaza uninhabitable by 2020.
The killings that took place on March 30 were clearly a massacre; the Israeli military admitted it was premeditated and then deleted the comment from Twitter. The most fascinating part was their comment that stated, “We know where every bullet landed.” Not only was the massacre planned, but they even had the arrogance to act as if they knew where the numerous bullets they fired landed.
Western media coverage of the massacre has been horrendous, and the language has been misleading. CNN titled the event a confrontation and claims that there were clashes between the military and protesters. Neither confrontation nor clashes accurately describe what occurred, as both words imply two equal sides, as if protesters with rocks could be equal to one of the most well-equipped armies in the world. Neither the New York Times nor the BBC was any better with their coverage, describing the massacre as clashes as well.
Ironically, some of the best media coverage came from an Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which covered the massacre in full detail and provided critical analysis. Short of calling the massacre clashes, they did not stoop to the level of the Western press.
Palestinians have a long history of engaging in peaceful protests against Israel, yet Western journalists continue to use armed Palestinian resistance as their only point of reference — a typical orientalist charade masked as objective opinion. Here was the peaceful protest that Western journalists have been calling for, thinking that it would somehow change the hearts and minds of a settler-colonial regime founded on ethnic cleansing, and yet they had the nerve to refer to the massacre as a confrontation and clash.
Aside from the fact that Palestinians do not need Western journalists telling them how to resist their colonizers, all colonized people have the right to resist under the United Nations General Assembly “by all available means.”
The massacre is largely reminiscent of the Sharpeville Massacre during the apartheid-regime of South Africa. On March 21, 1960, black South Africans protested in masses against the regime’s Pass Laws, which forced them to acquire permission passes to visit or reside in a major city. In response, police massacred 69 people and left 180 people wounded. Black South Africans wanted the right to leave the Bantustans they were barred into, and Palestinians want the right to return home from Gaza. This is nothing less than apartheid.
Israelis live a comfortable life. They do not live with unsuitable drinking water, decaying infrastructure, electricity for only four hours per day or under the risk of catastrophic bombings every few years.
This is the Israeli definition of peace: peace for themselves and apartheid for Palestinians.
Brant Roberts is a history major and can be reached at [email protected]