Grass-roots Palestinians take the lead

Palestinian women boldly fly kites of their nation’s flag colors at the beginning of the Great March of Return. PHOTO: Mohammed Abed / AFP
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Israel’s wanton attacks on unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza during the Great March of Return have incited international denunciation. Israeli snipers are picking off targets as if in a video game, including journalists and children. Israel also rained bullets on impassioned protesters against the May 14 U.S. Embassy’s opening in Jerusalem, and raised the count to 109 Palestinians killed and more than 12,000 injured. An Israeli Brigadier-General has confirmed that soldiers shooting at children and others on Gaza’s side of Israel’s border fence were under specific orders. The U.S., Israel’s major funder and supporter, and the European Union’s Tel Aviv embassy have denounced the protesters, but South Africa cut diplomatic ties, and British trade unionists and Members of Parliament decried Israeli crimes.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees from the open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip traveled to Israel’s border on Friday March 30 for the first day of protests in a six weeks-long action, called by Palestinians The Great March of Return. The March was originally scheduled to end May 15, the 70th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, or catastrophe, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands to create the state of Israel. Savage attacks have not turned back the Palestinian Davids who used slingshots to fell two surveillance drones from Goliath Israel. The fierce and fearless protesters inspired the March of Return leaders to call on Palestinians throughout Gaza, the West Bank and Israel to make May 14 “a date to prepare” for a Million Person March of Return to extend through the month of Ramadan, ending in mid-June.

Hamas the loser. “This march is the embodiment of popular action involving children, women, and all the Palestinians who refuse to accept the occupation of our land,” said Nabeel Diab of the National Commission to Break the Siege of Gaza. He is part of a grassroots activist organization, with women at the forefront, who helped plan it. A tent city houses the border protesters. Traditional weddings have been performed at the camps. The whole effort celebrates the 1987 intifada, a genuine grass-roots, secular uprising which was led by Palestinian leftists, women, unionists and students.

Israel attempted to portray Hamas as the leading force of the Great March, in order to justify its sharp-shooting unarmed protesters. But Gaza’s Hamas leadership neither inspired nor led it. The group has jumped on the bandwagon to shore up its growing unpopularity, and the West Bank heads of Fatah followed suit. Each fears an independent movement that challenges their faded control.

Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist party, rules Gaza, and Fatah governs the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Neither has improved the lives of Palestinians. They have failed to unite, despite urgent Palestinian demands for a joint leadership. Fatah heads the doomed U.S.-Israeli brokered peace process and has lost the trust of disillusioned Palestinian youth.

For decades, Hamas’ willingness to fight Israel got popular support. Today, most Gazans reject Hamas, because of its failure to improve their lives, and its undemocratic, bullying regime that represses free speech and tortures and imprisons critics. Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in the 1930s and ’40s. One of its defining slogans was “communism = atheism = liberation of women.” Hamas was formed to co-opt the popular first intifada revolt. During that protest, it condemned women militants for “un-Islamic” behavior and attacked those who were unveiled.

New times, new hope. International outrage is growing. The usual Democratic Party cheerleaders for Israel are unusually silent. But British writer and former Zionist Robert Cohen writes, “We must ditch Zionism now.” And celebrity Natalie Portman who holds dual Israeli-U.S. citizenship, has refused to visit Israel for an award. There has also been protest at the border supporting the Great March by Israelis and Palestinians of the Coalition of Women for Peace.

“The Palestinian people are eager to achieve their freedom, their independence, and their right to return to the villages they were forced out of 70 years ago,” said activist Nabeel Diab. Hopefully, worldwide movement solidarity and regional organizing from the bottom up can create a secular and socialist state in which women and men, Palestinians and Jews, can live in harmony with equal economic and civil rights.

  • Immediate humanitarian aid to Gaza!
  • End U.S. funds to Israel!
  • Hold Israel accountable for murdering protesters and journalists!

Feedback: FSnews@mindspring.com.

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