Why Gazans are risking their lives to protest at the Israeli border
Since US President Donald Trump’s controversial Jerusalem move, thousands of Gazans have been going to the Israeli borders every Friday, and sometimes during the week, to protest the move. These demonstrations, which started off as a rejection of Trump’s decision, later turned more complicated as hundreds began protesting against the severe and draconian living conditions that have been imposed upon them.
Last Friday was the tenth Friday in a row where thousands of Gazans would march towards the Israeli border and protest along the fence. While some of the protesters would just stand there and chant slogans, some would burn tyres and throw stones at the Israeli soldiers stationed on the other side of the fence. To disperse the protests, Israeli forces would fire live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas canisters.
Ten Palestinians have since been killed during demonstrations and hundreds of others left injured.
B'Tselem, the Israeli information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, reported killings of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators at the border, none of whom posed mortal danger to Israeli soldiers.
|B'Tselem, the Israeli information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, reported killings of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators at the border, none of whom posed mortal danger to Israeli soldiers|
The same B’Tselem report also writes that “this recent upsurge in the killing and injury of Palestinians through the unlawful and excessive use of live ammunition will not, most probably, be addressed any differently than thousands of other cases in which no one was held accountable.”
The Gazans heading to these deadly zones to protest are overwhelmingly young people between 20-30 years of age who are despairing and despondent enough that they don’t fear being shot by Israeli soldiers. They’re a small fraction of those who have been disadvantaged by the 11-year-old blockade; a fraction that’s likely to increase dramatically if the status quo of misery remains imposed upon them.
For these protesters, the Israeli border serves as an outlet through which they can channel their rage and frustration that they’re overwhelmed with living their miserable life.
An iconic victim from the protests is Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, a guy who hails from Al-Shati refugee Camp. His family struggled with extreme poverty. Ibrahim, who’s the older of his parents’ children, lost both of his legs, when he was 21-years-old in the 2008 war on Gaza. Ibrahim was resilient enough that he fought back not only against destitution, but also against his disability.
Despite his disability, Ibrahim used to wash cars which would earn him a minuscule sum of money; money that’s not remotely enough to ease the tough position that he and his family of eleven members are in. He would sometime sell packs of gums. All of his life was a series of shocks and episodes of suffering. Then, almost ten years after the tragic loss of his legs, Ibrahim was killed with a sniper-bullet to his head on December 15 2017 while protesting peacefully at the borders.
|For these protesters, the Israeli border serves as an outlet through which they can channel their rage and frustration that they’re overwhelmed with living their miserable life|
Although he was one of the most harmed by the wars and the blockade, the stories of the other protesters are of similar tone. They’re all people who are increasingly losing their chances of living decent lives.
I went to the Shifa hospital to visit one of the guys who was injured in last Friday’s protests. When I asked him about the reason why he risks his life going to the dangerous borders, he looked at me angrily and said, “They stole everything from us, they stole our future, our lives and now Jerusalem. Besides, my life is not any less tough than protesting at the borders.”
On Wednesday, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip are considering directing the fury and explosion of the Gazans towards Israel by directing more popular masses towards the Israeli borders.
According to the report, the move will be intended to send a message to the international community of the absolute necessity of an immediate action to help Gaza’s aggravating humanitarian crises, but also to send a message to Israel of the impracticality of their policies towards the enclave.
|When I asked him about the reason why he risks his life going to the dangerous borders, he looked at me angrily and said, 'They stole everything from us, they stole our future, our lives and now Jerusalem'|
According to the report, those future factions-encouraged demonstrations, if implemented, will be 24/7 and consist of large numbers of people from all walks of Gaza's tough life; the unemployed, stuck students, sick people, children and other blockade-stricken citizens in the Gaza Strip.
Daoud Shehab, an Islamic Jihad leader, was quoted in the report saying, “The idea came from leading intellectuals and thinkers, its goal is to put pressure on the occupation and send alert messages of Gazans’ rejection of the continuation of the status quo.”
Shehab added, “It should also deliver the message that the occupation is solely responsible for the worsening conditions that Gaza has reached.”
Senior IDF officials voiced their concerns that the humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip is very likely to result in a war, even though neither Hamas nor Israel want a war right now.
The officials also pointed out that the more the humanitarian and living conditions deteriorates, the more Gazans will demonstrate at the border fence with Israel.
Other than the war, the other scenario that Israel seems to be terrified of is that the severe conditions in Gaza will result in tens of thousands of destitute, deprived, enraged and unarmed Gazans uprooting, or climbing, the fence and storming into Israel. A scenario that’ll be very costly to stop and could lead to Israeli forces carrying out a massacre on thousands of unarmed civilians.
|The severe conditions in Gaza will result in tens of thousands of destitute, deprived, enraged and unarmed Gazans uprooting, or climbing, the fence and storming into Israel|
Observers of the Gaza Strip and analysts are suggesting that if the crises are maintained, let alone aggravated, then this scenario of Gazans storming into Israel is an inevitability.
Certain Gazans activists are trying to bring this idea to the light more and more.
Muhammed Shehada, a Gazan writer and political analyst, told me, “The hopeless people of Gaza don’t have to subscribe to the logic of dangerously crossing the Israeli fences, but they’ll resort to it, regardless, due to the absence of alternatives.”
Individuals, who feel disadvantaged and robbed of their future, have frequently crossed the borders, but this mostly ends up with their detention for months before they’re sent back to where they came from. The number of illegal border crossings has increased dramatically after the 2014 war, according to IDF data.
Israeli forces strike back at this phenomenon. Soldiers follow a protocol for firing at Palestinians seen approaching the fence: First they must fire warning shots in the air, and only if these are ignored do army regulations allow them to fire at the Palestinians legs. Yet this has failed to deter more individuals from illegally crossing into Israel to run away from the lifelessness and the suffering in the Gaza Strip.
Since 2007, every time Gaza’s citizens hope that circumstances will improve soon, their hopes soon collapse causing more frustration, embitterment, and mental suffering.
The last of which was in October 2017, when a new round of Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks started, which hundreds of thousands of Gazans were waiting for impatiently for years, but then again it failed, at least so far.
The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip has reached its lowest point since the start of the blockade in 2007. More and more humanitarian and economic crises are surfacing from the cumulative effect of the 11-year blockade, and Israeli wars. Gaza’s sectors are falling one after the other whether it’s the collapse the health sector or the recent virtual collapse of the private sector in the Gaza Strip.
The UNRWA’s services, of food, education, health which constitute a lifeline to the Palestinians refugees in Gaza, are also under an enormous threat of being cut back or even stopped, due to the Trump Administration’s assault on the refugees’ agency.
The situation in Gaza is getting visibly worse every single day, and the people of Gaza are not going to be able to handle the grim conditions any longer.
Ali Adam is a journalist and researcher whose work focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict