[The initiative behind the march defies the Israeli policy of
disconnecting Gaza from the rest of the Palestinians. However, Gazans
are not wretched and passive charity cases but a politically aware
public] [https://portside.org/] 

 GAZA'S MARCH OF RETURN REFLECTS A DESIRE FOR NEW PALESTINIAN POLITICS
 
[https://portside.org/2018-04-01/gazas-march-return-reflects-desire-new-palestinian-politics]


 

 Amira Hass 
 April 1, 2018
Haaretz
[https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-gaza-s-march-of-return-reflects-a-desire-for-new-palestinian-politics-1.5963725]


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 _ The initiative behind the march defies the Israeli policy of
disconnecting Gaza from the rest of the Palestinians. However, Gazans
are not wretched and passive charity cases but a politically aware
public _ 

 Palestinian protesters carry a wounded man shot by Israeli troops
during a protest near the Gaza Strip border with Israel, March 31,
2018., Khalil Hamra/AP 

 

	* With riots and live fire, Gaza just went 25 years back in time
[https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/.premium-with-riots-and-live-fire-gaza-just-went-25-years-back-in-time-1.5962737]

 	* Israel's clash with reality on Gaza
[https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/editorial/.premium-a-clash-with-reality-along-the-israel-gaza-border-1.5962957]

 	* Gaza footage shows protester shot in the back while running away
from Israeli border
[https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-gaza-video-shows-protestor-shot-while-running-away-from-border-1.5962616]


Repressing the fight for national rights and equality is not an exact
science. Even after 70 years of experience, one cannot know
whether killing unarmed protesters
[https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-five-palestinians-reportedly-killed-by-israeli-army-as-thousands-rally-for-mass-gaza-protests-1.5962159] who
did not endanger a single Israeli soldier will deter and thin the
numbers of demonstrators in the coming weeks – or exactly the
opposite.

But even 70 or 50 years of experience in repression is not enough for
the army and the politicians to abandon their view of the Palestinians
as marionettes of Hamas
[https://www.haaretz.com/misc/tags/hamas-1.5598922], just like they
were seen as puppets of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation
Organization in the past. Tens of thousands of unarmed people (even if
some of them do belong to various Palestinian security forces) do not
participate in a mass march, despite Israeli warnings, simply because
they obey Hamas and its sophisticated tricks. If the Israeli military
and the political leadership prefer to present it in this light to
their home arena, for their own reasons, it demonstrates contempt for
the Israeli public. If they really believe this, it is a chronic lack
of understanding of the situation, which is characteristic of
unelected rulers and regimes.

As with many initiatives for mass action, it is hard to know how the
March of Return came about. Some of those behind the initiative are
members of the relatively young generation who are identified with
rival political organizations but are furious over their groups’
descent into infighting. A few of them gained experience as activists
against the internal Palestinian split in 2011 and discovered that
their work to end it was not enough to develop momentum. The political
groups – Hamas, Fatah and the smaller organizations – adopted the
initiative. This is not a trick but political awareness.

The dates chosen for the march are not the result of cynical
manipulations. Land Day
[https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/palestinians/what-is-palestinian-land-day-and-why-is-israel-worried-1.5955513] marks
the killing of Palestinian demonstrators, citizens of Israel who
protested the expropriation of their lands, and has become a national
day that unites Palestinians regardless of the fences or passports
that separate them. The pain over the loss of their homeland in 1948
is not a pretense. The choice of a six-week long continued action
along the border fence is a political attempt to break through the
Israeli-imposed external blockade, as well as an internal one.

It’s not Palestinian nationalism that is dying (a view expressed by
observers in Israel, who attribute it to the political failures of
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas). What is dying is the traditional
organization that represented it until now – the PLO – and Hamas
is failing in its attempts to become the alternative that is
acceptable for everyone. Palestinian society, which is sick and tired
of its leadership and the political split, is teeming with
initiatives. People are feeling around for something new that will
break down both the physical and psychological barriers that divide
the various parts, while basing it on the components of national
Palestinian identity acceptable to all. This is also how we must look
at the March of Return this year – whether Israel continues and
succeeds in its fatal repression of it, or not.

The Israeli decision to use lethal means to repress a popular civil
action is a political and not military-logistical choice. Despite the
authenticity of the march’s message for return, the Israeli
government and army are not afraid that the fulfillment of the right
of return is now on the agenda. This is not the reason they gave
soldiers orders to shoot to kill – the means that in the short and
medium term is the surest to repress the protest. The initiative
behind the march shakes the stability of the central pillar of Israeli
policy and its plans to prevent the Palestinian national project by
severing the Gaza Strip
[https://www.haaretz.com/misc/tags/gaza-1.5599001] from the rest of
Palestinian society in the West Bank and Israel. This separation,
gradually carried out over 27 years, not only directly caused the
terrible economic and environmental deterioration, but also aided the
creation of two Palestinian governments – which has also served
Israeli intentions quite well. The march is a social and political
initiative that is trying to bypass the two-government obstacle.

It can be assumed that the Israel Defense Forces and its spokespeople
will know how to respond to any development: If the March of Return
protests come to an end, it will be attributed to the iron fist used
on the first day. If the demonstrations continue, they will explain
that the fist was too weak. From the beginning, military sources
claimed that the demonstration was not as peaceful as the organizers
presented it to be. As Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz: “A few firebombs
were thrown
[https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-forget-rockets-hamas-found-a-more-effective-way-to-agitate-israel-1.5962825],
a few roadside bombs were laid down, tires were burned and there were
a few attempts to cut the fence and cross into Israel.” Was every
one of the 15 killed involved in such alleged acts, which, even if
they were carried out, did not immediately endanger the lives of the
soldiers or other Israelis? Was every one of the roughly 700 wounded
by live ammunition involved in these alleged acts? By the time we see
detailed testimony and pictures documenting how some of those killed
and wounded had been shot in the back
[https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-gaza-video-shows-protestor-shot-while-running-away-from-border-1.5962616],
and the festive, civilian atmosphere that prevailed among the marchers
before the killings, it will already be yesterday’s news.

The army allows itself to violate international law and shoot at
unarmed civilians, and even kill them, because Israeli society accepts
this as an a priori act of defense, without investigating the details.
And despite a few feeble condemnations, even governments around the
world do not represent an obstacle to deter Israel. The March of
Return – whether it continues or not – declares to Israel and the
international community that the residents of the Gaza Strip are not
wretched and passive charity cases, but a politically aware public.

Amira Hass is the Haaretz correspondent for the Occupied Territories.

_Born in Jerusalem in 1956, Hass joined Haaretz in 1989, and has been
in her current position since 1993. As the correspondent for the
territories, she spent three years living in Gaza, which served of the
basis for her widely acclaimed book, "Drinking the Sea at Gaza." She
has lived in the West Bank city of Ramallah since 1997._

_Hass is also the author of two other books, both of which are
compilations of her articles._

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