The Gaza Strip is a Palestinian territory on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, bordered by Israel to the east and Egypt to the south. Just 141 square miles in size, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with more than 1.8 million inhabitants. Because the borders with Israeli and Egypt are closed, and Israel maintains an air and sea blockade on Gaza, imports in and exports out of the territory are severely limited. Gazans have also not been allowed to leave or enter the territory for most of the last decade — effectively prisoners in their own .
The immense frustration and despondency of Palestinians in Gaza is now being expressed in 6 weeks of scheduled sit-ins and non-violent protests near the border between Israel and Gaza. Their “Great March of Return” protests began March 30th, and will culminate on May 15th — the 70th anniversary of their 1948 “Nakba,” or catastrophe, which forced 750,000 Palestinians from their homes when Israel was created. As guaranteed by UN Resolution 194, Palestinians are seeking the right of return to those ancestral homes and homelands.
The largely non-violent protests by Palestinians in Gaza these last weeks have been met by Israel with live ammunition. 30 protesters have already been killed, and thousands wounded.
The situation is already under investigation by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. And the European Union is calling for an independent investigation into the force used by Israel. But with President Trump continuing his unqualified support of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the United States last Saturday blocked the call in the UN Security Council for an investigation into the events.
Last December, Donald Trump unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel, promising to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2018. His move provoked anger and deep consternation among Palestinians, who consider East Jerusalem to be the unqualified capital of their future Palestinian state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared at that time that Trump’s action demonstrated a bias that eliminated the U.S. from any peacebroker role in future negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, is being funded in large part by Sheldon Adelson, one of Donald Trump’s primary campaign donors. The final demonstration in the Palestinians’ “Great March of Return” will be the day following the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
The protests, Israel aggressive response, and the dire situation in Gaza do not bode well for peace and security in the region. As aptly stated on April 2 by the Editorial Board of the New York Times: “Israel Courts Catastrophe…”
Ania Marti (Genova, Italy)