Manchester PSC (Palestinian Solidarity Campaign) held a vigil in the city centre on 3rd April 2018 after the actions of Israeli security forces resulted in the deaths of 18 Palestinians and injured up to 1000 more protesters. Dispossessed people who are peacefully protesting should not become the victims of deadly violence from security forces.
These recent Palestinian protests began on March 30th (Land Day) near the border fence in Gaza. The protesters were beginning a sit-in to highlight the fact that Palestinian people are unable to return to their ancestral homes which are now in Israel. In response to the protests Israeli forces fired into the crowd. According to Human Rights Watch: ‘Israeli security forces illegally used deadly force against protesters who didn’t pose an imminent threat. This was an incident where soldiers were firing from behind the fence, separated by buffer zones and other objects, firing on individuals well behind the fence.’
There has been international reaction to the scenes in Gaza. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the EU have called for an independent investigation into the incident. Furthermore, the EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, reiterated the EU’s call for the opening of the Gaza crossing points. The EU reaffirmed the importance of the two-state solution and the importance of restraint to ensure that the violence does not escalate further; there needs to be a peace process to avoid further incidents of this nature.
The deaths last week are being reported as the largest killing of Palestinians since 2014 when the world watched in dismay as the conflict spiralled out of control, with at least 2,104 Palestinians dying, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 women. As with the 2014 bombardment of Gaza, many of the recent victims are young people.
The people of Gaza are effectively imprisoned on a narrow strip of land, surrounded by hostile neighbours. They are without sufficient food, water or electricity, and suffer the effects of an inadequate education and health system. Frustrations run high.
As we approach Nakba Day on May 15th we must remind ourselves that UN Resolution 194 gave Palestinians the Right of Return. 70 years after the 1948 agreement when millions of Palestinians were forced to flee their ancestral homes, and despite clear UN guidelines, with numerous failed peace processes, the Palestinian question remains unresolved.
Sadly, the hardening of attitudes in The Knesset, The White House, and Trump’s provocation regarding the relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, does not help to foster an atmosphere of trust. There is a fear that the scale of the recent military violence will only serve to increase tensions and division.
Genuine dialogue between all stakeholders must be at the heart of a peace process and young people must be given cause to hope. The right to participate in peaceful protest, unhindered by the deadly violence of security forces, is an inalienable right.