Over the last few weeks, thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have mobilized on the border shared with Israel for their annual protest, “The Great Return March.” Palestinians since the 1970s have gathered on March 30, or what the Palestinians call “Land Day,” in order to protest Israel’s policy of refusing Palestinian refugees their right to return to their pre-1948 homes. Despite the mostly peaceful protests, the Palestinians have been met with tear gas and live fire from the Israeli Defense Forces. As of April 13, around 34 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF and over 1,000 civilians have been injured.
International outrage toward Israel has increased dramatically since the killing of Yaser Murtaja, a Palestinian journalist who, along with four other reporters, was shot by live fire while covering the demonstration. Murtaja, 30, was wearing a “PRESS” jacket when he was shot in the abdomen while covering the protests near the border fence. More outrage would come in the following days when leaked footage would show IDF soldiers cheering after taking a sniper shot at a Palestinian. The soldiers can be heard in the background jeering, “Whoa! What a video! YES! Son of a b****.” The IDF would shortly clear the sniper of any charges, but found that the soldiers did act improperly.
Israel defends its handling of the protests by claiming that these protests are not peaceful and that Hamas, the ruling Islamist political and terrorist group in Gaza, is solely orchestrating this unrest. However, Israel fails to explain why the IDF can’t distinguish “terrorists” from journalists, especially those who are wearing distinguishable lettered clothing as seen with Murtaja. The conduct of IDF soldiers should also be questioned in the aforementioned video as the Palestinian who was shot did not appear to be armed and was not throwing rocks. Israel’s defense of its brutal response is hard to swallow when the Israeli Defense Minister, Avidgdor Liberman, proclaimed during a radio interview that, “There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip. Everyone has a connection to Hamas.” Such a statement would mean that all 2 million inhabitants, including women and children, of the blockaded Gaza Strip are guilty in perpetrating violence against Israel. Ironically, Liberman must not know that Hamas has a low 30 percent approval rating in the Gaza Strip according to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey during a 2018 March poll.
Israel’s brutish attacks on the protesters should come as no surprise. The Gaza Strip has been invaded numerous times in the past decade, leaving those who live there in a perpetual state of disaster. For instance, according to a study done by the University of Leicester, around half of Palestinian youth may suffer from depression due to war trauma. While international criticism of Israel has been rising, there has been little accountability, as seen with the United States veto of the recent United Nations resolution condemning Israel for the deaths in the Gaza protests. It is clear that are there are no winners in the recent events between Israel and the Palestinians. However, it is clear that Israel has been disproportionate its response and must be held accountable for the deaths of innocent civilians.