It isn't really about electricity or jobs. Palestinians are fighting to return to their land. Painting the injustice that Palestinians face as primarily a humanitarian crisis ignores Israel's wider colonial project.
While Palestinians in Gaza grieve for their loved ones, they have to deal with the dehumanising and dismissing discourse the rest of the world is occupied with.
What happened in Gaza was not a natural disaster. It was a massacre and the perpetrator is the Israeli military. Many in the mainstream media avoided pointing out who the perpetrators were and went with vague headlines like “58 dead in Gaza”.
Choosing such headlines, which distort the truth, is unfortunately the norm when it comes to Palestine.
Palestinians do not just like to die on their own. Palestinians in Gaza took to the street unarmed but with their bravery and resilient will and they faced an occupying-powerful army that knows “where every bullet lands”. The last thing they deserve from the world is victim-blaming.
The victim-shaming continues when media, following the talking points of Israeli propaganda, tries to paint the protests as "mobilised by Hamas.”
There are two troubling issues with this line, repeated again and again by many mainstream media outlets. First, it assumes that all Palestinians in Gaza are merely subjects—lesser humans—who have no free will, agency or political power, driven like a herd by “Hamas”.
Second, let’s assume for a moment that Hamas is organising the marches in Gaza. How on earth does that legitimise the killing of unarmed protestors?
Hamas is a Palestinian faction, that has supporters and opponents among Palestinians, including Palestinians in Gaza. Its popularity is not relevant, as well as its involvement. The fact is, that Israel has gunned down Palestinian protesters.
It's nothing new for Israel to justify a massacre with disgraceful talking points. But it is sad to watch the media unquestionably follow these talking points. The bottom line is that you simply don’t shoot protesters based on their political orientation, in fact you don’t shoot protesters at all.
This is not the only way in which public discourse is dismissive of Palestinians in Gaza. Treating the situation in Gaza as a mere humanitarian crisis, and dismissing the political context and the demands raised by the protesters is yet another example.
Indeed, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is severe. The UN has declared that Gaza will not be livable by 2020. More than 75 percent of the Gazan population rely on food aid, 97 percent of the water is undrinkable, unemployment is as high as 42 percent, with 60 percent of that among the youth.
However, in the discourse of figures the most important figure is omitted: About 70 percent of the Gazan population are refugees, many in their third generation.
They were expelled from their homes and lands, in the 1948 Nakba, to which they are forbidden from a right of return. The protests in Gaza, have been mobilising since March, and were called the “Great March of Return”, hence the main driver behind these protests is the claim for the basic and natural right to return. This was echoed every week by the protesters and the organisers.
All the injustices Palestinians in Gaza face are a direct consequence of the continued denial of freedom, dignity and return. Overshadowing it with a humanitarian crisis is depriving the people in Gaza of their political will and reducing them to poor, powerless and passive subjects. In fact, they are the opposite of that. They have risen from the bottom of despair, against all odds, to redefine resilience and political power. This is what lies at the root cause and this is the political context that the protesters deserve to be acknowledged for.
Furthermore, many across the world responded to the events in Gaza with donation campaigns. While this is vital and heartwarming, it is equally important to place these campaigns within the appropriate political context and be aware that they should not replace political action.
Indeed, Gaza, the biggest open air prison on earth, blockaded for 12 years by the Israeli occupation, is in need of donations and aid, especially on the medical front, so its hospitals are able to treat the scores of injured protesters. But it is also in need of political action. It is in need of serious concerted political pressure to end its blockade by Israel, it is in need of political pressure for holding Israel accountable for its crimes, through sanctions, boycotts and divestments. Otherwise, donations are just the aspirin until the next crisis.
Lastly, there is usually a temptation by the solidarity groups advocating for Gaza to use the term “Gazans” and slogans like “Free Gaza”. These terms contribute to the already deep isolation of Gaza and the Palestinians in Gaza and their separation from Palestine, both physically and politically.
Since the occupation of Palestine, Israel has tried to isolate and separate Palestinians to break their unity and weaken their resistance. It has created a different problem for each geographic area or community and applied different “legal” systems and policies, in an effort to divide and conquer and blur the wider picture of colonialism and ethnic cleansing.
The liberation of Gaza is an integral part of the liberation of Palestine and all Palestinians.
In our mediatised world, words and terms matter. Those who have power, try to manipulate our consciousness to justify their injustices. It is our duty to refuse this manipulation and to stand by those fighting these injustices.
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