“Horrific, unprecedented”: Israel massacres almost 60 Palestinians in Gaza

On this episode of The Electronic Intifada Podcast: A report from the Great March of Return, after Israeli forces kill dozens of Palestinians in Gaza; excerpts of talks by Ghada Karmi, Joseph Massad, Ilan Pappe and Salman Abu Sitta.

“It was the bloodiest day in the past two months, since Palestinians started the rally to march for freedom,” Gaza-based writer and professor Refaat Alareer told The Electronic Intifada Podcast on Monday.

Israeli forces massacred almost 60 Palestinian protesters who were marching along the boundaries of the besieged Gaza Strip for what had been billed as the climax of the Great March of Return.

Among almost 2,800 injured, half were shot with live ammunition.

This makes Monday the bloodiest single day since the rallies began on 30 March, calling for an end to Israel’s lethal siege of Gaza and the right of refugees – two-thirds of Gaza’s two million residents – to return to homes from which they were expelled and barred from returning by Israel because they are not Jewish.

The massacre in Gaza coincided with the planned ceremony to open the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Alareer said that Israeli forces started shooting at Palestinians with such brutality that “every single minute, you would hear a shot here or there, and then someone would fall down.”

“The scene was horrific, unprecedented,” he said, as dozens of Palestinians “were massacred throughout the Gaza Strip.”

Alareer said that marchers were able to get close to the boundary with Israel, demanding their right of return to their lands and villages that are just on the other side of the fence – places that Israel has barred them from returning to for seven decades.

“There was determination,” he said. “People really were hoping that something could happen. At least Israel could stop shooting and killing them. At least they were hoping that this day would bring some comfort to the Palestinians in Gaza who were besieged.”

But yet again, he added, “Israel always faces the Palestinian determination and resistance, Palestinian demands of freedom and basic human rights with fire, with bullets, with death and with blood.”

Examining a decolonized future

“Palestine is the patrimony of Palestinians,” historian and geographer Salman Abu Sitta said to an audience at Boston University during the 2013 Right of Return conference.

“Injustice has a short life, and justice will always prevail in the end.”

On 15 May, Palestinians mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, when in 1948 Israel declared itself a state and Zionist militias expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their lands, homes and properties.

This year, Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip have been gathering every Friday since 30 March to participate in activities related to the Great March of Return.

Refugees in Gaza are among a population of about seven million Palestinian refugees, who also live in the occupied West Bank, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as in the global diaspora.

How should the events of 1948 be examined? What are the prospects for a decolonized future? And how are Palestinians continuing to plan for their return?

In this special segment, we present excerpts of talks on the anatomy of the Nakba, historic and ongoing, by doctor, writer and academic Ghada Karmi; scholar Joseph Massad; and historians and researchers Ilan Pappe and Salman Abu Sitta.

In reading from her recent book, Return: A Palestinian Memoir, Karmi dissected how Palestinian reality is presented – and obscured – by the media.

“This is a settler-colonial project. It was from the beginning. And the people it has colonized, and whose lands it has stolen, are living in a corner of their homeland,” she told an audience at the Palestine Center in Washington, DC, in 2015.

In a speech at New York University in 2016, historian and writer Ilan Pappe explained how the architects of Israel’s settler-colonialist project “found the right moment” to establish their state in 1948.

“Half of Palestine’s villages were destroyed, half of Palestine’s towns were demolished, half of Palestine’s population were expelled and became refugees,” he said.

Pappe added that Israel’s immediate refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return was backed by the United States, and that support continues 70 years later.

Massad highlighted the call by Palestinian civil society for an international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. The call “demands an end to Zionist colonization and the reversal of it though the dismantlement of the settler-colonial racial structure that governs Israel and prevents the return of the Palestinian refugees,” Massad said at the 2013 Right of Return conference.

He added that turning Palestinians and Israeli Jews into equal citizens is “the only program for decolonization” and the only condition of – and for – the return of Palestinian refugees.

Listen to the interview with Refaat Alareer and the excerpts of talks by Ghada Karmi, Joseph Massad, Ilan Pappe and Salman Abu Sitta via the media player above.

Photo: Palestinians march in Rafah, Gaza Strip, 14 May. (Mahmoud Bassam/APA Images)

Theme music and production assistance by Sharif Zakout

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).