‘We are all Gaza’ – Palestinian anger in the West Bank

A Palestinian woman in the West Bank shouts at Israeli soldiers as demonstrators confront them during a protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip. © EPA

By Saleh Hijazi, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Across the city of Ramallah in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) hang billboards and banners showing images of bloodshed and destruction alongside the words: “Here now, we are all Gaza”.

Many of these posters, which I also saw hanging in other cities across the West Bank, are sponsored by the Palestinian Authority institutions. In Ramallah, the local municipality also recently hosted a demonstration where people carried dozens of empty coffins wrapped in Palestinian flags to represent the rising numbers of people killed in Gaza since the launch of Israel’s military operation there on 8 July. The procession was led by the local governor and other officials.

In contrast with the past seven years or so, West Bank solidarity with Gaza seems to be stronger. During the 2008/09 and 2012 Israeli military operations in Gaza, a solidarity demonstration would gather maybe a couple of dozen or fewer people in a handful of locations. Today, hundreds are protesting on an almost daily basis in cities and villages across the West Bank.

On 24 July the West Bank saw its largest single demonstration in years, when thousands marched from Ramallah towards Jerusalem to protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. The demonstration was quickly met with excessive force by Israeli forces when it reached Qalandia military checkpoint. At least one demonstrator was killed and many others were severely injured by live gunfire ammunition.

The next day there were protests and clashes in dozens of locations across the West Bank. Five more people, including a child, were killed by Israeli forces. Among them was Hashem Abu Maria, 47, a human rights defender who worked for Defence for Children International – Palestine. An Israeli soldier shot him in the chest with live gunfire ammunition during a demonstration in the village of Beit Ummar on 25 July.

A group of Palestinian activists have been producing daily maps that show locations where demonstrations and protests have taken place since the beginning of July. A quick scan through them quickly reveals how strongly West Bank residents have reacted to the latest Israeli military operation in Gaza. But while this reaction may have been empowered by recent efforts to reconcile rival Palestinian parties, it is far from being a result of Palestinian Authority policies and practices.

The protest movement here has been slowly growing for years, and has remained steadfast in the face of brutal Israeli repression. It has also been undeterred by the Palestinian Authority’s attacks on freedom of expression and assembly. Even with the official show of solidarity with Gaza, the Palestinian Authority security forces have thwarted demonstrations – sometimes using excessive force – in areas under their control, especially those marching towards Israeli checkpoints, military structures, or settlements.

The protest movement comes after years of different groups and communities demonstrating against the Israeli military occupation and the expansion of unlawful settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It is today moved by rage that has grown from decades of living under that occupation.

Days before Israel levelled whole neighbourhoods in Gaza, the homes of three men suspected of carrying out attacks against Israelis in the West Bank were blown up, rendering them completely uninhabitable. When I visited one of the homes in Hebron that had been destroyed, a relative told me: “I am ashamed to speak of my terror or the demolition of my home when I see how Israel is bombing entire families while they are still inside their houses in Gaza. I am not worried that my home is demolished, I am worried about my people in Gaza.”

The worries, the pain, and the anger of the Palestinians in the West Bank and those in Gaza are the same. The family in Hebron is a victim of collective punishment, a violation of international law. Collective punishment is also what thousands of families in Gaza have suffered during seven years of Israel’s unlawful closure and blockade of the territory.

People in the West Bank have long declared that “we are all Gaza,” an affirmation that the pain, suffering and loss due to decades of Israeli military occupation are shared by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza alike. They suffer violations of human rights and international humanitarian law on a daily basis and in different shapes and forms – from home demolitions, illegal settlements, and unlawful killings to the bombardment of civilian homes and infrastructure and the crippling siege on Gaza.

The time has come for the international community to act on all these issues. A special responsibility lies with the USA and the European Union, who have influence over Israel. They must act immediately to suspend all arms transfers to Israel and support an arms embargo on all weapons going to all sides in the conflict to make clear that they will not facilitate unlawful killing of civilians and other serious violations.

Equally important, they must take concrete steps to end Israel’s military blockade of Gaza and ensure accountability and respect for international law is a top priority for all sides. The Palestinian Authority should also do its part to ensure accountability for serious violations by acceding to the Rome Statute and therefore joining the International Criminal Court.

Read more: 

Israel/Gaza: Attack on UN school in Gaza a potential war crime that must be investigated (News story, 30 July 2014)
‘Nowhere in Gaza is safe’ – A snapshot of life under the bombs (Blog, 28 July 2014)

 

Posted in Armed Conflict, Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity | Tagged , | 4 Comments

  1. The lives of Isrealites have been so harsh since their existence in Egypt, where the Islamic leaders there even murdered their little ones (Children) as a group of servants in the region who lived under human rights restrictions due to their failing to accept Islam. The later activities of Hitler the German leader have been continued evidences of oppression of the Israelites, The German leaders activities had a cause and it could have been the failure to embrass Islam. The continued and on going violence in the middle East is yet an other form of oppression again due to the fact that Israelites are not practicing Islam, and they have time and again been held as inferior beings, despite that fact that the world has tried to show Israel and its people that they command the same rights we all do share in and there fore are equal to the rest of us oppression has been sited, Is leaving under Islamic brother hood (existence under the same Islamic culture) the most important thing. And if it occurred that Israelites accepted and embrassed Islam will there be peace in the Middle East. We all know and understand that any thing superior to man is Immortal but we again would encourage and inferiority superiority test in that region. Its their fore important that the Gaza residents together with the Israel authorities work towards obtaining an optimal solution to the violence, before economic suctions are imposed on all parties in the conflict irrespective of their cultures, means and methods of worship.

  2. Rick F. says:

    I don’t appreciate articles like this that try to lay ALL the blame at the foot of Israel and the west. There are two parties involved in this conflict, and it seems to me that Israel is usually reacting to an attack. It’s about time that those who live in Gaza (and the West Bank for that matter) took some responsibility for things ocurring in their country. If you continue to shelter terrorist groups who are launching rockets into Israel, then you get what you deserve. If the people really cared about their safety, maybe they should rise up against the real cause of their despair and bring down groups like Hamas who exist only for the destruction of Israel.

  3. Bill Johnstone says:

    Thank you to Mr. Hijazi and Amnesty’s news team for their excellent reporting.
    Unlike Rick F., most Amnesty members would agree this article does not “lay ALL the blame at the foot of Israel and the west.”
    In fact the article does articulate Amnesty’s stance appropriately: weapons should stop going to any and all parties in this conflict, and both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should ratify their support for the International Criminal Court.
    Amnesty continues to be the most eloquent voice for peace.

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