USACBI condemns in the strongest terms possible the brutal, inhumane, and calculated murders of more than 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters (including thirteen children) and the injuring of more than 2700 others on one day, Monday May 15. During the eight weeks of the Great March of Return so far, Israel’s forces killed 112 protesters and injured over 13,000. Many of those killed were at a considerable distance from the fence at the 1948 armistice line, delineating the arbitrary enclave into which Palestinian refugees were ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias and the Israeli army. None of those killed posed any credible threat to the Israeli snipers, who were separated from them by three separate barbed wire fences. 500 were shot in the head and many were wounded with hollow-tipped bullets that shatter inside the body. Reliable on-the-spot reporters state that Israeli snipers fired in a methodical and steady manner, belying any suggestion that they were responding to threats to their persons.
Amnesty International has called Israeli’s deployment of snipers, who targeted any individual approaching the fence that marks off Israel’s illegal occupation, “another horrific example of the Israeli military using excessive force and live ammunition in a totally deplorable way. This is a violation of international standards, in some instances committing what appear to be willful killings constituting war crimes.” Besides the deadly use of live ammunition, Israel is expanding its attacks beyond the immediate border area. The deaths of infants are attributed to their breathing tear gas and other chemicals that rain down them from Israeli aircraft; other Palestinians are being killed and injured by Israeli bombs.
Israel has argued that it is merely defending itself from Hamas rockets or incursions, yet as of today not a single Israeli has been killed or even injured. Its representatives appear in global media outlets to attempt to whip up hatred and fear of Palestinians seeking freedom from colonialism, using racist and Islamophobic tropes that seek to erase Palestinian humanity and obscure the reality that Israel has been the aggressor against the Palestinian people for 70 years. The protests have involved tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and have been organized by a broad coalition of civil society and popular, mass organizations. They have been unarmed and overwhelmingly peaceful. This is a heinous example of collective punishment and the targeting of civilians, actions that also violate international law and may amount to crimes against humanity.
In addition, the protests have brought the rights of Palestinian refugees, at the center of Palestinian human rights, to the forefront. Palestinian refugees have been denied their right to return for over 70 years since they were expelled from their homeland 70 years ago by Zionist militias seeking to establish the Israeli state as an exclusively Jewish dominion. Today, over 70 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees denied their internationally-recognized right to return, and they are demanding the implementation of that right and an end to the brutal 11-year siege of Gaza through these mass demonstrations. In response, they have been met with massacres by the Israeli army, armed, funded and supported by the United States and its official representatives.
Israel has always acted with impunity, thanks to the diplomatic cover the United States has consistently granted it on the world stage. But the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the withdrawal of the US from the Iran P5+1 nuclear deal are two actions that dramatically show how Israel has been emboldened by the presidency of Donald Trump. It is clearer than ever that Israel intends to make the Occupation permanent; it will further increase its discriminatory practices against non-Jews, especially Palestinians, with Israeli citizenship; and it will never allow Palestinians in exile to return to their lands. Each and every one of these actions violate international human rights doctrine and law.
It is no coincidence that Israel is increasing its attacks on international human rights workers like Omar Shakir. Shakir, director of Human Rights Watch in Palestine, is being threatened with deportation. This comes hand in hand with continued and intensified repression directed at Palestinian human rights defenders like French-Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri, held without charge or trial under administrative detention and Ahed and Nariman Tamimi, leaders of the grassroots mobilization against settlements in the village of Nabi Saleh. Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian poet (with Israeli citizenship), has been convicted for her poetic expression and is awaiting sentencing.
Most of the world community has condemned Israel. And more and more people in the US have begun to recognize, and speak out against, Israel’s criminal actions. In the past few days people like Bette Midler, Judd Apatow, and Mia Farrow have sharply criticized Israel for its actions and the American media for its biased representation of the events in Gaza. Chelsea Handler, who had only a few years ago performed in Israel and interviewed Shimon Peres, tweeted: “now the bibi crazies are running the show, unchecked and will effectively turn gaza and the left bank [sic] into starvation camps or mental asylums…”
All around the world, people are marching in solidarity with the Palestinians. And more and more people are refusing to go along with business as usual with Israel. For example, in France, more then 80 prominent artists, including legendary film director Jean-Luc Godard, have announced they will boycott Israel, and 66% of over 30,000 people surveyed in France said France should recall its ambassador to Israel.
Palestinians are repeatedly and cynically enjoined to engage in peaceful protest and non-violent organizing. When they do so, Israel meets them with lethal fire, detention and imprisonment. For well over a decade, Palestinian civil society has called on the world to engage in boycott, divestment and sanctions to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing violations of international law and human rights. In face of their remarkable courage and persistence against enormous odds, we owe them our support.
Shaun King endorsed BDS with these powerful words, “I want to publicly announcement [sic] full support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel. The war crimes and mass human rights violations they committed yesterday should cause all people of conscience to pause and ask how they can make a difference there.”
We echo King’s call to action. Please follow him in endorsing BDS, and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Please contact us to find out what you can do at usacbi.org.