What is the situation for Palestinians in Gaza, this small sliver of their land, at the moment? On the one hand, events this March show that Palestinians in Gaza face a twin reality that is a twin brutality. On the one hand is Israel’s iron fist: continued blockade of goods and services, and intense bombardment of various Hamas offices in response to a Hamas-fired rocket into a Tel Aviv neighborhood that wounded several family members. There are also tanks on the border threatening further action—all in the context of Israeli elections in April as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maneuvers to stay in power.
On the other hand, there was a revealing demonstration of the militant Islamist group Hamas’s brutal repression against any Palestinians who dare protest its hard-line, inept rule of Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinians from camps and towns across Gaza took to the streets this month demanding better living conditions, including opposition to price hikes for food. Slogans included: “The revolt of the hungry,” “Down with price hikes” and “We want to live.” The Hamas response: uniformed officers and masked, plainclothes Hamas enforcers armed with pistols, batons and wooden rods attacked the protesters, beating many, raiding homes, detaining organizers, journalists and participants, some 1,000 in all.
We are not yet to the first-year anniversary of the March of Return, which demands the right of return for Palestinians to their former homes in Israel as well as protests Israel’s continual blockade of Gaza. That march was first organized by independent activists in Gaza, but taken over and manipulated by Hamas in the weeks of protests that followed. Israel’s response resulted in the death of hundreds of mostly unarmed demonstrators and thousands wounded.
Compounding these realities is U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Israel’s right to the Golan Heights, and the complete abandonment of any pretense of the right of Palestinians to their own state. What kind of new explosions will occur in Gaza and the West Bank under these conditions? What has happened to any semblance of an Israeli Left to rise in opposition?
March 29, 2019