We Gazans may be penned in like animals – but on Nakba day we will show the world our humanity is unbroken
On the first Friday of the Great March of Return I went to the border between Gaza and Israel with my two youngest children, Yasser and Jaffa. Yes, I named my only daughter after the city I was meant to be born in. This is a bit of a tradition among Palestinians, especially if the place name is a particularly graceful-sounding one. The two of them waved Palestinian flags in their little fists as they walked. Looking directly at the perimeter fence, Yasser asked: “Dad, is Jaffa behind that fence?” My daughter was unfazed by this ambiguity. As I gazed at one of the Israeli snipers, crouched by his gun on the man-made dune that acts as a border, I imagined we were both locked in a staring competition. My kids pose no threat to you, I tried to say with my eyes. We’re more than 300 metres away. My kids have no weapons, no stones; they’re not here to fight. It’s a fantasy, of course. Later that day, and in the weeks that followed, Israeli soldiers used extreme force to clear the area: teargas dropped by drones, mortars, live ammunition.
The Great March of Return, the peaceful show of resistance by Gazans at this border over the last seven weeks, will culminate tomorrow on the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the Nakba and Israelis mark as the birth of the state of Israel. The border protests have attracted a lot of attention. Dozens have been killed – including kids barely into their teens, and journalists – and thousands more injured; any international concern presumably is out of fear of military escalation in the wider region. While this fear is legitimate, it also exposes a profound misunderstanding of the protest.