We grieve with every Palestinian mother, father, sister, brother and grandparent who buried a loved one this week, at least 60 of whom were killed on May 14 by the Israeli military. We mourn acutely for the seven children among those killed, including Laila Anwar Al-Ghandour, a baby of 8 months who was overwhelmed by tear gas. We ache for the more than 2,700 wounded children, women and men, overflowing into the corridors of Gaza’s under-resourced hospitals, some with devastating injuries caused by exploding bullets, leaving them maimed for life. And, as women who have long been struggling for justice and equality, everywhere around the world, we insist on the right of every Palestinian to live in freedom, with their full rights – and dignity long denied them.
Monday’s horrifying violence came amid Gaza’s Great Return March. Since 30 March, tens of thousands of unarmed Palestinians have participated in protests along the barrier with Israel to demand their freedom and the right to return to their homes and land. The march was set to culminate on May 15, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’, marking the expulsion or flight of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. A Nakba that has never ended.
The Great Return Marchers are also trying to draw the world’s attention to Israel’s illegal blockade that has been strangling two million Palestinians in Gaza since 2007. 70% of Gaza’s population are refugees originally from towns and villages located in what is now Israel. Due in large part to Israel’s blockade, the United Nations has determined that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Gaza is barely habitable now; 96% of their water is undrinkable, electricity is available for just a few hours a day, and youth unemployment is at nearly 60%. The vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza are trapped inside the small coastal enclave, what has been repeatedly termed an “open air prison”, unable to travel to pursue their education, visit family, or seek medical treatment.
The Israeli military has responded to Palestinian protesters with sniper fire, live ammunition and tear gas, killing 109 people since the March began, 60 of them on May 14, the single bloodiest day. 12,000 others have been wounded. In contrast, not a single Israeli soldier or civilian was killed.
55 miles away from the Israeli snipers shooting at unarmed Palestinian protesters, the U.S. government opened its embassy in Jerusalem. This Embassy move reversed decades of U.S. policy which had upheld that the future of Jerusalem must be agreed upon through a negotiated settlement. We reject the Trump administration’s unilateral decision, not only for the hubris and ignorance that it reflects, but because such a move – callously held on the day marking 70 years of Palestinian displacement – further cements their dispossession and the erasure of Palestinians from the historic city of Jerusalem. Since Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, over 14,000 Palestinians have had their residency rights revoked because they are the wrong identity. This reckless US embassy move emboldens the Israeli government in their ongoing project to erase indigenous Palestinians all across their historic homeland. As many of us come from countries founded on the dispossession of indigenous populations, we cannot accept any government contributing to the unjust policies being enacted upon the Palestinians, who have suffered for 70 years.
We are outraged and heartbroken over the killings and further entrenchment of injustice and oppression of the Palestinian people. But–we are inspired by the courageous people of Gaza who refuse to submit to occupation, siege, and further displacement by risking their lives to secure a life worth living, for themselves and their children.
We call on the U.S. government and the Israeli government to fully end the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the Palestinian people.
And, we call on all people of conscience to raise their voices with us, and with the people of Gaza, affirming the right of every Palestinian to live in full freedom, and with dignity. We hold the humanity of every Palestinian – every mother, sister, father, brother, daughter and son – and we insist that their humanity be universally recognized and defended.
#StandWithGaza #FreePalestine #RiseInSolidarity #UntilTheViolenceStops