Even by the normally chaotic and brutal standards of Israel's occupation of Palestine, March has been a busy month. There was the murder of dozens of killings and injuring of unarmed Palestinian protestors in one day as well as the attempted mass imprisonment and deportation of over 38,000 African asylum seekers, and finally the prosecution of 17-year-old Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi. Occupation is a cruel endeavour, and Israel is going all out.
17 Palestinians were killed in one day by Israeli forces as thousands marched near Gaza's border with Israel. More than 1,400 others were wounded after Israeli forces fired live ammunition at protesters and used tear gas to push them back. The international outcry has been ongoing, but the United States blocked a draft UN Security Council statement calling for an investigation of the incidents.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the army for having “carried out its work in the best possible way.” He added that the military, “can respond much more harshly next time” and that it would not “hesitate to use everything we have.” Despite this, Palestinians have remained committed to carrying out their plan of action. The protest kicked off a six-week sit-in demonstration along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
A crisis exposing Israel's state policy of hypocrisy to asylum seekers and migrants in also coming to a boil. The Israeli government announced in January that 38,000 mostly Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers had three months to leave the country. If they refuse to leave, they face indefinite imprisonment.
In 2012, the Minister of Culture Miri Regev called asylum seekers and refugees “a cancer” and a threat to the Jewish demography of Israel. Israel has approved less than 1% of asylum applications since it signed the UN Refugee Convention six decades ago. Israel has now recognized only one Sudanese national and 11 Eritreans as refugees. In contrast, 94.1 percent of Eritrean asylum seekers are recognized as refugees in Europe.
Israel claims that asylum seekers who agree to go to a “third country,” which Israel refuses to name but are known to be Rwanda and Uganda, will be able to live and work there legally. Israeli magazine 972+ did an investigation and found not only that they are often denied legal status - they are often forced out within days of their arrival.
Free Ahed Tamimi Now!
Recently a video of Ahed Tamimi confronting and slapping an Israeli soldier - who had just shot her cousin in the head with a rubber bullet and put him in a coma - went viral. She became a powerful and defiant symbol of the next generation of Palestinian resistance, and also became the target of right-wing Israeli commentators who took turns demanding harsher and harsher consequences for the 17-year-old.
Ahed was detained and faced years in prison. Her trial was mostly closed to the public and has received widespread condemnation from international and local human-rights groups. Following an ordeal that involved multiple arrests of her family members and constant interrogations where she was denied the presence of her lawyer or parents, Ahed agreed to a plea deal. She will serve eight months in prison, including her three months served in pretrial detention, and will have to pay a fine of nearly $1,500.
When an Israeli military judge opened the courtroom for the press, the teenage Palestinian activist who had already spent months in jail wasted no time in making her opinion public before being cut off, “There is no justice under occupation. We are in an illegitimate court.”
Unfortunately for Israel, the image of the young curly haired girl who has shown nothing but bold defiance has served as a massive point of inspiration for the movement demanding self-determination for Palestine.
Israel is a mess of contradictions. It claims to be an example of human-rights and democracy but is constantly engaged in violence and discrimination. What's most concerning for Israeli politicians and their U.S backers is that people like Ahed Tamimi and the thousands of Palestinians who show up to protests knowing they are a high likelihood of getting shot, prove that Palestinians have not given up the struggle for their self-determination.
As Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish wrote in 'Poem for the Land',
I am the witness of the massacre
I am the victim of the map
I am the son of clear speech
I saw stones take flight
I saw dewdrops become weapons
When they slammed shut the door of my heart
When they imposed a curfew inside me
My heart grew into an alley
My ribs became hovels
But carnations were budding
Carnations were in bud
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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