by Candice Bodnaruk and Lawrence Sutherland
Saturday, May 15, 2021 marks the 73rd Anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba or Catastrophe, when about 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes and villages in 1948 to make way for the establishment of the nascent state of Israel.
However, the Nakba did not end in 1948. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes and villages continues to this very day. In fact, over the past number of days the state of Israel has killed over 125 Palestinians in Gaza, 40 % of them are women and children [source Code Pink]
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 830 Palestinians have been wounded so far. At least 7 people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old child.
As of 6:19 a.m[CDT] on Friday, May 14 the AP reported that Israel had killed a family of six in their home with artillery fire and airstrikes.
Palestinians are also being attacked by groups of settlers in Israel’s streets.
Palestinian American journalist and broadcaster Ramzy Baroud, in an interview with TRT, said that the Palestinian people and their resistance will hold Israel to account for its actions. Baroud noted that it was international solidarity with the South African people that ended apartheid there and the same can happen in Palestine if more and more voices from civil society and solidarity groups are raised that oppose Israel’s behaviour.
Baroud noted that in the media what is happening in Palestine is being perceived as a conflict between “two equal parties” that requires a degree of de-escalation.
“This is not a conflict, this is a nation under military occupation,” Baroud said, adding that the entire state of Israel is state of Apartheid.
Once again Israel is massing ground troops and calling up a further 9,000 reservists along the Gaza border. This is similar to 2014 when Israeli troops and tanks were poised to launch a ground offensive on Gaza.
Meanwhile, Gaza has been under an illegal military blockade for 14 years. The population, primarily young Palestinians under 18, are essentially imprisoned, while Israel controls Gaza’s borders and arbitrarily decides who may leave and when. It is important to remember that Gaza is in a perpetual illegal lock-down.
Noam Chomsky has called Gaza the world’s largest open-air prison. It is the state of Israel that decides who leaves the territory and when and that has meant many Palestinians in Gaza have never seen the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In that regard, Israelis are preventing Palestinians from praying at al-Asqa Mosque.
Since Monday, May 10, Israeli rockets have destroyed three apartment buildings in Gaza. The owner of a five-story building received a phone call from the Israeli military on Thursday to evacuate the civilian occupants. An Israeli airstrike brought the building down. Then on Wednesday, in Gaza’s southern town of Khan Younis, another Israeli airstrike hit near a home killing two children, an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old.
According to The Palestine Chronicle, on Friday [May 14] Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian driver in Silwad, northeast of Ramallah, in the Occupied West Bank. The soldiers had been at a checkpoint and opened fire on the driver while he was attempting to pass through. Mohammed Rawhy Hammad died minutes after he was shot.
It was late Wednesday when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet authorized a widening of the offensive. Netanyahu has warned he is prepared to use an “iron fist if necessary” to calm the violent street clashes that have erupted between Jews and Palestinians throughout Israel. The Israeli military has reported that their airstrikes have struck about 600 targets inside Gaza.
It has only been 7 years since Israel’s brutal 51 Day War, code named Operation Protective Edge. During its 2014 attack on Gaza Israel killed 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 11,000 Palestinians were wounded or injured including 4,249 children. At least 110,000 Palestinian civilians were left homeless and 1,800 Palestinian children were also orphaned.
Israel lost 5 civilians in the 2014 war, including one child and one non-Israeli civilian worker. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers were also killed in combat.
A report by the UN Commission of Inquiry released on June 22, 2015 said, “the scale of the devastation was unprecedented.” According to the commission, Israel launched more than 6,000 air strikes, including 14,500 tank shells and 45,000 artillery shells on Gaza between July 7 and August 26, 2014.
The State of Israel is said to have the sixth largest army in the world with a huge armoury. Israel’s ‘Iron Dome Missile Defence System’ also protects the country from any incoming Hamas rockets. Journalist Gwynne Dyer previously described Hamas rockets as “pathetic.” Israel also has a well-equipped network of civilian bomb shelters.
Meanwhile, in sharp contrast to the Israelis, the Palestinians have no military army, no military helicopters, no warships and no armoury at their disposal. They also do not have civilian bomb shelters to protect themselves.
During the 51-Day War, Israeli airstrikes destroyed or damaged at least 100,000 Palestinian homes along with more than 100 United Nations hospitals and 262 schools. The Israel military was also responsible for the destruction of 175 businesses in the area, including Gaza’s main flour mill, food companies, clothing factories, and Beit Hanoun’s entire industrial zone. Even mosques were obliterated by Israeli airstrikes.
During its 2014 attack on Gaza the Israeli military also bombed water treatment facilities which lead to a lack of clean drinking water. Today nearly 40 percent of Gazan children are infested with intestinal parasites and scabies are also once again on the rise in children.
PROTESTING ISRAEL’S 51 DAY WAR ON GAZA
In 2014, people around the world took to the streets in mass protests against Israel’s actions. Here in Winnipeg people marched down Broadway to the legislature and to the site of the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which would not open until that September.
It was during that same year, 2014, that a small group of us from several social justice organizations, began holding an annual vigil to remember the victims of Israel’s 51 Day War on Gaza. Last year (2020), was the first year we didn’t have an event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
THE GREAT MARCH OF RETURN
The Nakba also continued during the 2018 Great March of Return. In March 2018, Israeli snipers attacked Palestinians on the Great March of Return to mark the Nakba (Palestinians from Gaza attempted to travel to al-Asqa Mosque to mark the 70th anniversary).
Every Friday, Palestinians protested along the fence separating Gaza from Israel demanding the right to return to their ancestral homes. The protesters were also demanding an end to the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.
According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, during the demonstrations, Israeli snipers killed 266 Palestinians and injured almost 30,000 others in one year. Moreover, 665 medical personal were wounded and 3 were killed.
Most recently on May 2, 2021, the Jerusalem District Court ordered at least 6 Palestinian families to leave their homes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrar, despite having lived there for generations. The Palestinians view this manoeuvre as another attempt to force them out and replace them once again with a Jewish settlement. Meanwhile, the world is watching Israel’s every move as the Nakba continues in Sheikh Jarrar.
The same court also ruled that 7 other Palestinian families should leave their homes by August 7, and in total, 58 Palestinians, including 17 children, are set to be forcibly removed to make way for more Jewish settlers. Israel plans to build 255 settlement units in place of the Palestinian homes. Approximately 200,000 Israeli citizens currently live in East Jerusalem under army and police protection.
Yet Palestinians have a long history in the neighbourhood that goes right back to the 1948 Nakba. In 1956, 28 Palestinian refugee families settled in the Karm al-Jaouni area of Sheikh Jarrah. In 1948 the families had been displaced from their homes in Yaffa and Haifa. At that time, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem was under the mandate of Jordan. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) struck an agreement with Jordan to build housing units for the families.
The deal with Jordan stipulated that the families were to renounce their refugee status in return for land deeds signed in their names after 3 years of living in the area.
However, in 1967 when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, that stipulation did not take place. Then, in 2010, Khalil Toufakji, a Palestinian cartographer and an expert on Jerusalem, travelled to Ankara to conduct research into the agreement. Toufakji searched in the Ottoman-era archives for a document that would negate any Jewish ownership of Karm al-Jaouni.
“I found the deed and presented it to the Israeli district court, which promptly rejected it,” said Toufakji. However, after more digging, he found out that in 1968, the Knesset had issued a decree which was signed by the finance minister. The document stated that Israel was bound to the Jordan-UNRWA agreement.
Khalil Toufakji stated, “This fact is what has been raised to the Jerusalem High Court on behalf of the Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. Under international law, the Israeli judicial system has no legal authority over the population it occupies.”
Meanwhile, Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently handed over 14 official documents related to building the housing units in Sheikh Jarrah to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
According to the documents, the development ministry at the time entered into an agreement with UNRWA to build 28 housing units for the Palestinian refugee families. The official spokesperson for the ministry, Daifallah al-Fayez, said in a statement that Jordan is committed to providing all possible backing to the Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah.
“Keeping Palestinian Jerusalemites rooted in their land is a national principal in Jordan’s efforts to support our Palestinian brethren,” he said.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT AND ISRAEL
Recently the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague announced it plans to open a war crimes investigation against Israel for those very crimes Israel committed against the Palestinians during the 51 Day War in Gaza in 2014.
The decision to investigate Israel for war crimes is based on an ICC determination in February 2021, that the Occupied Palestinian Territories fall under its jurisdiction. The ICC will also be investigating the Palestinians for any war crimes they may have committed.
Israel is not a party to the International Criminal Court and has not consented to the court’s jurisdiction. Moreover, in March, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “The Palestinians do not qualify as a sovereign state and therefore, are not qualified to obtain membership as a state in, participate as a state in, or delegate authority to the ICC.”
However, a resolution passed by the United Nations in 2012 changed the Occupied Palestinian Territories from an “observer entity” to a “non-member state”, a de facto recognition of sovereignty that has opened the door for the ICC’s ruling on jurisdiction.
GLOBAL DAYS OF ACTION
In response to Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, cities across Canada are joining in protest as well as remembrance (for the May 15 commemoration of the 1948 Nakba).
Samidoun (the Palestinian Prisoner Network) Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) have all launched letter writing campaigns. Emergency actions are planned for cities around the world this weekend. While most of Canada continues to be in a COVID-19 lock-down, people are showing their solidarity with Palestine this weekend in many cities [with car caravans and with social distancing measures in place] including Edmonton, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Oakville, Ottawa Saskatoon, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Quebec City, Saint John and St. John’s.
On Friday, May 14, thousands of Jordanians marched towards the Jordanian-Palestinian border in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
In the United States Rep. Ilhan Omar is calling on the House of Foreign Affairs Chair Gregory Meeks to schedule a hearing on Israeli Apartheid and U.S. military assistance. What will Canada do?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders must speak out on this issue. Instead of standing on the sidelines and repeating the same rhetoric about a two-state solution, now is the time for Trudeau and Canada to take a stand for human rights and end its free trade agreement with Israel (CIFTA) and along with courageous members of the NDP, call for sanctions against Israel.
Canada must also immediately halt all Canadian arms sales to Israel. Now is the time to speak out against ongoing Israeli war crimes and demand an end to apartheid.
Gaza’s Great March of Return Protests Explained – March 30, 2019:
What is Happening in Occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrar? – May 1, 2021:
US opposes ICC war crimes probe, citing support for Israel – March 4, 2021: