My Turn — Liz Kelner: Reacting to peaceful Palestinian protests met with deadly violence


Friday, May 18, 2018

On March 30, thousands of residents of the Gaza strip in Palestine chose to nonviolently protest the confiscation of their land that began in 1948 and their current desperate living conditions in Gaza. In response, the Israeli military — IDF — chose to fight back with lethal force. Snipers shot to kill and tear gas was dropped on the people. Over the course of five Friday demonstrations, 45 nonviolent Palestinian protesters in Gaza were killed and 5,500 were injured. The Palestinians were on Palestinian land, 200 feet from the border between Israel and Gaza. No Israeli soldier or citizen was injured. Our interfaith group, Kairos/Franklin County Justice for Palestine, felt strongly that we needed to write this letter. What follows are various responses of our members:

“65 Years ago African Americans were desperate enough to send their beloved children into the streets against police, dogs and fire hoses. It seemed suicidal at the time and ill-advised, but the struggle for justice has always exacted a price. Gazans are not suicidal; they are desperate. They have no other way to express their discontent.”

“How can the Israeli Army justify such violence against the Gazan people? Palestinian land has been consistently occupied by Israel for six decades. Many countries, with the exception of the U.S., have denounced what Israel is doing. Time will tell, but I believe that as Israel becomes more isolated, this level of ongoing aggression could be the undoing of the State of Israel.”

“I appeal to a higher moral position for a consensus of international opinion to hold Israel responsible in this brutal war against Palestinians. Let Palestinians have their land, their access to water, their families and neighbors, their work and education, their hopes and dreams, to their future! And let them have boundaries that are not constantly changing at the hand of Israel’s bulldozers! ”

“The demands of the Palestinians are straight forward: No more death from lack of medical care because it is available on the other side of the border. No more sickness from a polluted water table. No more failed crops because the water has become too salty. No more loss of fishing boats within the Israeli-imposed limit of three nautical miles. No more being surrounded by walls and denied exit, of having no way to leave Gaza”

“Palestinians recognize “Land Day” to express their yearning to return to their land. This year, they marked this desire with a non-violent demonstration within the Gaza borders. While they made this courageous choice to follow in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., the Israeli Knesset ordered soldiers and snipers to “shoot to kill” How can we, as Americans, whose tax money goes to support Israeli policy against Palestinians, make known this injustice?”

“I was aghast when I heard that Israel was deploying 100 snipers against nonviolent Palestinian protesters. These actions corrode the integrity of the state of Israel. No state is an island; all countries share a common moral destiny. I believe Israel, through its ongoing, violent repression, is undermining its own security by creating an expanding international consensus that they are behaving as an outlaw nation.”

“I believe we must be willing to see the brutality of the Israeli government and the soldiers in Israel and around the world who follow orders and kill innocent people, who believe the propaganda of their governments and do the unspeakable, who are willing to compromise their own humanity. May they find the courage to say “NO” and join the long and proud tradition of those who say no to perpetuating violence — who say “No, I will not do as you command, I will not go!”

(Editor’s note: Since this essay was written, dozens of Gazans were killed and scores wounded when protesters charged the Israeli border fence and Israeli soldiers fired into the crowds.)

Submitted on behalf of Kairos/Franklin County Justice for Palestine, a local group expressing its collective concern and opposition to the violence against the Palestinian people living in Gaza.