Today, the latest in growing demonstrations in the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone”, demonstrators again protested this lethal Israeli ban (shoot to kill threat) which renders roughly 30% of Gaza’s best agricultural land off-limits and under which in August 2009 the UN’s OCHA reported 33 Palestinian civilians (among them 11 children) had been killed and another 61 civilians (among them 13 children) injured. From January 18 2009 to September 15 2009 alone, ISM reported 7 civilians (among them 4 children) killed and 28 (among them 8 children and 2 women) injured by Israeli soldiers in the border regions.
Bearing in mind that the Israeli assaults on farmers and civilians in the border regions have continued, and that these assaults occur far beyond the 300 metres that Israeli authorities say make up the “buffer zone” [the actual off-limits area veering up to 2 km in some areas], those protesting weekly have serious, valid concerns.
Further keeping in mind that Gaza has been under complete siege for over 1000 days, and near-complete siege since soon after Hamas was elected in early 2006, the issue of a no-go zone in a very tiny Strip is an issue affecting the safety of Palestinians, but also their ability to produce food, and even to scavenge ruins for useable construction materials, the siege banning even those materials needed to re-build after Israel’s 2008-2009 massacre of Gaza.
Demonstrators walked along a sand dune overrun track, climbing over fresh cascades of sand to reach the point near the northern border where they conveyed their messages: “this is Palestinian land, stop shooting on unarmed famers and civilians, stop preventing farmers from accessing their land.”
They carried posters of martyred Rachel Corrie, killed 7 years ago when an Israeli bulldozer repeatedly drove over the young, clearly visible, woman. Palestinians and internationals remembered Rachel, and we remember the thousands of martyred Palestinian women, children and men.
The demonstrations — non-violent and filled with the energy of defiance, resistance, refusal to cower before the world’s forth largest military –are growing, walking in the steps of Palestinians and their Israeli and international supporters in the occupied West Bank (Bil’in, Ni’lin, An Nabi Saleh, Beit Ommar, … ) and occupied East Jerusalem.
It’s a beautiful thing to see a Palestinian flag flying, and all the more beautiful to see the smiles and samoud of those holding them, standing on their land.