45 Fridays on, Gaza is still resisting

Gazans protest during one of the weekly Great March of Return demonstrations.

The 45th Friday of the Great March of Return took place on February 1. Each Friday since March 30 last year, Gazans have defied Israeli snipers — who have shot unarmed protesters, journalists and medics — to demand their right to return to their now Israeli-occupied lands.

The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA-OPT) said there have been more than 26,000 Palestinian injuries since the Great March began. Israeli injuries stand at 23.

Whereas Israeli injuries can be treated promptly in high-quality facilities, Palestinians face serious barriers to treatment that a full recovery can be all but impossible. The disturbing number of leg injuries requiring amputation is a case in point.

Long delays for Gazans who need treatment that can only be carried out outside Gaza is the norm. Israeli restrictions on imports of fuel for electricity generators and medical supplies for Gaza's hospitals are the norm. It is hard not to see the purpose of the delays and restrictions as another way in which Palestinians can punished.

Gazan health facilities, which are always under pressure in winter, are close to collapse with the influx of injuries from the Great March of Return.

With its elections set for April, Israel is hoping for relative peace. It is gambling that Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, can crack down on any violence or participation in the Great March in return for allowing relief funds into the territory. The problem is this relies on Israel’s own myth that it is Hamas bullying people into joining the Great March.

If we’re impressed by 45 consecutive Fridays, we should be astounded at the resilience of Gazans in the face of a 12-year siege and awed that after 71 years of occupation, Palestinians have not given up and accepted their consignment to history.

Regardless of the result of Israel’s election on April 9, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will have no reason to celebrate. They will still suffer the consequences, however the incoming Knesset is constituted, and they will have even less space within which to protest those consequences.

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