Listen: “Every Palestinian was a target” at Gaza march

On this episode of The Electronic Intifada Podcast: “Every Palestinian was a target” for Israeli snipers; Scholars call for an end to study abroad in Israel programs at US universities.

“I would say there were hundreds of thousands of people – the whole area was crowded, there were people gathering, families, kids, elderly men and elderly women. It seemed like everyone in Gaza City was heading to the borders in anticipation” for the Great March of Return in Gaza, writer and professor Refaat Alareer told The Electronic Intifada Podcast on Wednesday.

The 30 March rally, Alareer said, was emotional for him “because many people were never [before] this close to their own villages and towns that Israel destroyed and depopulated decades ago.”

Yet it had the feel of a festival, he added, with people bringing food and looking their best: “It was like a celebration, it was like Palestine is free and people were finally returning back.”

But when he walked through the massive crowd, closer to the boundary, he saw that people were being shot. “In one way or another, every Palestinian gathering there was a target,” he said.

As of Thursday, the death toll from Israeli violence in Gaza since 30 March had risen to 21. Last Friday was the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

On 30 March – which Palestinians also commemorate as Land Day – 14 Palestinians were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on thousands of people taking part in rallies along the Gaza-Israel boundary protesting Israel’s siege of the territory and demanding the right for refugees to return to lands from which they were expelled by Israel.

Another 1,400 were injured, including around 800 people hit with live ammunition.

Israeli leaders who ordered troops to open fire on Palestinians taking part in the rallies in Gaza last Friday, even though marchers posed no threat, bear personal responsibility for the deaths and injuries, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

They are responsible for “calculated” killings of unarmed civilians in violation of international law, the human rights group states, warning that Israeli leaders could face prosecution abroad.

Writer Rawan Yaghi attended a rally in Gaza just days after the Israeli army had killed protesters at the Great March of Return. She wrote about it for The New York Times.

At the rally on Sunday, the crowd “was initially quiet, it was very silent, until a few women started singing,” she told The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

“People just stood there, sometimes singing, sometimes chanting, and they didn’t seem to want to provoke anything – they could see all of the [Israeli] snipers hiding behind the sand barriers just across the border,” she said.

“I was amazed by these people’s courage to stand there,” Yaghi added, acknowledging the possibility that the soldiers could have fired live ammunition at any moment.

She explained that she was moved by the presence of young people injured by Israeli forces during the Friday rally, who showed up to the Sunday protest. Some of them played soccer with bandages over their wounds.

“It made sense looking at the whole picture of Gaza,” which has been battered over the last seven decades of colonization and occupation across Palestine, she said.

“Gaza specifically is still bleeding from everything that it has been through,” Yaghi added.

Israel study abroad programs violate principles of education access

Acknowledging an “historic injustice,” scholars and members of faculty have launched a new campaign on US campuses calling for universities to abolish study abroad in Israel programs.

According to the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), because Israel regularly and arbitrarily denies entry to persons of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim ancestry, these study abroad programs violate equal rights clauses in educational institutions.

“It’s our belief that running such programs and giving university funding or even moral sanction to such programs violates the non-discrimination and equal opportunity clauses that most US universities, if not all, honor as a fundamental principle of access to education,” David Lloyd, professor at UC Riverside, told The Electronic Intifada Podcast. Lloyd is also a member of USACBI’s organizing collective.

He pointed to the collaborations between Israeli and US academic institutions which “hold up Israel as an example of democracy when in fact Israel – as has been well established – is an apartheid state” which discriminates against Palestinians as well as non-Jewish immigrants and refugees.

“What we want to do is to bring pressure to bear on these universities to end or suspend these campaigns until Israel complies with international law and human rights law,” Lloyd said.

In 2015, the Virginia State Bar canceled a planned educational seminar in Jerusalem citing concerns that some of its members would not be allowed to travel their due to Israel’s discriminatory policies.

Listen to the interviews with Rawan Yaghi, Refaat Alareer and David Lloyd via the media player above.

Music: “Ounadikom” by Ahmad Kaabour

Photos: Palestinian protesters take part in a mass protest demanding the right to return to their homeland, Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, 30 March. Ashraf Amra / APA images; Palestinian protesters take part during a tent city protest at the Gaza boundary with Israel, Khan Younis, Gaza, 4 April. Ashraf Amra / APA images

Theme music and production assistance by Sharif Zakout

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).