Gaza’s Great Return March: Exposing Life Under Siege

By Alexandra Menter


Non-violence is a rich part of Palestinian resistance against Israeli colonialism and subjugation. Sitting on the apartheid wall, climbing the apartheid wall, Bassem Al-Tamimi’s weekly marches from Nabi Saleh to his villages spring workers strikes, activist journalism, and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement are all examples of Palestinian led initiatives to non-violently combat Israel’s stranglehold on Palestinian daily life. More recently, the most courageous display of non-violent resistance among Palestinian civil society were the 2018 Gaza border protests, known as The Great March of Return.

The Great March of Return was a six-week demonstration organized and supported by members of Palestinian civil society. According to an interview in 972 magazine with Hasan Al-Kurd, one of the demonstrations’ 20 organizers, the demonstration began on March 30th and culminate on May 15th.  March 30th commemorates Israel’s 1967 annexation of the Palestinian territories, and May 15th is the 70th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, known as The Nakba (the catastrophe) among Palestinians. Organizers set up tents approximately 700 to 1500 kilometers from the fence that imprisons approximately 2 million people in a 25 mile long and 7 mile wide strip of land.

By the time this is published, the march will have ended. That said, it nevertheless highlights several crucial aspects of Palestinian daily life in Gaza under Israel’s blockade that persist before, during, and after the demonstration– including freedom of movement, economic development, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Since 2006, the state of Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, only allowing pre-approved goods into Gaza, effectively crippling the economy. Jewish-American journalist and author Max Blumenthal recently told Consortium News that “[there’s plenty of food in the restaurants… and Gazan merchants sell similar products to what small American businesses sell],” unfortunately, people cannot afford to purchase them. As a result, a series of tunnels have been constructed to import food, weapons, and other supplies from outside the Gaza strip into Gaza’s borders.

According to the Middle East Eye, Gazan workers called The Great Return March their “last hope.” Approximately 43% of Gaza’s population is unemployed, and nearly 80% of Gazans rely on humanitarian aid to survive. In spite of the fact that Israel’s bombing campaigns have rendered much of Gaza’s infrastructure in dire need of re-development, Palestinian carpenters are out of work because Israel’s siege disallows the necessary tools and building materials to cross the border. Palestinian fishermen are also losing money as a result of Israel’s naval siege which restricts Gazan fishing boats from venturing far enough out to sea to catch large schools of fish.

The siege also separates people from families, friends, communities, and land. The majority of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees, meaning their ancestors were displaced from Israel in 1948 and they were not allowed to return under Israel’s Citizenship and Entry Law. The first thing a visitor sees upon entering Gaza is a remote-controlled machine gun perched atop a watch-tower. Operated by an all female unit of IDF soldiers in the Negev, it is used to prevent Gazans from crossing the Erez checkpoint into Israel. In his aforementioned interview with Consortium News, Max Blumenthal reiterated the story of a Palestinian man from Dubai who came to Gaza to visit other family. “The gates shut behind him and he has been stuck in Gaza for two years and doesn’t know how to get out to reunite with his family [in Dubai].”

Throughout the 11-year siege, Palestinians in Gaza have tried numerous tactics to resist Israeli colonial control, including armed resistance. Now, Palestinians civil society and Hamas are rallying behind non-violence to show Israel that they will not be submissive. While Hasan Al-Kurd and other organizers have repeatedly stated that the march is non-violent, peaceful, and have even objected to the use of throwing stones and burning tires, Israeli snipers have nevertheless initiated clashes with Palestinian youths by shooting, killing, and injuring non-violent protesters, journalists, and children.

According to the Institute for Middle East Understanding, the current death toll in Gaza as of May 14th is between 30 to 40 deaths along with thousands of injuries. Meanwhile, the Israeli death toll sits at zero.

The most important thing Americans can do to support Gaza is to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Putting pressure on Israel to get out of Gaza’s sea, lift the blockade, and instill a return policy for Palestinian refugees is crucial to developing and healing Palestinian civil society. Neither the U.S. nor Israel maintain just or sustainable foreign policies that protect Gazan lives, so it is up to the international community, Israelis, and Palestinians to fight for democracy from Palestine, Israel, and abroad. It is well past time for Americans to take strong, courageous stances against their government’s support for Israel’s policies in Gaza. It’s time to stand on the right side of history and support our Palestinian brothers and sisters.

Below are links to two Palestinian causes you can donate to or practice in your community:


Alexandra Menter is an intersectional feminist, gender justice activist, and amateur activist journalist from Carbondale, Colorado. She is applying to law school for the Fall of 2019 and plans to pursue a career in international criminal law. When she isn’t writing for Alice, she’s probably listening to one of her many favorite podcasts about social justice, art, or LGBT life.

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