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Until Return - Issue 4

Gaza Rise up! — Resisting and Overcoming Occupation
by Dr. Jess Ghannam
Al Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
February 25, 2008

Tearing Down the Wall in GazaHatem Moussa/Associated Press

The events of this past month have brought yet another extraordinary development in the ongoing resistance to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. Palestinians in Gaza, in a demonstration of amazing courage, breached the border between Rafah and Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children crossed over into Egypt and took matters into their own hands. The matter here, of course, is survival. Despite the ongoing illegal and immoral Israeli blockade of food, water, medicine, and fuel into Gaza, Palestinians broke down the border fence into Egypt, streamed into El Arish, and brought food and medicine back into Gaza in order to survive.

The Israeli strangulation of Gaza has been going for decades, but since the democratically held elections last year, it has been intensified to levels of unimaginable brutality. Palestinian cancer patients have been dying at the border because Israelis refuse to let them receive chemotherapy at local hospitals. Medical facilities in Gaza have little to no electricity and supplies to function. The Government of Israel has refused to allow adequate supplies of food (even from the UN). There has been a steady diet of collective punishment, starvation, and military attacks on civilians in Gaza for months. Even Israeli human rights groups have been shocked by the immorality and brutality of the aggression. They appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court to stop what they deemed crimes against humanity being committed against Palestinians. And in a decision heard around the civilized world, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the Government’s policy of collective punishment.

As is typical, world opinion was strong and there was almost universal condemnation of Israel. I say almost because neither the feckless US administration nor UN Security Council could muster the strength to decry these policies. (Ironically, more Israelis are voicing opposition than the White House, the State Department, or the Security Council). No matter to Palestinians, this is not news. Israel commits war crimes, the world condemns the actions and the US Administration gives Israel cover. This is a very old story. What is new, however, is the emerging self-initiated and self-determined response by Palestinians.

Resisting occupation, any occupation, is a very painful and complex process. The main parameters of resistance are military, political and psychological. The main parameters of an occupation are also military, political and psychological. Without question the most important goal of an occupying force is to create psychological states of hopelessness and helplessness so that people will give up and submit to being occupied. This has been the biggest dilemma for Israel and the military – no matter how much they kill, starve, torture, imprison and make life miserable, Palestinians continue to resist and survive. What makes the recent events in Gaza so extraordinary is that Palestinians have reached yet another level of resistance-- the psychological barrier to the physical presence of a wall or a border. Not even the existence of a physical wall can stop Palestinians from their right to be free.

Considering the level and intensity of recent Israeli brutality and the blockade of food, water, and medicine, the breach of the border with Egypt is extraordinary. Literally hundreds of thousands of Gazans streamed over the border, fearless and determined, to feed themselves and their families.

Without Fear—The Ultimate Freedom

After speaking with colleagues in Gaza during this time, it became very clear that a major historical moment was unfolding—a point of no return. Similar to the humiliating defeat of the Israeli military in the Summer of 2006 by a few hundred determined and fearless resistance fighters, the myth of Israeli invincibility and strength was being challenged and defeated again. The choice for Palestinians in Gaza was very simple---wait for the world to wake up and intervene or take matters into their own hands and survive. The choice was obvious. No fence, no wall, no barrier can deter a people yearning to be free and no Israeli government or military can stop Palestinians in Gaza from demanding their place on the planet--to live with dignity, to raise and protect their families, and feed their children. “What do we have to lose”, a friend of mine said. There is nothing to lose but the yoke of occupation.

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