This post is also available in: Italian
At this very moment (2pm local time, April, 7), the funeral of the last victims of Israeli gunfire is taking place here in Gaza. Yesterday’s slaughter showed the world how Tel Aviv, confident of its impunity, intends to stop the people of Gaza from peacefully protesting against Israeli occupation of their land. And yet their right to return has been recognized by UN resolutions! Alas – in spite of its name and charter – the UN remains a timid organization; when confronting Israel, it limits itself to expressing generic reproaches and generally does so after the facts.
Anyone with a smattering of law knows that without sanctions, norms loose their effectiveness. UN officials know this perfectly well, of course, and, in fact, do apply sanctions – even for the violation of a single resolution – when dealing with other nations. But not when it comes to Israel, which has violated dozens of resolutions, practically all those concerning it directly. These repeated violations without sanctions have, in turn, contributed to discrediting the United Nations, which to many people seems like a trained bear: despite its size and strength, it dances to the tune set by its trainer.
This is the gift Israel that has given to the world: the discredit of the United Nations. Brought about by Israel’s intent to eliminate the Palestinians instead of recognizing their right to return to their home.
Yesterday, the second Friday of the “Great Return March”, the Israeli army injured a thousand more peaceful demonstrators and killed at least seven of them. The number could increase even as we write, because it seems that some of the bullets used are of the forbidden butterfly type. But this is not a problem for an army which used white phosphorus to burn alive a large number of children in its most recent large-scale military aggression against the Palestinian people.
Yaser Muntaja, the young Palestinian journalist killed yesterday while filming the march in Khuza’a, near Khan Younis, seems to have been one more victim of butterfly bullets: he was shot in the abdomen by one, or so they tell us at the European Gaza Hospital where they tried to save the young man’s life, without success.
Yaser was wearing an official PRESS jacket and was therefore easily recognizable. So, what happened? Here in Gaza many people are convinced that jackets with writing on them actually attract the attention of Israeli snipers. We do not know if this is true, but we do know how much Israel fears an unfiltered account of the facts, capable of contradicting the Official Versions that the international media dutifully repeat without checking, versions in which Israel is portrayed as the victim and the Palestinians as the aggressors or, at best, versions portraying both sides as equally aggressive. This latter misrepresentation is characteristic of Italian media in particular.
Italy’s major newspapers and tv channels have no envoys in the Gaza Strip, so the “news” they provide has not been witnessed or verified on the spot, but rather expresses opinions often at odds with what witnesses on the spot – like the young journalist Yaser Muntaja – have seen and reported through social media.
Other Palestinian journalists have been wounded as well, although visibly wearing PRESS jackets, and this reinforces the hypothesis that such jackets make the bearer a target, instead of protecting him. The large white letters spelling out “press” are clearly visible even through the black smoke of the tires, burned by the thousands as a defensive tactic by the demonstrators.
Just two days ago we saw the demonstrators at Khuza’a manifesting an incredible determination to resist – the same we observed later on in the evening during the get togethers in the Great March camps. And it was in Khuza’a, a town massacred beyond all words during the 2014 Israeli aggression, that the voice of one more journalist – undoubtedly considered a threat precisely because he was such a capable and credible eye witness – was put to silence.
This Friday our on-the-spot reporting has brought us to Al Breji, Nusseirat, in the central area of the Strip, where the occupying army made martyrs of five Gazans last week and two yesterday, in addition to wounding 118 others. What we have seen is what countless photos taken by social workers and posted on social media have shown: the incredibly courageous defensive tactics used by the Gazans to limit the ability of the Israeli snipers to shoot. Large groups of young men and women, partly shielded by the tire smoke previously produced, would approach the border as close as possible, about three hundred feet away (the length of a football field), and there they would set fire to hundreds of tires. Behind them, at a distance equivalent to a couple of city blocks, thousands of Great March demonstrators remained camped out, cheering the youths on, peacefully and almost festively. At times the Israeli tear gas would pass through the smoke curtain and reach the camp. Fortunately, the children present had been given handmade masks to wear since the new gases used by the Israeli army are deadly if inhaled massively and without protection: they cause strange convulsions that the doctors at Shifa Hospital have not yet found a way to cure.
Incredibly the whole day unfolded as though it was some kind of festival. The campers chanted and sang outside their tents, each of which bears name of one of the Gazan villages that the Israeli army has destroyed. The campers were surrounded by the black smoke produced by the tires, the white smoke coming from the teargas grenades, the sounds of rifle shots fired by the snipers, the screaming sirens of the ambulances taking the wounded away. It was meant to be a solemn and touching commemoration of last Friday’s martyrs, yet a festive one: there were stalls with falafels, lupins and hazelnuts to eat, other stalls and carts with fresh fruit and coffee; there was music in the air and, for the children, a clown who showed them how to wear the makeshift anti-gas masks. Finally, there was something that Western readers may find incredible: an itinerant barber. Yes, at the Great March for the Right to Return Home, you could also sit down and get your hair cut. Behind the barber’s folding chair hung a sign with his name and prices. The barber’s nonchalance – as he trimmed his clients’ hair amid the smoke, gas and gunshots – made us smile… That is, until an Israeli teargas canister came crashing into our windshield (who knows how it reached us, given our distance from the line of fire).
“How can the Israelis possibly nurture any illusions about defeating such a people!” I asked myself, sweeping the glass debris away. “Forget the nut stalls, the coffee cart and even the clown – but the barber, no, that was too much. Either the Israelis kill off everyone here or they will never win!”
After sunset, hoping that the Israeli army will retire, we go to the Al Aqsa hospital, where the ambulances in the central area have carried the wounded. We see a shoe on the ground, covered with blood. They tell us it is the shoe of one of the two Gazans who did not survive this week. He had been brought to the hospital on a stretcher, under a sheet already encrusted with blood, and his body had been jostled by the frantic gait of the stretcher bearers. And so his shoe had fallen off. When you die, your foot shrinks and so you can easily lose a shoe.
Here everyone runs, both outside and inside the hospital. Many are volunteers. Others are just like the volunteers, despite being hospital employees, because they no longer get a salary. This is due to the recent cuts in funding for UNRWA and also because of the punitive policy of Ramallah after the staged assassination attempt.
The nurses and doctors here, whether paid or not, try to do everything they can to reduce the damage that the Israeli snipers have inflicted on the bodies brought to them. The gun wounds almost seem scientifically placed: for example, right in the center of the pelvis, resulting in the removal or functional reduction of the genital apparatus. Or right in the most critical part of the legs, the kneecaps in particular, causing permanent invalidity. We find it hard to believe that the snipers had taken deliberate aim at these vital parts, we are simply reporting what the medical staff has told us. We didn’t discuss the point then and there: what we saw around us was simply too depressing for talk. Like the man who learned that both legs had to be amputated, or the young man in a pharmaceutical coma with both a pelvis and a leg wound and on the point of death, or the father of six children who knows his leg wound has made him disabled for life, or the young man hit in the liver by a bullet that tore through his body from one side to the other, or the boy who does not know whether he will ever leave the hospital but who manages to put on a smile and say “shukran”, that is, “thank you”, for the support our presence as Italian journalists seems to show him.
Out of compassion we do not tell him that our government, as most Western governments, is an accomplice of Israel; we simply say that there are indeed many people in the West who know what is happening in Palestine and who are by his side. The doctors also thank us for our support and we do not have the heart to tell them that our gestures of solidarity are not those of our government and not even of our people but only of a certain number of persons who have managed to see though the pro-Israeli narrative that dominates Western mainstream media and who feel solidarity with the Palestinians in their struggle. We prefer explaining things more precisely at another time.
But what to say to the families of the deceased, gathered in the hospital? We cannot find the right words but fortunately we have a skillful interpreter who conveys, in heartfelt Arabic, what, in English, would have sounded like a conventional expression of sympathy. We leave and hope that our Internet connection will last all night and allow us to upload the videos and photos to show the world what a truly festive day could have looked like if only international law was applied in Palestine, instead of the law of the jungle.
As we leave, our eyes fall once more on that bloodstained shoe. It’s a gym shoe, almost new. The young idealist who wore it became a martyr today, like Yasser, the journalist killed yesterday in Khuza’a or like Mohammed, the young sculptor killed last Friday. Or like all the other martyrs of this Great March for the Right to Return Home, who, overcoming their fears, have stood defiantly unarmed before a heavily armed and ruthless enemy, calling on a distracted world to awaken.
Traslation from italian by Patrick Boylan