Why Israel is running scared

Why Israel is running scared

What frightened Israel so much that it killed at least 17 unarmed Palestinians and injured hundreds more, who were among the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters gathering along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel last Friday? Scores of snipers were deployed and they had shoot-to-kill orders for any protester who dared come close to the heavily guarded border fence. But this was an entirely peaceful march, as was documented by journalists and TV stations. At no time during the event, marking 42 years since the first Land Day massacre of 1976, were the lives of Israeli soldiers under threat. 
The whole world saw how peaceful protesters, including women and children, were gunned down and attacked with tear gas canisters while hoisting Palestinians flags and vowing to one day return to their ancestral home.
The unprecedented event signaled the beginning of 45 days of symbolic marches and protests across the Occupied Territories that will culminate on May 15; a day that marks 70 years since the Nakba, or catastrophe, for Palestinians, and the birth of Israel. The two events will remain entwined so long as the Palestinians remain under Israeli occupation and are denied their right to self-determination and statehood.
 

The New York Times tried to whitewash Israel’s shame by alleging the Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers. But its shameless cover-up was quickly debunked by tens of activists, including Jews and Israelis.

Osama Al Sharif


Israel’s shameful reaction, which is tantamount to a war crime, underlines its fear that the Palestinian people have finally embraced a weapon of resistance that is more dangerous to Israel than Hamas’ rockets or the Palestinian Authority’s vow to seek recognition on the international stage. Peaceful protests, involving Palestinians of both genders and all ages, will become Israel’s worst nightmare. On Friday, the flags of various Palestinian factions were absent; the only flag that was hoisted was that of the state of Palestine. There were no armed militias in military uniforms, instead only young Palestinians saluting their usurped homeland across the deadly, barren divide. The symbolic message that tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians were able to send to the entire world on that day has shaken fortress Israel.
And the message was well received despite Israeli efforts to distort it. The New York Times tried to whitewash Israel’s shame by alleging the Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers. But its shameless cover-up was quickly debunked by tens of activists, including Jews and Israelis, on Twitter and Facebook. Videos of Palestinians being fired upon, including one showing a youth being shot in the back, went viral. A top Israeli Army Radio host, Kobi Meidan, was suspended after posting on Facebook that he was “ashamed to be Israeli” following the massacre.
Despite the false hubris expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Israel found itself isolated and humiliated. It could only hide behind the US, which blocked a UN Security Council statement that called for an independent inquiry.
Non-violent marches and protests — what one Israeli journalist called the Palestinians’ “new doomsday weapon” against occupation — are a form of resistance that will prove potent. The image of unarmed Palestinian protesters being targeted by occupation soldiers will do much damage to the asinine Israeli narrative that it is fighting terrorism and is in fact the victim. 
The non-violent protests have come as a gift to beleaguered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas leadership and they should embrace the movement. The Palestinian people have proved time and again they are willing to pay the ultimate price for their liberation. All they need is for their leadership to remain firm.

• Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. 
Twitter: @plato010.
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