Category Archives: Israel Defense Forces

US Mimics Israel at US-Mexico Border

No More War

My social media Facebook feed is overwhelmed with photos and messages of horror about the current actions of the U.S. military at the US-Mexico border.  Check out the story here, if you haven’t seen it.

We (I use that pronoun deliberately) have closed the border and we are now violently throwing tear gas canisters and shooting rubber bullets at men, women and children migrants.

Here are several videos of the migrants being attacked at the US-Mexico border.

I’m not shocked by Trump’s aggressive and violent response at the border, and neither should any American be shocked. We’ve been watching the same actions occurring at the fence (not border) separating Israel and the Gaza Strip since March of this year.

Israel, our best friend and ally in the Middle East, has deployed its military to the perimeter fence line shared with Gaza to shoot tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and live bullets at Palestinian men, women and children participating peacefully in the Great Return March. 

Palestinians have paid a great price for their call for life with dignity during mass protests held along Gaza’s boundary with Israel over the past eight months.

Some 180 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli occupation forces and nearly 6,000 others injured by live fire during the Great March of Return.


Altogether, a staggering 24,000 Palestinians have been injured during the Great March of Return protests – more than one percent of the territory’s population.

See Maureen Clare Murphy’s full article here.

Neither Trump nor the U.S. Congress has stood up to Israeli leaders and told them to stop this barbarity.  Trump probably thinks he has the tacit support of Congress for his deployment to the US-Mexico border.  The US and Israel are playing by the same playbook now. Americans shouldn’t be surprised.

I, for one, fully expect snipers to be deployed at the US-Mexico border. And I won’t be surprised when the U.S. military is deployed against Americans inside our country. This action today against the migrants in the South is only a precursor to future, more aggressive actions to support our nascent Fascist government.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel Defense Forces, People, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

Hate kills, we kill

Hate kills. Racists, bigots, anti-Semites, you and I kill.

We may not put our fingers on the trigger, but we must shoulder some responsibility for these killings. Until we do, they will continue, just like clockwork.

The names and ages of the most recent victims, killed within days of each other, are circulating on social media. #WeWillNeverForget

But we will forget; most of us with no connection to the victims will not be able to remember their names this time next year.

Gregory Bush

Gregory Alan Bush

Maurice E. Stallard (69) and Vickie Lee Jones (67) were both killed in Jeffersontown, Kentucky on Wednesday (October 24). Gregory A. Bush (51) has been arrested and the crime is being investigated as a hate crime. The innocent victims are black, the perp is white.

Robert Bowers

                       Robert Bowers

On Saturday (October 27), while praying in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joyce Fienberg (75), Richard Gottfried (65), Rose Mallinger (97), Jerry Rabinowitz (66), Cecil Rosenthal (59), David Rosenthal (54), Sylvan Simon (86), Bernice Simon (84), Daniel Stein (71), Melvin Wax (88) and Irving Younger (69) were shot and killed. Robert Bowers (46) faces 29 federal charges involving hate crimes punishable by death. He made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and targeted Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official.  (Watch CNN videos here.) The victims are innocent Jews, the perp is white.

The following day, Sunday (October 28), while playing near the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel, an Israeli airstrike killed three young Palestinian teenage boys. Khaled Bassam Mahmoud Abu Saeed (14), Abdul Hameed Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Zaher (13), and Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullah al-Sutari (13) “were apparently involved in placing an improvised explosive device” near the fence, the Israeli military said. Their parents deny that the boys were involved with any militant activities.

Succumbing to the “he said, she said” arguments about what these boys were doing on the Gaza side of the fence on Sunday distracts from the fact that an extrajudicial killing took the lives of three young teenage boys who posed no danger to the Israeli military monitoring the fence. The victims were innocent young Palestinians, the perp was likely a white Jewish member of the Israel Defense Force perhaps acting on orders from other white Jewish members of the IDF. Since I can’t show you a picture of the perp, I’ll share a photo of the victims in Gaza. 3 boys killed

These killings on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday have much in common, although Americans might not understand the similarities after watching the mainstream media.

Let me explain.

  1. All of the perps are filled with irrational hate and fear of the “other”.
  2. All of the victims are innocents caught up in a larger hate-filled narrative.

Most thoughtful Americans will easily acknowledge that the perps who killed the two Blacks in Kentucky and eleven Jews in Pennsylvania are deranged madmen — White Nationalists consumed with hatred and fear of the “other”. Clearly, Robert Bowers is an anti-Semite. Some may not be able to draw the connection between all three massacres because (1) the US mainstream media portrays the victims in Gaza differently from the victims in the US, and (2) feeling empathy for the “others” in Palestine may be more difficult than feeling empathy for Americans.

“But that Israeli fighter pilot wasn’t acting out of rage or hatred,” you might say. “Presumably he was carrying out orders from above.” 

Hatred and fear of the “other” is not limited to the individual who pulls the trigger, it can rear its ugly head at the highest levels of government.  Call it Trickle Down Hatred (TDH).

Eleven Jewish community leaders have said that Donald Trump is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he decides to “fully denounce white nationalism”, following a shooting in a synagogue on Saturday.

The group are all affiliated with the Pittsburgh branch of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership, a liberal movement made up of “tens of thousands” of progressive Jewish members across the US, according to its website.

“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the leaders said in an open letter to Mr Trump. See here.

Americans have been watching in horror as Trump’s hate-filled nationalistic rhetoric eggs on his base. The same has been occurring at the highest levels of government in the State of Israel. For many years, Israeli leaders have openly expressed their fear and hatred of Palestinians. They regularly talk about the perceived demographic threat where Palestinians outnumber Israelis, and condone actions designed to dehumanize the Palestinians on a daily basis, and even openly call for the death of Palestinians (eg. an Israeli minister calling for the death of Palestinian mothers who give birth to little snakes).

Naftali-Bennett

Naftali Bennett

Most recently, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s far right wing Minister of Diaspora Affairs, drew a parallel on Sunday evening between the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman and Hamas. (See here.)  Without any hesitation, Bennett casts Palestinians (ALL PALESTINIANS) as the “other,” a certain death sentence if a child is playing too near the fence.

 “Unequivocally I say that just as in Lebanon and Syria, those who cross the fence are shot. They are not 12-year-old children — they are terrorists. Those who launch balloons from Gaza must be shot . If we do not shoot them, they will multiply. We must put an end to it.”  (See here.)

The victims, whether Blacks and Jews in America or Palestinians in Gaza, represent the “other” that threatens the dominant narrative and must be eliminated. It makes absolutely no difference that a lone madman was the perp in two cases and the government of Israel sanctioned the perp’s airstrike in the third case. The same fear and hatred of the “other” motivated each of these killings.

“But how,” you might ask, “am I responsible for these hate-filled killings?” 

“I don’t hate Blacks or Jews, and I don’t have any feelings about those people in the Middle East.”

What is the opposite of hate?

Many will say it’s love, but I suggest that it’s really empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  And without empathy, we each run the risk of being complicit in the actions of those filled with hatred.

It takes real courage to empathize with another. I’m not Jewish, I’m not Black, I’m not a Palestinian. So at one level, I might think the hatred and violence perpetrated against them doesn’t touch me. Can I move beyond the superficial feelings of sympathy for these victims, and pull empathy from deep within my core? What does it take to fully and sincerely empathize with another?

  • Vulnerability — I must be honest with myself and recognize my prejudices, biases and blind-spots. I’m not the epitome of acceptance, love and understanding that I might wish to cloak myself in. This may be the hardest part of nurturing an empathetic soul.
  • Inquisitiveness — I must be willing to question myself and others, to learn from others, to pay attention, and to continually reassess what I think I know about the “other”.
  • Stepping into the shoes of the other — I will never be Black or Jewish or a Palestinian, but making the attempt to understand and experience the world in their shoes is important and a necessary step for building the empathetic soul. At a minimum, it requires respect for the other.

I believe the atrocities we are witnessing in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Gaza and elsewhere can be directly linked to mankind’s undeveloped empathy for the “other.” We may know how to put a man on the moon, but we haven’t evolved sufficiently to put ourselves in the place of the “other.”

And if you believe that the connections I’ve drawn between the victims in the three tragedies described above, are somehow a false equivalency, then I suggest you go back to step one and make yourself vulnerable to learn about the Palestinians and the horrific events occurring there daily with our tax dollars.

“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands

speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“It’s complicated!”

The two magical words — “It’s complicated!”

They diminish any inquiry or argument; they absolve the need for an explanation; they give a convenient pass for the rest of us to remain ignorant; and they obfuscate rather than enlighten.

The next time you hear — “It’s complicated!” — be offended and push hard for the explanation.  

You might hear that climate change is complicated, leading to feelings of despair and disempowerment.

I most frequently hear — “It’s complicated!” — with the topic of the Middle East and Gaza.

Why is Israel confining 2 million Palestinians in the largest open air prison in the world, preventing them from traveling, and enforcing a 12 year economic siege against them that has resulted in de-development of the Gaza Strip?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are Palestinians of every age and background spontaneously rising up and participating in the #GreatReturnMarch every Friday, risking death and dismemberment?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are Israeli sharpshooters stationed at the Gaza fence killing unarmed protesters, medics, journalists and children every Friday like clockwork?  “It’s complicated!”

Why are the parents of these young children allowing them to join the #GreatReturnMarch?  “It’s complicated!”

NONE OF IT IS COMPLICATED.  It’s actually very simple.

Israel removed its Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and created the open-air prison for the Palestinian refugees there because it’s easier to dehumanize, control and kill the “other” when they are physically separated from us.  We have experience with that methodology from the Warsaw Ghetto. “It’s simple!”

In 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020.  Since then, Israel has launched two military operations against Gaza in 2012 and 2014, killing thousands, maiming tens of thousands, and destroying the infrastructure and key economic sectors in the Gaza Strip. Gaza is unlivable today (2018). That’s why Palestinians of every age and background are spontaneously rising up and participating in the #GreatReturnMarch every Friday, risking death and dismemberment. “It’s simple!”

Israeli sharpshooters are killing Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza fence every Friday because they have received orders to shoot to kill, in clear violation of international law. There have been no reprecussions. No one has been held accountable.  “It’s simple!”

Why are parents allowing their children to join the #GreatReturnMarch? Rather than blame the victims, the question needs to be clearly recentered — why are Israeli sharpshooters killing children? Let’s not obfuscate the facts and absolve the perpetrators of this gross inhumanity.

We need leaders with moral clarity who will speak the simple truth as Representative Betty McCollum is doing with her bill to protect the human rights of Palestinian children held in military detention by Israel.  (H.R. 4391)

We need soldiers in every battlefield telling us the simple truth.

And we need to keep our hearts and minds open to be able to hear the truth.  It’s not complicated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

US police violence: the Israeli connection

Anyone questioning the horrific instances of police shootings in the U.S. (most recently in Dallas when a white police officer shot and killed a black man in his own apartment), must be asking themselves “why?”  Why is law enforcement trigger happy, especially with people of color? Why is law enforcement often dressed in military garb, brandishing military-style weapons, and using excessive force with peaceful protesters?

APD police

Albuquerque Police Department officers 2011

If you don’t know what I’m talking about —- you are undoubtedly white and living in an upscale neighborhood.

Mapping police violence in the U.S. provides a startling visual, but the numbers alone are nauseating. The Washington Post’s searchable database shows that as of August 30, 2018, the police have killed 707 people. And the stats clearly demonstrate that U.S. law enforcement has a much higher number of police shootings compared to their peers in other countries.  Much higher.  Off the charts.

The reasons behind this police violence are numerous and complicated, but one factor may certainly be the training that U.S. law enforcement agencies receive in Israel.

A new report released in September 2018 (Deadly Exchange -The Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel) highlights the old and well-established practice of joint law enforcement training between the US and Israel.

September 12, 2018 – From the acting Deputy Director of ICE to the current Chief of Police in Washington DC, from San Diego to Chicago to Atlanta, since 2002 thousands of American law enforcement officials have trained in Israel with Israeli police, military and the Shin Bet. And thousands more have participated in security conferences and workshops with Israeli military, law enforcement and security officials held in the U.S. But despite their branding as top-tier counter-terrorism experts, Israeli police and security agents regularly violate civil rights, and implement racist and deadly policies.

This is not new.

In 2016, I wrote about LEEP (Law Enforcement Exchange Program) (see earlier blog post here).  I had asked the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission whether any of the APD officers were receiving joint training with their counterparts in Israel. As expected, I didn’t get an answer, and I never followed up with the promised FOIA request.

Now I have the answer.

Deadly-Exchange-Front-Cover-Mockup

In April 2011, the city of Albuquerque sent APD officers to Israel to learn from counter-terrorism experts. (See here.)

The intensive program incorporated formal presentations and briefings with site visits around the country to areas that have borne witness to terror attacks. They learned how Israel has prevented and responded to suicide bombings and terrorist attacks and how the nation protects its airports, shopping malls, and public events.

This searchable database shows which US law enforcement agencies have trained with Israeli law enforcement. The New Mexico State Police have also trained in Israel.

The State Police of New Mexico is among the departments that have sent delegates to Israel. Carlos Maldonado served as Chief of New Mexico State Police between 2003 and 2006. Chief Maldonado attended a training in Israel with JINSA as a delegate of the LEEP program in 2005.

New Mexico State Police is also one of the departments that uses Israeli private-sector technology. Private Israeli security firms have contracts with both public and private security sectors. One of the private security companies that transfer technology to US police departments is the Israel-based Cellebrite. Cellebrite is a “mobile forensics” firm that manufactures data extraction, transfer and analysis devices for cellular phones and mobile devices for law enforcement, military and intelligence, and corporate customers.

The department spent $33,389.92 to crack into phones using Israeli tech firm Cellebrite, according to public record requests by Motherboard. New Mexico State Police uses Cellebrite’s technology to bypass phone passwords and security mechanisms to retrieve call logs, text messages, and in some cases even deleted data.

So if you thought the ongoing, daily violence perpetrated by the Israeli security and military on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has no relevance to Americans who have never set foot outside of the U.S. — think again.

CASE STUDY: On a police training exchange in Israel, the Boston Police Commissioner visited Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where he learned about Israel’s passenger screening process, including racial and ethnic profiling of passengers. Shortly after, Boston’s Logan airport became the first American airport to pioneer the Israeli inspired Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. Years later, SPOT not only came under fire for being ineffective and wasteful, but also for facilitating discriminatory racial profiling at airports around the country.

Revealed: Deputy Director of ICE was sent for training with the Israeli military.

CASE STUDY: Developed by Israeli police and manufactured by the Israeli company Odortec, “Skunk” is a foul-smelling liquid designed to cause nausea and linger for days when sprayed at high pressure onto protesters at demonstrations. Based on its proven effectiveness against Palestinian protests – particularly in West Bank village demonstrations against the Apartheid Wall – the American company Mistral Security began selling Skunk to U.S. police departments, including the St. Louis Metropolitan Police, following the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

 

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Stop talking about the “border”

We have a right to defend ourselves” just as any other sovereign nation, proclaims Israel’s leaders as they give the order to use lethal force against peaceful protesters on the other side of the fence with Gaza.

Whether Israel is correct depends on two things:

(1) Does international human rights law apply to these facts or international humanitarian law (rules of war)? The question has been presented to Israel’s High Court of Justice.

Michael Lynk, the special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, said the killings on Monday reflected a “blatant excessive use of force by Israel” and likened them to “an eye for an eyelash.”

Mr. Lynk said that protesters appeared to pose no credible threat to Israeli military forces on the Israeli side. Under humanitarian law, he said, the killing of unarmed demonstrators could amount to a war crime, and he added that “impunity for these actions is not an option.”

(2) Is the fence between Gaza and Israel an international border or a fence separating two groups of people who each claim sovereignty over their territory?

You would be excused if you erroneously thought the fence was an international border because much of the mainstream media has adopted Israel’s framing of the issue.  Israel wants us to believe it has a border with Gaza; that since its withdrawal in 2005 the Gaza Strip is no longer occupied territory; and the fence represents an inviolable demarcation between Israel and “those people we prefer to call Arabs, not Palestinians.”

If Israel’s argument was correct, then the right to defend that border might have some merit, leaving aside the important issues of “Right of Return” and method of defense.

However, we succumb to Israel’s narrative at the expense of jettisoning the law of belligerent occupation, international humanitarian law and the facts that led to the establishment of Israel 70 years ago.

israel_palestine_conflict

The current borders of the State of Israel are a result of war and of diplomatic agreements. The borders with Jordan and Egypt have been confirmed by peace treaties. The border with Lebanon resulted from the 1949 Armistice Agreement.  The borders with Syria and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have never been settled. In fact, Israeli Legislators have been passing laws to unilaterally extend Israel’s sovereignty into the West Bank, and they claim they no longer occupy the Gaza Strip. The U.N. and the international community have not recognized Israel’s unilateral pronouncements.

It’s time the mainstream media got the facts straight. Words matter.

Since the State of Israel does not have an internationally recognized border with the Palestinians in Gaza, the actions of both the Israeli military and the Palestinian protesters take on a significantly different cast.

The Palestinians are not trying to cross an inviolable border but rather exercising their Right of Return enshrined in Resolution 194 adopted by the United Nations on December 11, 1948.

The Israeli military is not protecting its sovereign border but rather killing unarmed protesters that have been caged in the world’s largest open air prison.

29425644_419847478469077_7507957825339916288_n

The State of Israel may have superior military weapons, thanks in large measure to American taxpayers, but we should not capitulate to Israel’s false narrative.

There is no internationally recognized border between Israel and Gaza. It’s just a fence; actually two fences.  The New York Times is beginning to set the record straight. (May 16, 2018)

 

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Media, People, Uncategorized, United Nations

Shooting fish in a barrel

Life is unbearable in Gaza. It’s been unlivable for years for the 2+ million Palestinians trapped there, but now it’s at the breaking point. Many (most?) feel there’s nothing to lose by going to the eastern border and facing down the Israeli marksmen who are shooting them like fish in a barrel. Today 55+ Palestinians have been killed (including a journalist, a medic and a Palestinian with no legs) and hundreds wounded for demanding their rights enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194.

Less than 100 miles away in Jerusalem, Netanyahu and others are in a celebratory mood as the U.S. flag is raised over the new U.S. Embassy. They don’t even acknowledge the slaughter occurring in Gaza.

Gaza slaughter

I’ve called my two U.S. Senators (Udall and Heinrich) and Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham, demanding that they condemn the slaughter of innocent, unarmed Palestinians. I want them to join the other members of Congress who have spoken out against the killing and maiming of unarmed protesters, including: Senators Feinstein, Warren, Leahy and Sanders; as well as the following House members:

Barbara Lee (CA 13)
Alan Lowenthal (CA 47)
Lloyd Doggett (TX 35)
Hank Johnson (GA 04)
Danny Davis (IL 07)
Jan Schakowsky (IL 09)
John Yarmuth (KY 03)
Jamie Raskin (MD 08)
Keith Ellison (MN 05)
Betty McCollum (MN 04)
David Price (NC 04)
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ 12)
Earl Blumenauer (OR 03)
Steve Cohen (TN 09)
Gerry Connolly (VA 11)
Peter Welch (VT 1)
Mark Pocan (WI 02)
Pramila Jayapal (WA 07).

My eyes are now focused on Udall, Heinrich and Lujan-Grisham.  I’m going to hound them until they come clean with a statement condemning Israel’s slaughter of innocents.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/269659083″>Voices of the Siege</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3079357″>The Palestine Chronicles</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, nonviolent resistance, People, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

Building a case for the ICC

The Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (Fatou Bensouda) warned Israel in early April that it might be subject to prosecution for the crimes committed against the protesters at the #GreatReturnMarch.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

I remind all parties that the situation in Palestine is under preliminary examination by my Office. While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my Office’s scrutiny. This applies to the events of the past weeks and to any future incident.

I am aware that the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip are planned to continue further. My Office will continue to closely watch the situation and will record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force. I urge all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this tragic situation.

Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. The resort to violence must stop.

Israel clearly and boldly says it will not investigate the deaths attributed to its sharpshooters who are picking off Palestinians (young, old, men and women, and journalists) inside the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s decision not to investigate is important to note because of the principle of complementarity.

‘Complementarity’ is a fundamental principle on which the functioning of the International Criminal Court is based. Under the Rome Statute, which established the Court, the ICC can only exercise its jurisdiction where the State Party of which the accused is a national, is unable or unwilling to prosecute.

Israel, it appears, is inviting the ICC to assume jurisdiction in this case. Alhamdulillah!

Now, the ICC Prosecutor must do more than merely threaten, she must follow through with an independent investigation of the actions on both sides of the fence. The killings by IDF sharpshooters (40 dead, 5,511 wounded as of April 25) have been documented on video and there are numerous eyewitnesses whose testimony must be preserved.

I’ve been searching online for evidence of violence from the Palestinian side of the fence and haven’t found anything beyond burning tires and rocks. The protesters have been peaceful and have not posed any threat to the well-armed IDF sharpshooters.  The ICC Prosecutor’s investigation must be thorough and independent. I hope Israel will cooperate and turn over any evidence it might have regarding the protesters.

Palestinian youth are documenting what’s going on from the Gaza side of the fence, such as this piece from We Are Not Numbers.

While Israel and some Western media label Gaza Palestinians’ ongoing, six-week protest a “riot,” what visitors and participants see on the ground is completely different. The tire and (Israeli) flag burning that may seem “riotous” to some are actually carefully planned by a coordinating committee to obscure the vision of Israeli snipers (the former) and serve as a peaceful outlet for frustration and anger (the latter). And while those activities are occurring on the front lines of the border protest, the “Great Return March” (so-named because of the desire of the refugees in Gaza to return to the homes they were forced to evacuate in 1948), also is hosting many family-oriented cultural celebrations. On any given day, you may encounter women cooking Bedouin bread, young men dancing dabka and children flying kites.

“By including cultural activities in the Great Return March, we send a reminder message to the world that we will never forget our heritage and customs, which remind us of home,” says organizer Ahmed Abu Ertima. “At the same time, these cultural demonstrations show we are peaceful in the demand for our rights.”

Thousands of Gaza families take their children and head off to the border to participate in the Great Return March every day, raising the Palestinian flag and chanting the event’s motto, “We have the right to return to our ancestral land.” They sit on the ground, in sight of stolen lands just a few hundred meters away, while listening to their elders’ tales about their ancestral villages and towns.

Justice and the rule of law require that the ICC Prosecutor follow through with her investigation and prosecution.

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