Tommy Sheppard

MP for Edinburgh East

The Great Return March Protests

palestine

Since the 30th March Palestinians in Gaza have been peacefully protesting. They will continue until the 15th May - the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the name Palestinians have for the events that displaced them from their homes when Israel was created.

The protests are billed as the “Great Return March” to make the point that it’s time to leave Gaza and go back to where they came from. But try that and they will be shot. As of April 15th, 35 have already been killed and 1300 injured as Israeli soldiers fire live ammunition into unarmed demonstrators.

This is all happening on the Eastern edge of the Mediterranean. Only four hours away by plane – near places many of us have been on holiday. And the deaths and injuries are being caused, not by mistake, but by military instructions to soldiers who serve a country that wishes to be seen as a modern democracy.

Israeli army snipers do not always wait for young men to pick up stones before they shoot - journalists and children are amongst the dead. The use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters is both disproportionate and illegal.

The Israeli government blames Hamas for the demonstration and claims only Hamas supporters are being shot. Conveniently ignoring the fact that the protests were organised by young Gazans not affiliated to any party and that Hamas opposed them to start with.

And remember that the last time there were free elections Hamas won – so it’s hardly exceptional to be a Hamas supporter. I might not agree with them but supporting their political wing is certainly not justification for execution.

It appals me that this happens and the world ignores it. As Gideon Levy put it in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz “…How can we absolve ourselves, putting everything on Hamas and not be shocked for a moment at the sight of the blood of innocents…? This time the protest is not violent. Israel doesn’t see this either. It doesn’t see the whites of the protesters’ eyes, it doesn’t see them as human beings, it doesn’t see their despair; it doesn’t see the bitterness of their fate.”

And what is their fate? Two million people live in Gaza – a thin strip of land barely seven miles wide and 32 long. 80% are refugees or the family of refugees. From Gaza City many can see the towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod where some still have the keys to the houses they were born in.  They are angry - as anyone would be. But the demonstration along the fence is intended as - and mainly still is - a non-violent protest to attract the world's attention to their plight.

Since the Israelis ended their occupation of Gaza over ten years ago they have laid siege to it. An illegal Israeli blockade controls who and what can get in or out – and not much does.

Now the Gaza strip resembles a vast open-air prison. Food and medical supplies are low. Electricity is sparse. The infrastructure remains in ruins after 60 days of bombardment in 2014. Almost all of the drinking water is contaminated. The area is teetering on the verge of a terrible humanitarian crisis.

To draw attention to their plight, to ask the world for help, Gazans have protested at the fence which contains them. They have been killed for it and the world has stayed silent.

The siege on Gaza has to end. Israel should also end its military occupation and begin to negotiate a lasting settlement. This not only offers justice to the people of Palestine but it will ultimately be the thing that guarantees the security of Israel itself.

Written for Edinburgh Evening News 26th April 2018

SNP's structure could make the difference for #Sco...
Job Advert - Administrative Assistant

Related Posts

 

Comments

No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Guest
Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Tommy's Blog Articles

Tommy Sheppard
19 May 2018
Tommy's Blog
Okay I know that it’s probably not the best time to try to start a discussion about the monarchy. With a popular prince wedding his celebrity sweetheart in a lavish event resplendent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, it might be best for dissidents like myself to keep our republican heads below the parapet.Then again, with the nation’s attention focused on the royals because of the wedding, t...
Tommy Sheppard
02 May 2018
Tommy's Blog
Media
This is a piece about the SNP’s constitutional review. Exciting, huh? Well, maybe not, but important all the same.I know – at least I hope – no-one joins a political party to debate its internal structure. And set against debates on Indy, Brexit and the World War III this is unlikely to get anyone’s political juices flowing. People are motivated by ideas and feelings, powerful emotions that propel...
Tommy Sheppard
26 April 2018
Tommy's Blog
Media
Since the 30th March Palestinians in Gaza have been peacefully protesting. They will continue until the 15th May - the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the name Palestinians have for the events that displaced them from their homes when Israel was created.The protests are billed as the “Great Return March” to make the point that it’s time to leave Gaza and go back to where they came from. But try tha...
Tommy Sheppard
29 March 2018
Tommy's Blog
Policy
We need to change the law on drugs. In fairness, that’s always been my view. But until now I’ve done little about it as an MP. Why? Partly because there’s always been something I’ve felt was a greater priority – and partly because I know well how views can be distorted and used against people in public life.But that changes now. Three different events over the past few weeks have made me realise t...
Tommy Sheppard
28 March 2018
Tommy's Blog
My work for you in Westminster
Contributions

I asked the Minister if the government would require the Electoral Commission to disclose donations for parties in Northern Ireland from before 2015. This follows allegations of dark money from the Constitutional Research Council, which is linked to the Scottish Tories, to the DUP. As usual, no straight answer.