On Friday, March 30, 2018, 30,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip began the Great Return March. Originally intended to be six weeks of sit-ins and demonstrations to demand their internationally recognized right of return to the villages they were displaced from in 1948, which lie just a few miles away on the other side of Israel’s prison fence, the protests have continued every Friday for more than a year.
As they exercise their right to protest, the Israeli military is meeting them with lethal and excessive force. Israeli military snipers positioned at the boundary were originally given shoot-to-kill orders, and continue to use live fire, expanding bullets, and unknown toxic gases on the demonstrators. As of April 30, 2019, OCHA OPT reports that the Israeli military has killed at least 202 Palestinians participating in the Great Return March and injured more than 31,500—disabling many for life.
According to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has a right to peaceful assembly and to return to their country. Moreover, the use of lethal force is illegal under international law except in cases of imminent threats to life. Though Human Rights Watch has asserted that Israel’s actions were “unlawful” and “calculated,” Israel thinks it can continue to act with impunity.
Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign assistance, receiving $3.8 billion in taxpayer-funded weapons each year. US laws are supposed to prevent these weapons from being used to commit human rights abuses. It is past time to end Israel’s impunity to using excessive force against Palestinians.
Palestinians have the right to protest without paying for it with their lives.
- Read Human Rights Watch’s “Gaza Killings Unlawful, Calculated“
- Read Amnesty International’s “Stop the use of lethal and other excessive force and investigate deaths of Palestinian protesters“
- Read Al Mezan Center for Human Rights’ “15 Palestinians Killed and 1,087 injured in the Gaza Strip“
Thank Members of Congress for speaking out by liking and sharing their social media posts
Killing protesters en masse, especially those who are peaceful and unarmed, is unacceptable, even for one of our country’s greatest allies. The United States of America does not stand for this at home or abroad. (4 of 4) #twill #chicago https://t.co/NizG2tfq1h— Luis V. Gutierrez (@RepGutierrez) May 16, 2018
I’m deeply disappointed in Ambassador Haley’s remarks and her decision to block a U.N. inquiry into the deaths in Gaza. An independent investigation is absolutely necessary when more than 100 people have been killed in protests. https://t.co/ncnkqRW4ca— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) May 16, 2018
Today’s @USEmbassyIsrael opening in Jerusalem & killing of dozens of Gaza protesters advances @netanyahu agenda of occupation & oppression of Palestinians. @realDonaldTrump policies are fueling conflict, abandoning diplomatic efforts to achieve peace. https://t.co/ec4v3iCHMT— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) May 14, 2018
52 Palestinians killed, and Netanyahu describes it as a “glorious day.” Even the staunchest supporters of Israel would be appalled by the moral obtuseness of that statement. He has hurt Israel’s case with American progressives more than any other Israeli leader in history.— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) May 14, 2018
The scene of violence and death in Gaza today is appalling. I urge restraint and the pursuit of peace.— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) May 14, 2018
In light of yesterday’s horrific violence in Gaza, in which more than 50 Palestinians were killed and more than 2000 wounded by Israeli snipers, it’s important to understand the desperate situation out of which these protests have arisen. pic.twitter.com/WLrlGxJKDo— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 15, 2018
The ability to peacefully advocate for change must be safeguarded as a human right & an essential element of democracy. The recent escalation of violence in Gaza is an alarming threat to that right & a damning commentary on @realDonaldTrump's policies. https://t.co/VWJhbFaHzl— Rep. Gwen Moore (@RepGwenMoore) May 15, 2018
We are shocked and dismayed by the lethal force used by Israeli troops against mostly unarmed Palestinian protestors demonstrating at Gaza's border. Read my full statement with @Repmarkpocan, @repraulgrijalva, @keithellison and @RepHankJohnson. pic.twitter.com/bKhJ8IOClP— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) May 15, 2018
I am deeply saddened by the horrific slaughter of at least 52 Palestinian protestors and injuries to thousands more by Israeli forces. No doubt this will spark claims that Israel has a right to defend itself — and it does. But this has nothing to do with defense.— Rep. John Yarmuth (@RepJohnYarmuth) May 14, 2018
The killing of 50+ and wounding of 1700+ Palestinians protesting the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is human rights catastrophe. President Trump’s reversal of long standing policy to settle this question according to U.N. resolution which the U.S. voted for...— Rep. Danny K. Davis (@RepDannyDavis) May 15, 2018
Israel needs to stop using live ammunition in its response to unarmed protesters in Gaza. It has resulted in over 50 dead and thousands seriously wounded.— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) May 14, 2018
The killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces in Gaza is tragic. It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 31, 2018
I am horrified by the tragic wounding & killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza last Friday. Attacks on peaceful Palestinian protesters must end, and the U.S. & the international community must do more to support a resolution to the conflict. https://t.co/gloUgvPmpD— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) April 2, 2018
Ahead of Friday's demonstrations, my colleagues and I are calling on protesters in Gaza to carry out their right to assembly nonviolently and urging Israeli soldiers to exercise utmost restraint and comply with international law. Full statement here ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/PS0D14NX0J— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) April 12, 2018
Deeply concerned about of the killings of peaceful Palestinian protests on Gaza border. The US and international community must come together immediately to put an end to this conflict and work to improve conditions for the people of #Gaza.https://t.co/BpQxQZjc0u— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 4, 2018
All human beings have a right to speak, assemble and protest, and nonviolent protest must be respected by all governments. Ahead of Friday’s planned protests in Gaza, calling on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to show maximum restraint and respect for nonviolent protesters.— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) April 18, 2018
5 Members of Congress, @repmarkpocan, @RepJayapal, @keithellison, @RepBarbaraLee, & @RepHankJohnson, released a statement calling on the Israeli military to refrain from using live fire on Palestinian demonstrators. #GreatReturnMarchhttps://t.co/AcPmhk5u1r— Palestinian Rights (@US_Campaign) April 13, 2018