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March For Gaza in Buffalo

By: Richard L. Polley II WNY Peace Center along with the University at Buffalo’s group, Students for Justice in Palestine ...

By: Richard L. Polley II

WNY Peace Center along with the University at Buffalo’s group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), organized and held a protest to “Free Palestine” Friday, May 25, 2018. The protest is in response to the killing and wounding of many Palestine’s peacefully protesting on the Gaza Israeli border.

As of Thursday March 24, 112 protesters have been killed since the demonstration start over a month ago, said spokesperson Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra  of Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. 

As you approach the Niagara Square you can hear faint shouting in the distance coupled with occasional honk of a horn. The group of protesters marched around Niagara Square in Buffalo, at the front of City Hall. The estimated 100-120 protesters often chanted “Free Free Palestine” as they marched with signs, flags and banners. Often small Palestinian flags emerged from windows of cars driving in the traffic circle. 

“I am here to recognize what is going on is Palestine, more importantly it has been going on for the past 70 years,” said SPJ President, Rula Masoud.

Masoud worked closely with WNY Peace Center Executive Director, Victoria Ross, to organize the protest.

“Sitting down and finding solutions to share land and to share resources is the only way to build any peace,” said Ross, a solution can be found, but it can’t be if people are just going to shoot first and ask questions later.

Monday March 14th, was one of the bloodiest days in Gaza reported the New York Times. Demonstrations have been held for over a month in Gaza to protest Israel’s economic blockade of it. Protests have also occurred in the West Bank, however those were more focused on the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Many Palestinians worry that this may lead to Israel controlling the holy city completely, even with international favor the world over on the side of the Palestinians.

Israeli troops used rubber bullets as a deterrent, but military officials say they are effective only at short range. The Israeli government allows it’s soldiers to use live ammunition as a last resort and is instructed to aim at people’s ankles or legs. Over 1,350 protestors have been wounded from these tactics alone.

On March 18th, B’Tselem, a leading Israeli human rights organization, criticized the military’s use of lethal force, saying that the demonstrations were no surprise and that Israel had “plenty of time to come up with alternate approaches.”

New York Times reporters stated that, “Israel has stirred widespread international anger over the use of lethal force against mostly unarmed Palestinian protesters, which on Monday [May 14th] produced the biggest one-day toll of Palestinians killed by Israelis since Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza.”

Hamas officials promised that the protests would continue. Khalil al-Hayya, Deputy Chief of Hamas in Gaza, said at a news conference that the purpose of these demonstrations is to “powerfully confront the embassy deal” and to “draw the map of return in blood.”

The attempts to breach the Israeli border fence by Palestinians expanded from five locations in previous protests to 13, Israel Defense Forces’ Colonel Jonathan Conricus said, calling it an “unprecedented level of violence.”

In retaliation, he said, Israeli jets struck five targets in a Hamas military training facility in the northern Gaza Strip, and two other Hamas military positions in the area were hit by an aircraft and a tank.

“Israel has made clear throughout the protests that it holds Hamas responsible for any violence emanating from Gaza, and Colonel Conricus made no apologies for the one-sided body count,” New York Times reporters wrote, “The timing is no accident — May 15 is observed by Palestinians as the anniversary of what they call the nakba, or catastrophe. It marks the expulsion or flight from the newly formed Jewish state of hundreds of thousands of Arabs in 1948, who have been unable to return or reclaim property they left behind.”

The demonstrations at the Gaza fence have taken place primarily on Fridays since March 30.

Tom Miles from Reuter wrote, “Israel railed against the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday [May 18] as it voted to set up a probe into recent killings in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force. The resolution to send a commission of inquiry to investigate was rejected by the United States and Australia, but backed by 29 members of the 47-state U.N. forum. Another 14 countries, including Britain, Germany and Japan, abstained.”

“It’s not fair that everything has to be hidden,” said Masoud , “they are literally committing war crimes.”

Kuwait, current member of the U.N. Security Council, tried May 14th to have the Council issue a statement expressing outrage at the killings and sought an independent investigation. The statement was blocked by the U.S., stating it was one-sided and faulting it for not mentioning the incitement of violence by Hamas, wrote Times of Israel staff.

Kuwait also submitted a draft resolution calling for the deployment of an international force to protect the civilian population of Palestine, to lift restriction of movement, and the unconditional opening of crossing points to allow humanitarian aid in.

“Kuwait’s dangerous draft resolution only reinforces Hamas’s terror regime that oppresses and threatens the residents of Gaza and the security of Israeli citizens,” Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon said, “Do not lend a hand to support Hamas’s terrorism.”

Ross would disagree saying, “The U.N. is in a position to arbitrate better than anyone else.”