A Gaza march and rally in London in August 2014.

Since the beginning of Passover/Good Friday, tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians have participated in the Great March of Return, demanding the right to return to their ancestral homes and the ability to leave the besieged Gaza Strip.

Nearly two million people have been caged in Gaza since 2007, their economy and infrastructure shattered, with limited access to drinkable water and other basic necessities. Under these conditions, the UN has predicted that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020. As a Palestinian-Canadian woman from Gaza told Peter Larson of the Canada Talks Israel Palestine blog this week, Palestinians in Gaza are marching because they simply “want their children to breathe freedom.”

The Great March is a call to the world to stand in solidarity with justice and humanity for the Palestinians of Gaza. We are not being asked to choose between Palestinians and Israelis or between Muslims and Jews. We are being called to choose between justice and injustice.

This is a moment like Martin Luther King’s march in Birmingham, Alabama; like nine Black students walking into Little Rock High School; like Gandhi’s march to the sea to assert Indians’ rights to make their own salt; like Indigenous people camped at Standing Rock; like Jews rising in the Warsaw Ghetto; and like countless other history-changing moments when oppressed people put their bodies on the line non-violently, knowing they could face violence or death from their oppressors.

As in all these instances of resistance, the oppressors try to defend the legitimacy of the status quo, to characterize the resisters as trouble-making criminals, and to violently attack them. In this case, the Israeli government has responded by treating all the Great March demonstrators as Hamas terrorists who threaten Israel’s security. So far, IDF sharpshooters have killed 42 people, including one at today’s march and three children. The number of wounded is estimated by the United Nations to be more than 5000, with many now suffering from what Doctors without Borders has called “devastating injuries of unusual severity.” By contrast, not one Israeli has been killed or injured in relation to the demonstrations.

At this historic moment, we must stand with the marchers and mobilize in support of Palestinians putting their lives on the line for justice and their own humanity.

Diana Ralph co-founded Independent Jewish Voices and continues to serve on its Steering Committee. She is a retired social work professor and therapist.

Image: Garry Knight

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