Colonialism exposed as Gaza resists and protests
Colonialism - the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country or people, occupying it with temporary or permanent settlers, and exploiting it economically or otherwise, not allowing the colonized to gain citizenship or determine their own fate, present or future.
The Great March of Return at the Gaza border in May 2018 brought into stunning focus the current realities undergirding the new IPMN study guide, Why Palestine Matters, The Struggle to End Colonialism.
The split screen US television coverage on May 14, 2018 featured the spectacular drama of colonialism unfolding in real time, with a terrible contrast:
On screen #1, the US administration celebrated moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and unilaterally and in contravention of international law, recognized the contested city as Israel's capital.
On screen #2, unarmed and mostly non-violent protesters ran for cover in Gaza as tear gas rained down and Israeli snipers took aim at them.
The whole world watched the unabashed arrogance with horror as the powerful did as they pleased at the expense of the powerless. Reminiscent of the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 in South Africa, nonviolent demonstrations turned deadly, as Israeli snipers with orders of ‘shoot to kill’ quickly killed dozens of Palestinians, and shot at thousands more in the days to come.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
What is the Gaza strip?
The Gaza Strip is a narrow strip of Palestinian territory along the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Just 25 miles long and six miles wide, the tiny coastal enclave is one of the most densely populated places on earth and is home to approximately 1.9 million people, mostly refugees who trace their displacement to the creation of Israel in 1948.
What is Land Day?
The date of the Great March marked what Palestinians call Land Day which began as a 1976 protest of Israel’s Â appropriation of Palestinian land in the Galilee, inside Israel. Six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were protesting the land grab were shot and killed by Israeli border patrol. Since then, March 30 is commemorated as Land Day annually for a continuing, nonviolent fight for the land. The Â six-week nonviolent protest in 2018 began on Land Day.
How is it colonialism?
- Israel maintains control of Gaza’s borders, airspace, and sea access, upheld through military incursions. Gaza’s economy is captive to Israel.
- Israel is responsible under international law for the welfare of Gaza’s population and controls everything that enters or leaves.
- Israel is the controlling power and exemplifies the worst kind of colonial overlord in modern times.
- The people are ‘subjects’ under the control of Israel but can never achieve citizenship.
Isn’t Hamas to blame?
Contrary to popular opinion, Hamas was not the originator of The Great March of Return. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has catalyzed Palestinian civil society there to action. The groups organizing the March include vibrant social groups and organizations, women’s organizations, trade unions, youth organizations, sports clubs, etc. They have decided to march to the fence at the ‘border’ to demand their Right of Return.
What is the purpose of The Great March of Return?
As is their right by international law, Palestinians have developed a robust and long-standing tradition of non-violent resistance. A current example of non-violent resistance, the 2018 Great March of Return intent was to highlight:
- the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘Catastrophe’ referring to the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land in 1947 and 1948 when Israel declared itself to be a Jewish state in historic Palestine.
- the Palestinian Right of Return, a right enshrined in international law according to UN Resolution 194. Israel has never allowed Palestinian refugees to return but maintains the right of any Jewish person from anywhere in the world to.
What are the casualty numbers for 2018 protests?
As of June 3, 2018, Israeli soldiers have:
- killed 121 Palestinians, and injured over 14,000
- snipers alone killed 13 Palestinian children and injured 2,096 others, including 1,029 women
- 332 of the wounded Palestinians suffered life-threatening injuries
- 3,422 suffered moderate wounds 9,436 suffered mild injuries
- 5,572 suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation.
source for casualty figures:
Why are the Palestinians in Gaza protesting?
More than 50 years of occupation and 10 years of blockade have made the lives of 1.9 million Palestinians living inside the Gaza Strip unbearable. That is why they are now protesting and risking their lives. ~Norwegian Refugee Council
1.9 million people are confined
Gaza is described by many Palestinians and humanitarian actors as the world’s largest open-air prison, where 1.9 million Palestinians live behind a blockade and are refused access to the other occupied Palestinian areas and the rest of the world.
7 out of 10 are refugees
Most Gazans come from families who were forced to leave their villages in 1948. Many have also been forced to leave their homes due to war and violence. Four years after the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2014, 23,500 Palestinians in Gaza are still unable to return to their homes.
700 children have been killed
The oldest children in Gaza have lived through three wars that have killed more than 3,800 Palestinians. More than 700 of these were children. Many children have seen family members, relatives, friends or others be killed or seriously injured.
50% are traumatized by war
Half of all children have been psychologically traumatized by war, occupation and blockade. Close to 300,000 children need psychosocial help.
70% of all schools run double shifts
Close to 70 per cent of all schools run double or triple shifts due to a lack of schools. In addition, lack of electricity reduces the students' chance to learn or do homework. The blockage also stops young people from studying on the West Bank or abroad. According to the UNRWA, the UN's organization for Palestinian refugees, the large cuts in donations from the US may lead to the organization being unable to deliver diesel to 275 schools. These schools may be forced to close down if other countries do not contribute.
The people in Gaza face the world's largest unemployment rate. 42 percent of the capable, adult population stand without compensated work. For those between 15 and 29 years old, the unemployment rate has risen to 62 percent. Today, the people in Gaza are 25 percent poorer than they were when the first part of the Oslo agreement was signed in 1993.
84% are in need of humanitarian aid
1.6 million, or 84 percent, of the population in Gaza need humanitarian aid. The number is increasing, and the UN calculate that more than two million people will need humanitarian aid by 2020.
41% have too little food
4 out of 10 families struggle to acquire enough food. In Gaza, more than 830,000 Palestinians need assistance in the form of food or nutritional supplements. According to UNRWA, the UN's organization for Palestinian refugees, the large cuts in funding from the US will cause the UN to have to reduce food support. Most of those who will be affected are already living below the poverty line.
98% of ground water is undrinkable
98 percent of the water in Gaza is contaminated and undrinkable. Gaza had beautiful beaches, but every day now, 24 million gallons of unfiltered sewage is pumped out along the shoreline.
2 - 4 hours of electricity
The Gazan population cannot count on more than 2-4 hours of continuous electrical power a day. Every day, Gaza experiences up to 22 hours of power outage.
35% of arable land is unavailable
35 percent of the land eligible for farming is unavailable and fishermen are blocked from 85 percent of the waters on the coast of Gaza due to Israeli security zones.
7% of the children suffer from stunted growth
Poverty and lack of food has led to 7 percent of the children suffering from stunted growth due to long-term malnutrition. 60 percent of the children are anaemic.
45% are refused medical treatment outside Gaza
Those in need of specialized medical treatment must apply for permission from the Israeli government to leave Gaza. Many applications are declined, or at best delayed, and many risk dying while they wait. In October 2017, the World Health Organization reported that only 55 percent of the applications to leave Gaza for medical treatment were granted.
source: Norwegian Refugee Council at nrc.no
IPMN Voter Guide - 2016
222nd General Assembly, Portland, Oregon
for printer friendly PDF file, click here.
The Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is one of 40+ Presbyterian Mission Networks, but with a unique mandate from the 216th General Assembly (2004) to advocate for Palestinian human rights and to deepen the involvement of Presbyterians with their struggle.
As our mandate calls for, we seek to demonstrate solidarity, educate about the facts on the ground, and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians, especially those who are living under occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Based on our GA mandate, here are our recommendations for this year’s overtures pertaining to the issues:
YES - 08-01 On Boycott of all HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Products
Rationale for support: To both respond to the call of our Palestinian Christian partners in the region and to continue our church’s longstanding tradition of boycotting products that cause human harm.
YES – 08-02 On Advocating for the Safety and Well-being of Children of Palestine and Israel
Rationale for support: To call upon the US and Israeli governments to uphold the human rights of children in accordance with international law.
YES – 08-03 On Upholding Peoples and Partners in the Middle East and in the United States
Rationale for support: To support and uplift our Christian brothers and sisters across the Middle East in the midst of unprecedented strife.
YES – 08-04 On Calling for the RE/MAX Corporation to Cease Selling Property in West Bank Settlements
Rationale for support: To call on RE/MAX to cease selling Jewish-only housing in the Israeli settlements of the occupied West Bank. The settlements are deemed illegal under international law and RE/MAX is enabling segregation in the region through their franchise.
YES – 08-06 Israel-Palestine: For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace
Rationale for support: To refocus the Church’s stance on Israel/Palestine toward a values- and rights-based position rather than a one or two state “solution” position. The overture that called for this study was intentional about pointing out that it is inappropriate to take a church policy position that supports any solution when we are not part of such a conversation. The report allows us to think both appropriately and creatively about what makes for peace in a conflict where there appears to be no end in sight.
YES – 08-07 On Prayerfully Studying the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)
Rationale for support: To better understand this fast-growing non-violent movement calling for an end to human rights violations. In continuing a long-standing tradition of Presbyterian education and inquiry, we commend prayerfully studying the objectives of this movement to understand it better.
YES – 12-05 On Affirming Nonviolent Means of Resistance Against Human Oppression
Rationale for support: To learn more about non-violent resistance as pubic witness. Presbyterians need new resources that teach the church about our own theology of peacemaking and nonviolence in relation to our economic actions over the decades.
Overtures that are Indirectly Related to Israel/Palestine
and/or other peace and justice issues:
NO – 03-01 On Amending Standing Rule E.2.d.(2) Concerning Resources and E.2f.(3) Concerning Oral Presentation to Assembly Committees
Rationale for opposition: To enable General Assembly entities to provide relevant information to commissioners. This overture would require General Assembly entities to provide information from all perspectives on an issue under consideration, even if some of those perspectives are not truthful or aligned with our Christian principles.
NO – 04-03 On amending G-6.04e. to require a Two-Thirds Majority Vote to Amend the Constitution
Rationale for opposition: To continue the ability to change the Book of Order with a fair standard. This overture would make it more difficult for the General Assembly to change the Book of Order, and thus effect social witness policy, as it requires the General Assembly to achieve a two-thirds majority of the presbyteries, rather than a simple majority. This is a high bar reserved for amending the Book of Confessions. Such a high bar will gut our strong social witness for the Gospel in the world. As a church, we cannot turn away from our witness for justice.
NO – 11-01 On Adding a New Standing Rule F.5.c. Regarding Social Witness Policy Statements or Resolutions at the General Assembly
Rationale for opposition: To help continue our long tradition of social witness. This overture would make it extraordinarily difficult for the General Assembly to pass any social witness policies, particularly ones that are deemed by some to be controversial, but are in fact prophetic and call the Church to live up to the call of the Gospel.
NO – 11-02 On Setting Aside “Forming Social Policy” at the Next Three General Assemblies
Rationale for opposition: To prevent the breakdown of strong witness for social justice. This overture would make it more difficult for the General Assembly to pass social witness overtures, as it seeks to strip the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) of its ability to propose social witness policies for the next three General Assemblies. ACSWP has a proud history of producing important policy papers that have helped educate Presbyterians on crucial and difficult issues in our social witness.
YES – 11-03 On Choosing to Be A Church Committed to the Gospel of Matthew 25
Rationale for support: To support prophetic social witness policy. This overture is inspired by the Parables of the Ten Bridesmaids, the Talents, and the Judgment of the Nations, and strengthens our church’s witness.
YES – 11-04 On Supporting the Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Regarding Protecting Individuals from Violence and Discrimination
Rationale for support: To stand with victims of violence and discrimination. This is a call for the PC(USA) to commit to supporting the goals of the UN report, including the protection of people who are targeted for violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
YES – 11-09 On Celebrating a Significant Social Witness Anniversary
Rationale for support: To support and affirm the “exhibition of the Kingdom of God to the world.” This overture celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Church’s explicit commitment to making social witness policy.
YES – 11-10 On Reconciliation and Engagement in a New Civil Rights Movement
Rationale for support: To support the “call for radical reconciliation and an active engagement in a new civil rights movement.” This overture calls for self-examination and federal, state and local action in “addressing the structural racism all around us.”
YES – 11-12 On the PC(USA) Continuing Its Efforts to Dismantle Racism within Our Denomination and the Larger Society
Rationale for support: To aspire to end racism in church and society. This overture calls for, among other things, the establishment of Commission charged with conducting a church-wide listening campaign to hear the voices of peoples long silenced regarding the state of institutional racism and oppression within our church.
YES – 11-17 On Reviewing the Doctrine of Discovery
Rationale for support: To partner with Native American tribes and individuals to review the doctrine of discovery and work in solidarity against the legacy of settler colonialism and for their rights and aspirations.