An unarmed, civilian protest from a people who have been oppressed for decades, results in bloodshed and massacre.
When unarmed Palestinians marched near the Gaza border, a border that has entrapped them in a humanitarian crisis, they were met with brutal force from the Israeli army. This resulted in bloodshed and a massacre of Palestinian civilians, with 17 killed and over 1400 injured.
Palestinians mobilised for the Great Return March to commemorate the 42nd annual anniversary of Land Day and to protest the ongoing occupation and siege of Gaza. These Palestinians are simply demanding that Israel abides by international law. However, without pressure from international governments to end Israel’s impunity, Palestinians are left with no choice but to protest against their occupiers and oppressors, often resulting in further violence imposed by Israel.
The original land day occurred on March 30th 1967, when 6 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces during a protest against Israel’s theft of Palestinian land. Yet, 42 years later, Palestinians are facing a worse fate.
Over 80% of the population in Gaza is made up of previously displaced Palestinian refugees, who were forced from their homes by the nascent Israeli army in 1948. Most of the men, women and children survivors arrived in Gaza on foot with whatever possessions they could grab and many were not fortunate enough to complete the journey.
In addition to a brutal military occupation, Gaza has suffered some of the most devastating Israeli military attacks over the years. With the vast majority already cut off from the rest of Palestine, daily life worsened with the imposition of Israel’s air, land and naval blockade of Gaza in 2007. This resulted in Gaza becoming the world’s largest open-air prison, stripping the people of their basic necessities and driving the population into poverty and despair.
Israel has offset the enormous costs of this permanent military occupation by using the population they control as a testing ground for the development of new weapons technologies. Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest private ‘security’ firm, uses the murderous impact of these weapons for profit, marketing the drones as ‘field tested’—in other words, proven to successfully slaughter Palestinians with nowhere to run. Having Gaza as a captive human laboratory gives Israel a competitive edge in the security market, using their “field tested” weapons to carry out their regime and to supply other oppressive regimes.
The day prior to Land Day, myself and others protested at Elbit Israeli Arms Factory "UAV Engines" in Shenstone, Staffordshire, which lead to the closure of the factory for the day. As Palestinians fight for their right of return, the least we can do is fight against the companies who arm the Israeli regime which continues to oppress Palestinians. The factory manufactures engines for drones which are known to have been exported to Israel prior to major bombing campaigns that lead to the deaths of thousands. The factory also plays a fundamental part of the Watchkeeper program under which Elbit Systems is leading production of a new generation of drones for the UK military. The Watchkeeper drone is modelled on the Elbit Hermes 450, documented as being used to kill Palestinian civilians during the 2008-09 attack on Gaza.
The deterioration of Palestinian life has been aided by the impunity of the Israeli state as regards from international governments and organisations, with key support coming from the UK. Rather than holding Israel to account for what are well-documented human rights abuses and breaches of international law, they have failed to impose a single sanction against Israel’s regime and continue to openly support what a UN report described as a system of apartheid.
Additionally, the UK hosts four Elbit owned factories, with one in Oldham, two in the midlands and another in Kent. These factories continue to produce the components for Israel’s arms, especially autonomous military drones, which have been used to murder Palestinians in Gaza and to destroy their already scarce civilian infrastructure.
We must continue to protest and take direct action, as grassroots movements must act when governments allow and enable such atrocities.
The UK government is complicit not only because it continues to sell arms to Israel, but also because it is importing technology developed during the course of Israeli massacres. The only course of action is a full and immediate two-way arms embargo between the UK and Israel.
It is time for citizens of the United Kingdom to mobilise and protest against our government’s continued complicity in internationally recognised war crimes.
Huda Ammori is a British student, activist and writer with Palestinian and Iraqi heritage. She is completing her studies at the University of Manchester where she founded and currently chairs the BDS Campaign UoM, which exposes and seeks to end the university's complicity with Israel's war crimes. Huda is also engaged in pro-Palestine and anti-arms trade activism on a national and global level.