This yearâs anniversary of the Naksa – the occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights by Israel – has been marked by historic popular protests.
On June 5 Palestinian refugees marched from Syria to the occupied Golan Heights while various protests were organized in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the Golan Heights, the Israeli army staged yet another massacre killing over 20 unarmed protestors.
Along the refugee camp of Qalandiya, where the occupation forces have constructed one of checkpoints that bar access to Jerusalem for West Bank Palestinians, almost 1000 activists staged the most important protest in the West Bank. The march was called for by the Stop the Wall Campaign, the independent youth movement “Herak Shababi” and the National and Islamic Forces. The protestors called for an end to Israeli occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing and underlined their right to Jerusalem.
The first people gathered at around 11am at Qalandiya refugee camp. At noon time, the demonstration started and moved towards the checkpoint, joining in with other activists waiting at the edge of the camp. It took only seconds from the moment when the protest reached the area of the checkpoint to the first shots being fired by the Israeli Occupation Forces. The military shot tear gas and live ammunition towards the protesters.
Israeli Occupation Forces were there with hundreds of soldiers and dispersed to close off all entrances to the area and Qalandiya main square in order to divide the protesters into different groups. Another contingent was stationed on a hill close to the Israeli Apartheid Wall.
The military also invaded and occupied the roof tops of three nearby buildings in order to target the protesters from above. Armed undercover special forces and snipers were as well assisting the normal troops.
Khaled Al-Asi was arrested and another activist narrowly escaped arrest when he suffered breathing problems and pepper spray burns on his arm. A group of protestors gathered around him and stopped his arrest. According to medics, around 90 injuries were treated in the field, most of them for breathing problems caused by tear gas. Two protesters were reported injured in the head and the back after they were hit with tear gas canisters.
The protest was organized by a new generation of Palestinians, which mobilizes in popular protests facing the brutality and repression of the occupation. Prominently among them are the refugees claiming their right to return to their homes.
This protest is a clear sign that Israeli founding father Ben Gurion’s hopes that “the old will die and the young will forget” will not come true. The millions in the refugee camps, the generations growing behind the Apartheid Wall, in the besieged Gaza Strip, under systematic racial discrimination as Israeli citizens or the Palestinians in Jerusalem that continuously risk their very residency rights in their city of birth simply do not have the possibility to forget. To exist is to resist.
For Photos: StopTheWall Flickr Account