Despite wearing a blue protective vest, with the word “PRESS” in bold letters, Palestinian journalist Yasir Murtaja was shot in the chest by Israeli forces. He died shortly afterwards. Murtaja, one of the few journalists remaining in Gaza, had been meticulously covering the increasingly deteriorating situation. Last week, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza peacefully marched towards the barricade that segregates Jews from Arabs, to raise awareness of the brutal blockade that has been in effect since 2007. These protesters were also demanding the right to return to their homes which they have been expelled from (mandated by the U.N.) since the 1940s.
Since the beginning of this 10 day protest, Israeli snipers have been stationed at towers near the barricade and have been shooting indiscriminately at protesters. At least 30 have been killed, while many others have been severely wounded.
Having done human rights work in Gaza during the first Intifada, I am deeply troubled by these unconscionable conditions. Recent statements made by Israeli government officials imply that shooting civilians is deliberate and pre-planned. After the death of Murtaja, The Jerusalem Post observed that, “Israeli statements leading up to the incident focused on its readiness to use live fire as opposed to describing how involved its legal apparatus would be in projecting restraint”.
Prime Minister Netanyahu praised the snipers, and a spokesperson for the ruling Likud party, Eli Hazan, proclaimed on national television that all 30,000 protesters — men, women and children — were legitimate targets.
Various international human rights organizations and a prosecutor at the ICC have stated, “Violence against civilians — in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza — could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Perhaps due to the Trump administration signaling unconditional U.S. support both financially and through the United Nations, Israel’s government has become emboldened — their actions increasingly brash. Ambassador Nikki Haley went so far as to threaten to defund the international body if it failed to comply with the administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Although the situation in Gaza appears increasingly dire by the day, the US has the power to broker peace talks rather. But first, it must abandon its colonial mentality. This kind of directional shift would serve to strengthen America’s image abroad which would, in turn, lead to greater security at home.
As such, we have an obligation to alter our current course. This will require an approach centered around education, campaign finance reform, and citizen participation.
Congressional Candidate for SC-7