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On July 3rd, thousands of Palestinians charged towards the eastern Gaza-Israel border as part of the 2018 Great March of Return rallies. Their purpose is the time-worn one; Palestinians’ call to reclaim land from which they were evicted from through Israeli occupation. It also calls for an end to the decade-long blockade enforced by Israel and Eygpt. This rally differed from previous protests in two significant ways. First, it was a women’s rally, organized by the women’s committee of Gaza’s National Authority party. Second, the protest was largely a peaceful one, with protestors waving the Palestinian flag, many also accompanied by their children. Despite this, approximately 134 people were reported to be injured by Israeli forces, who used tear gas and deployed snipers.
+972 magazine’s correspondent Mohammad Za’anoun says women from various ages were present, with some younger women intrepidly walking to the border fence within range of snipers and hanging Palestinian flags. Iktimal Hamad, one of the lead organizers of the Great March of Return, tells Tribute Magazine that women once played an integral part in Palestine’s call for freedom. She hopes they can now reclaim their role in activism, noting with pride that the demonstrators held a united front raising not the flags of their political factions, but of Palestine as a whole. Palestinian women called for support from the international community prior to the demonstration, with the response from the other side of the border. About 50 Israeli women marched in solidarity with the Palestinian women. Their spokesperson Dr. Julia Chaitin says to the Haaretz newspaper, “…we don’t see them as enemies, we see them as our neighbours, and that our leaders and their leaders don’t want to make the change so it’s up to us to make the change.”
Through this rally, Palestinian women showed the world their dream of independence and equality. Their hopes persist in a region that has been ravaged by war and politics for decades, illustrating an indefatigable human spirit. Israel ranks high on the Global Gender Inequality Index, ahead of countries such as Australia and the UK. Yet its treatment of Palestinian women in this protest leaves much to be desired. The quickness in resorting to weaponry to discharge this largely non-violent protest may embolden violence instead, as is anticipated by reports.
Palestinians have been evacuated from their homes since 1948, when Israel commenced a series of land confiscations. Many Palestinians continue to hope to return to these lands. These recent rallies also parallel increasingly dire states within Gaza. As a result of the blockade, water sources are rapidly depleting and internal electricity supply has become non-existent. However, as Palestine’s government remains within the throes of the fundamentalist regime Hamas, the international community fears that aiding Palestine’s people will destabilize Israel, which remains one of the only stable areas in the region.
The women’s demonstration has awakened international communities to the voices of a group which has been marginalized and silenced since the rise of the Hamas regime. It showcases a re-development of women’s rights occurring in the area, where Palestinian women are increasingly calling for integral roles in the fight. Peaceful protests and the involvement of women may strengthen the international communities’ concern for the conflict in Palestine and may bode well for future negotiations towards peace in the region.