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COMMENTARY: Excuses must stop being made for human rights violations

On March 30, thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip participated in a “March of Return” declaring the right, recognized by international law, of refugees to return to their homes following displacement. In the case of Palestinian refugees, there were most notably approximately 700,000 displaced in 1948 with the establishment of the settler-colonial state of Israel in what is known as the Nakba, with an additional 300,000 displaced Palestinians in 1967 during the Six-Day War. These figures fail to consider Palestinians who were made refugees over the course of the past 70 years as a result of bombing campaigns on civilian populations or the Palestinians driven to other countries due to the everyday hardships under Israeli occupation, such as evictions, disproportionate arrests, segregated roads, checkpoints and what the Israeli Security Barrier dubbed the Apartheid Wall.

Protesters had plans to march to the electric fence preventing Palestinians in Gaza from entering or leaving the Strip and staging a sit-in until the 70th anniversary of the Nakba on May 15. But the March of Return was met with violence when the Israeli army indiscriminately shot at Palestinians marching peacefully, murdering at least 18 and injuring hundreds. It fired 773 bullets, and claimed on its official Twitter account, @IDFSpokesperson, that it knew "where every bullet landed," before promptly deleting the tweet. What it did not delete, though, was the announcement that there would be no investigation into the deaths of the 18 Palestinians that it does not deny to have killed. The refusal to comply with international requests to investigate implies its explicit intention and awareness of the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians.

Israel claims these victims were members of Hamas and/or were terrorists, yet 20-year-old Badr Sabbagh was killed minutes after arriving at the protests to simply watch the crowd. Israel often absolves itself of any wrongdoing by scapegoating Hamas, yet the evidence is in favor of Sabbagh’s innocence. Their trend of targeting and killing unarmed protesters is evidenced in December of 2017. Israeli forces killed protester Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, a paraplegic (as a result of Israeli missiles nearly a decade prior) as he waved a Palestinian flag. That time, Israel was unable to cite its usual racialized excuses. This time, the hundreds that were injured, the 773 bullets admittedly fired into the crowd and the 18 killed were excused as inevitable losses in the fight against Hamas, and the IDF is praised for its use of bullets against Palestinians who were and will continue to fight for their right of return, as per international law.

The media has a long history of covering up the death of thousands of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces by citing Hamas as its one and only scapegoat defense. The summer of 2014 saw one of the most brutal massacres of Palestinians in Operation Protective Edge, with the death of more than 2,100 civilians, including more than 500 children. Surprisingly, the coverage circled around the idea of a moral and just Israeli Defense Force doing its best to reduce civilian casualties and protect its borders against an unrepresented and unarmed population. In 70 years of occupation, Israeli forces have initiated bombing campaigns targeting mosques, schools and heavy civilian concentrated areas that are not actions of a moral and just army, but rather show an overconfident apartheid state with the knowledge that its media and Western media will always provide its “Get Out of Jail Free” card. This has been proven by the emboldened and assured statements released by Israeli officials refusing to open an investigation into the numerous deaths of civilians during the march and their praise of the way that Palestinian protesters were handled (or, rather, murdered).

And as this massacre ensues, those with the ethical and moral obligation to report the truth, the media, including here at Rutgers, continue to disservice the world by making excuses for murders and human rights violations. Yellow journalism riddled with statements of Hamas orchestrating the protest is egregious and false. It shows a refusal to accept and understand why thousands of Palestinians passionately and peacefully marched to the wall: to demand their full right of return to their ancestral and illegally occupied lands. As the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel approaches, it is imperative that everyone utilizes the technology of the 21st century to learn, free of propaganda and sensationalization, and think critically about its long-lasting impacts on Palestine and the Palestinian people.

Students for Justice in Palestine is a Rutgers organization that aims to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the people of Palestine.

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