Land Day

Land Day remembers the 1976 protests by Palestinians against the confiscation of Palestinian land by the Israeli state, and this year saw the start of a whole series of protests, the ‘Great March of Return‘ which was to continue until Nakba Day, the anniversary of the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and villages in 1948, on May 15th.

What shocked the world this year was not the protest by Palestinians, but the Israeli response, with snipers under orders to shoot the unarmed protesters, either to kill or to maim them with bullets which expand inside the body to maximise the damage. On this first day of carnage 17 Civilians were killed and over 750 seriously injured by live fire, with others injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.

Most of those who were shot were several hundred yards from the separation wall, and many were moving away, and shot from behind. Some had thrown stones and other missiles towards the wall or fence, but they were essentially unarmed and presented no real threat. This was the first of a whole series of protests at which such shootings took place, and among those killed here and on later occasions were journalists and medics treating casualties, who seem to have been deliberately targeted. Treating those already shot they were often static, sitting ducks.

The videos and pictures from Palestine horrified the public around the world and although some news organisations hardly showed them most of us saw them on social media. Some referred to them using terms such as “clashes”, suggesting some kin of equal contest between opposing forces, rather than describing them more accurately as what they were, a deliberate massacre.

Pressure had already been building in Israel for a law to outlaw photographing Israeli soldiers “for the sake of shaming them” after a video had shown an Israeli soldier shooting and killing a Palestinian attacker who had already been incapacitated. That the Israeli military rightly insisted on him being tried for manslaughter for and his conviction (with a light sentence of 18 months) enraged many on the Israeli right and AP reported on June 18th this year that a ministerial committee headed by Israel’s justice minister had approved the proposal for a bill that would make ‘anyone “who films, photographs or records soldiers while performing their duty, with the intent of undermining the morale of Israeli soldiers and residents” or anyone who disseminates such materials’ liable to five years in prison.’

I photographed two protests against the shootings on Saturday. The first had been planned before in support of the Land Day protests in Palestine by the Revolutionary Communist group which has for years protested against UK support for the Israeli state, and in particular about the support by British businesses, and is a part of the growing worldwide BDS movement calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. For many years they held regular protests outside Marks & Spencer‘s flagship store on Oxford Street, where they also began this protest, before moving on in a ‘rolling protest’ along Oxford St, holding short protests with an account of each company’s involvement with the Israeli state at Selfridges, which sells Israeli wines, Adidas which supports the Israel football team, Boots which sells cosmetics made in Israel and Carphone Warehouse, where I left them continuing east along Oxford St.

Later in the day I went to the emergency protest called after the news of the shooting of protesters. The Israeli embassy is a few yards down an exclusive private road where photography and protests are not allowed, and the ban is strictly enforced by the police, with protesters being kept on the main road outside. The Russian Embassy for similar reasons is based at the other end of the same street.

This larger protest (and it was still growing as I had to leave) was attended by a wider range of people, including a number of Palestinians and Jews and most of those from the earlier protest. Most were those already involved in the campaign for human rights and freedom for Palestine, but there were others who had simply been horrified by the reports and felt they had to do something.

I also felt I had to do something more than simply take photographs, and later sent off a further donation to Medical Aid for Palestinians, a charity which provides medical services for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and in the camps in Lebanon – and who are in desperate need of funds to treat those maimed by the Israeli snipers. Thanks to an emergency appeal they have recently been able to deliver limb reconstruction equipment to Gaza. Please consider giving if you are not already a donor. And Gift Aid means it is one of the few ways that our government will help Palestinians.

Land Day protest against Israeli state

Against Israeli Land Day massacre


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