At Israeli gov’t’s “70th Anniversary of Israel” celebration, participants mourned 70 years of ethnic cleansing, from expulsion of 800,000 in 1948 to protesters killed in Gaza last week
CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)—April 20, 2018
By: Michael Deheeger
Last week, Islam Hirzallah became the 32nd Palestinian protester to be killed by Israeli snipers in Gaza while participating in the historic, ongoing #GreatReturnMarch. On Wednesday, April 18, Jewish Voice for Peace members gathered outside a “Celebrate Israel at 70” planned at the Harris Theater by the Israeli Consulate to the Midwest and the Jewish United Fund.
After gathering under The Bean, participants formed a processional and slowly moved toward the event, bearing pictures of each of the 32 Palestinian protesters whose lives have been lost over the past few weeks and a sign reading “Mourning 70 Years of the Nakba.” The Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic) refers to the forced displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians that began with Israel’s establishment in 1948.
“We are here tonight with a simple message tonight – Palestinians should be free,” said Lesley Williams of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago. “The Israeli military’s ongoing killing of protesters in Gaza is only the most recent instance of a 70 year process of dispossession since 1948.”
Participants read the names of villages destroyed in 1948, as well as each of the names of Palestinian protesters killed in Gaza over the past three weeks and heard testimony from Palestinian Chicagoans about their personal and family stories of expulsion and exile.
Another vigil is planned in Evanston on Friday 4/20, urging Representative Jan Schakowsky, as a Progressive standard-bearer, to clearly condemn Israel’s targeting of Palestinian protesters.
On Friday, March 30th, an estimated 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza launched the #GreatReturnMarch. Organized by a cross section of civil society, grassroots activists, and political factions, this effort highlights the impact of Israel’s brutal military blockade and re-centers the issue of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes from which they, or their parents and grandparents, were expelled in 1948.
The Israeli military responded with a brutal show of force – snipers opened fire with live ammunition in acts that Human Rights Watch denounced as “unlawful” and “calculated”. Amnesty International has condemned the Israeli military’s use of “excessive force” and assigned clear responsibility to Israeli authorities.
Israel’s government has made clear that it fully supports these deliberate killings. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has stated: “There are no innocents in Gaza.” The day after the killing of the first 15 Palestinian protesters on March 30, the Israeli military posted, then promptly deleted, the following tweet: “Yesterday we saw 30,000 people; we arrived prepared and with precise reinforcements. Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.”
As of April 15th, at least 32 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,400 have been injured, including children and clearly-identified members of the press.
JVP-Chicago is the local branch of Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jvp.org), a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 200,000 online supporters, over 60 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.