Liberation News photo: Vincent Tsai.

Liberation News photo: Vincent Tsai.

For the fourth Friday in a row, Israeli sharp shooters shot directly into rows of unarmed Palestinians men, women and children protesting at the Gaza border on April 20. The world watched in horror as four fell dead, including one child,  and 700 people were injured, 156 by live fire, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

In a remarkable show of courage, the Palestinian people have continued to protest, sometimes in the tens of thousands, for the last four Fridays to demand their right to return to their family homes and villages that they were driven out of when Israel was formed in 1948. The march on April 20 was led by Palestinian women, and highlighted their role in the struggle.

The bravery and determination of the Palestinian people, and their cowardly murder by Israeli snipers firing from behind blinds tens and sometimes hundreds of yards away from those they kill, has evoked outrage and revulsion around the world.

Natalie Portman protest shows ‘Israeli brand is toxic’

In an indication of just how low the Zionist state has fallen in world opinion, actress Natalie Portman announced April 19 that she would not go to Israel to accept the prestigious Genesis award. This is a huge embarrassment to Israel, and has caused the Genesis Prize Foundation to cancel its award ceremony. Portman, born in Israel, does not identify with any progressive movement. Portman’s representative said “recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel.”

The BDS (Boycott Divest Sanctions) national committee welcomed this news. “After decades of egregious human rights violations against Palestinians, Israel’s recent massacre of peaceful protesters in Gaza has made its brand so toxic that even well-known Israeli-American cultural figures, like Natalie Portman, now refuse to blatantly whitewash, or art-wash, Israeli crimes and apartheid policies.” Portman has since clarified her views to make it clear she is not associated with nor supports BDS; nonetheless  she does not wish to appear to be in support of the government’s actions at this time.

Palestinian casualties 5000, Israeli casualties 0

15-year-old-Mohammed-Ayoub-shot-and-killed-50-yards from-Gaza-fence-on-April 20. Photo: BDS South Africa.

15-year-old Mohammed Ayoub shot and killed 50 yards from Gaza fence on April 20. Photo: BDS South Africa

Muhammad Ibrahim Ayyoub, 15, shot in the head April 20, was the fourth child among the 32 Palestinians killed since the rallies at the Gaza border began on 30 March. In four weeks of protests more than 5000 Palestinians were injured and killed by Israeli snipers compared to zero Israeli casualties. At least 47 health personnel have been injured and 13 ambulances damaged by Israeli fire, according to the Health Ministry.

The protests are part of the Great March of Return, a 6-week campaign from March 30 (Land Day) to May 15 (Nakba or Castrophe Day). Five tent camps were set up 500 to 700 yards from the Gaza-Israel border and will remain through the campaign. Thousand have come to live here during the campaign. There have been weddings in the camps, activities celebrating Palestinian culture, and events for children. Every Friday even more Palestinians in Gaza have gathered to march and demand their right to return.

Israel reacted to this campaign by almost doubling its forces stationed on the border and deploying drones, special units, and 100 snipers with permission to open fire. In a clear indication that any Palestinian was a target, on April 8 Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that ‘there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli soldiers urged to refuse to fire

Israel’s illegal and murderous actions have been protested by human rights groups around the world. In an unprecedented development, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem took ads in major Israeli newspapers on April 5 urging Israeli soldiers to disobey “patently illegal” shoot-to-kill orders against unarmed protesters, or they may be guilty of war crimes.  The ad explains, “The responsibility for issuing these unlawful orders rests first and foremost with the policy makers, including the prime minister, defense minister, and the chief of staff. Yet obeying patently illegal orders is a criminal offense and you are duty-bound to refuse complying with them.”

US corporate media equating snipers with protesters

Meanwhile, the Associated Press and the New York Times, the U.S. media that set the standard for the rest, have tried to hide Israel’s blatant murders by giving the impression that army snipers and unarmed civilian demonstrations are equally dangerous. These corporate media giants interlock with the military industrial complex and the big oil companies that make sure Washington arms and maintains Israel because it is  their most important ally in the Middle East and protector of imperialism’s interests there.

According to the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Media, AP and the Times have engaged in “extraordinary mental gymnastics to describe the Israeli military’s deliberate killing of Palestinian protesters [by] long-distance sniper shootings as ‘clashes’ [to] give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides.”

Instead of reporting that Israel is shooting hundreds of demonstrators with live ammunition, an AP headline on April 4 said, “Palestinian Protesters Burn Tires, Sending Smoke Billowing at Gaza/Israel Border; Israeli Troops Fire Back Sporadically.” FAIR points out that “The sentence rests on the absurd assumption that burning tires is the same as shooting people.”

An April 7 AP headline said, “Gaza Buries Journalist Who Died After Covering Mass Protests,” referring to the death of Palestinian journalist Yasser Murtaja. “Readers could conclude from the headline that Murtaja covered the protests and then went home and died of natural causes,” FAIR says. Murtaja was actually shot in the abdomen while covering the April 6 protest. He was wearing a blue flak jacket with the word “PRESS” clearly written on it. He died from his wounds in hospitals the following day. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has protested his death as “murder.”

And then there’s the convoluted New York Times April 6 headline: “Sporadic rifle fire from the Israeli side of the Gaza border made clear that the Palestinian protests could elicit the sort of response that killed 20 people a week ago.” FAIR explains that the headline “seriously muddy what happened” and “primes readers to blame Palestinians for being massacred, by saying their protests ‘elicited’ the massacre. Likewise, describing Israel’s massacre as a ‘response’ is a way of justifying it.”

This fake news by powerful corporate media might confuse some, but it cannot stop the Palestinian people’s courageous protests. Nor can  it rehabilitate the Israeli state, which is seen by more and more people for what it really is–repressive, racist, rogue and apartheid.