As Israel Kills Dozens, Gazans Continue to Protest. A Palestinian Woman Explains Why.

“This is a revolution of refugees,” says Intimaa Alsdudi.

Alex Kane

Palestinian protestors pictured during a demonstration commemorating Land Day near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018. (SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

For almost sev­en weeks, thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans in Gaza have gone to the Great Return March” protest encamp­ment to raise their voic­es and call atten­tion to the plight of the 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in the coastal enclave. Israeli sol­diers have respond­ed to the protests with dead­ly force, killing at least 90 Pales­tini­ans and wound­ing more than 10,000 since March 30, accord­ing to Gaza­’s Min­istry of Health.

"It is something beautiful when you see women and men and girls there. Woman are always on the frontline."

Brav­ing Israeli sniper fire and tear gas, these Pales­tini­ans have forced Gaza into the inter­na­tion­al head­lines. Pro­test­ers are demand­ing the right to return to lands Israel expelled them from in 1948 — and call­ing for an end to Israel’s land, air and sea block­ade of Gaza, which has ruined Gaza’s economy. 

Mean­while, as Pales­tini­ans in Gaza con­tin­ued to protest on May 14, Amer­i­can offi­cials were cel­e­brat­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s deci­sion to move the US embassy to occu­pied Jerusalem — a move Pales­tini­ans say will embold­en Israeli poli­cies aimed at push­ing Pales­tini­ans out of the city.

One of the pro­test­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Great Return March” is Inti­maa Als­du­di, a Pales­tin­ian activist and researcher in Gaza who focus­es on gen­der issues and Israel’s 1948 eth­nic cleans­ing of Palestine.

In These Times talked with Als­du­di over the phone to hear a first-hand per­spec­tive on what it’s like at the protest encamp­ment near the mil­i­ta­rized bar­ri­er sep­a­rat­ing the strip from Israel, why Pales­tini­ans con­tin­ue to demon­strate in the face of a dead­ly crack­down, and why Jerusalem is impor­tant to Pales­tini­ans in Gaza. This inter­view has been edit­ed for clarity.

Alex Kane: Do you think the Great Return March” has been a success?

Inti­maa Als­du­di: To some extent, yeah. Every­one can par­tic­i­pate, and it is peaceful.

We have been wait­ing for 70 years [since Israeli forces expelled more than 200,000 Pales­tini­ans into Gaza], wait­ing for the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to do some­thing, for UN Res­o­lu­tion 194 [guar­an­tee­ing Pales­tini­ans’ right to return to lands they were expelled from] to be imple­ment­ed. And nobody’s doing any­thing. So, this is a rev­o­lu­tion of refugees in Gaza — two thirds of us in Gaza are refugees. It is peace­ful and popular.

We have had a siege imposed on us for more than a decade. There is hard­ly any elec­tric­i­ty and water. And at the same time, you can see your land from Gaza and you’re not allowed to go to your land. And it is ridicu­lous. You must do some­thing. So, it is a rebel­lion against Israeli prac­tices against us and its vio­la­tions of inter­na­tion­al law and not respect­ing the UN resolutions.

Alex: As some­one who has gone to the Great Return March a lot, could you describe what it is like there, who is par­tic­i­pat­ing and some of the cul­tur­al activ­i­ties going on?

Inti­maa: It is so inter­est­ing. This is my first time see­ing the whole com­mu­ni­ty in the buffer zone,” [the area near the mil­i­ta­rized fence sep­a­rat­ing Gaza from Israel], doing ran­dom things. Women are mak­ing food and mak­ing tra­di­tion­al dish­es. Kids play foot­ball and do tra­di­tion­al dabke” danc­ing. Teenagers go to play cards, fly kites and sleep there. It’s a gath­er­ing of the peo­ple. You have tents and camp­ing, and the most beau­ti­ful thing is that you can see your land. You can see what is behind the wall.

I remem­ber dur­ing the Sec­ond Intifa­da, lots of women par­tic­i­pat­ed and threw stones at them. After, wom­en’s par­tic­i­pa­tion decreased. But now, there are women every­where in the buffer zone.”

Alex: And why do you think the role of Pales­tin­ian women in these march­es is important?

Inti­maa: As a woman, I’m tak­ing care of my sis­ters and my broth­ers, because I’m the old­est child in the fam­i­ly, and my Dad died dur­ing the last war [in 2014] because he was­n’t allowed to trav­el for treat­ment. I teach my sib­lings their his­to­ry and their rights, and lessons about the dif­fer­ence between occu­pa­tion, set­tler-colo­nial­ism, apartheid and all the Israeli prac­tices against us, and that they have the right to revolt and rebel against that. So, this is the main role of women: They teach kids, the new gen­er­a­tion, that you don’t have to for­get your rights and your country.

It is some­thing beau­ti­ful when you see women and men and girls there. Woman are always on the front­lines. They’re not fol­low­ing the men, but are pre­ced­ing them, because they’re ask­ing for their rights.

Alex: Are you wor­ried about your sib­lings being at the protest and get­ting hurt?

Inti­maa: Yeah, def­i­nite­ly. All of us are wor­ried about our­selves and our kids because Israeli snipers don’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate between kids and old peo­ple and young peo­ple. I told them, You have to stay a bit far away. Don’t approach the fence, and you can raise the Pales­tin­ian flag, dance, do what­ev­er you want.” And some­times we take books with us and start read­ing sessions.

Alex: Are Pales­tini­ans in Gaza watch­ing what’s going on with Jerusalem, with the U.S. embassy being moved there?

Inti­maa: Peo­ple in Gaza are angry about Trump’s deci­sion to relo­cate the embassy. Lots of them are talk­ing about it, and we will not allow it to hap­pen. It is against inter­na­tion­al law, and I think on May 14 and 15, lots of peo­ple will be at the buffer zone” protest­ing the relo­ca­tion of the Amer­i­can embassy.

Alex: Why is Jerusalem so impor­tant to peo­ple in Gaza?

Inti­maa: Jerusalem is a dream. My dream is to vis­it Jerusalem. It is our cap­i­tal, and it is not only for Pales­tini­ans. It is for all Arab coun­tries. It is part of our reli­gious iden­ti­ty and polit­i­cal iden­ti­ty. It is the cen­ter of our cause.

Alex: And have you ever been to Jerusalem?

Inti­maa: Nev­er. It is my dream. And now with mov­ing the embassy there, it is the end of the dream. How can they nego­ti­ate Jerusalem? It is not allowed. This is a red line they can­not pass.

Alex: You stud­ied at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty in New Jer­sey, so you’ve been around peo­ple in the Unit­ed States. What do you think peo­ple in the Unit­ed States right now should be doing to sup­port pro­test­ers in Gaza?

Inti­maa: I spent two years in the Unit­ed States, and I know that the Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty is — and I’m sor­ry for this word — igno­rant. They don’t know what is happening.

With social media, every­thing is clear, and they can Google to see what is hap­pen­ing in Pales­tine. And I’m sure they can find the truth. The Amer­i­can peo­ple should not stay silent.

Amer­i­cans can do work­shops about Gaza, go to demon­stra­tions and sup­port the indige­nous com­mu­ni­ty in Gaza. Now we have Israeli apartheid, and we need exact­ly what hap­pened in South Africa to hap­pen here, with the sup­port of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, espe­cial­ly the Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. The peo­ple must rebel against their gov­ern­ment, and to say no. The tax­es they pay go direct­ly to Israel to buy weapons to kill inno­cent kids.

Alex: My last ques­tion is: Do you think that the protest will con­tin­ue after May 15?

Inti­maa: I think so, because until now we did­n’t see any con­crete changes. Israel is still killing, shoot­ing ran­dom­ly at peo­ple, and the siege is get­ting hor­ri­ble, and the injured peo­ple who were hurt in the demon­stra­tions are not allowed to cross Erez check­point to go for treat­ment in the West Bank.

Alex Kane is a New York-based free­lance jour­nal­ist who writes on U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy in the Mid­dle East.
Limited Time:

SUBSCRIBE TO IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE FOR JUST $1 A MONTH