In one of the worst mass killings by Israel in years, at least 55 Palestinians were killed as the IDF opened fire on the Great March of Return in Gaza. The attack coincided with the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. We are joined from Gaza City by Basem Naim, a former Gaza health minister and protest organizer
AARON MATÉ: It’s The Real News, I’m Aaron Maté, continuing with Dr. Basem Naim, the former Health Minister of Gaza who took part in the organizing for The Great March of Return. So, Dr. Naim, before the break we were talking about the ceremony that coincided with the protests in Gaza today in Jerusalem- the U.S. opening up its embassy there, fulfilling Trump’s pledge to move the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Your thoughts on that ceremony, very symbolic and important for Palestinians, coinciding with the protests and the killings today?
BASEM NAIM: Really, it is a very sad day for us. First, the move of the embassy coincided with the Palestinian Nakba, The Catastrophe, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from their homes, villages, and cities outside of Palestine, or partially inside other parts of Palestine, The Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Second, according to the UN resolutions which recognize Israel and accepted Israel as a member state of the United Nation, this recognition and acceptance was bound to two other conditions. First, the foundation of another state, the Palestinian state or Arab state. Second, to allow Palestinians to return to their homes. Therefore, the recognition of Israel as an independent state and a member state in the United Nations is bound or related immediately to the foundation of another state which is a Palestinian state.
Unfortunately, the international community, led by the United States, failed until today to give the Paelstinians their right of their own independent sovereign state, and to allow the Palestinians, or help the Palestinians, to return back to their villages and cities. Therefore, it is a sad day.
Second, the United States played, along the last twenty-five years, the role of a broker between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And we have seen along the last twenty-five years that the United States was always- was was not a neutral broker between the two parties. Sometimes, we have the feeling that we are negotiating not only with the Israelis, we are negotiating with the Israelis and with the Americans as one party.
But especially with the new administration of the United States, the administration of Trump, it becomes crystal clear that we are not- we cannot talk any more talking about a broker between the two parties. They United States cannot anymore be part of this peace process or negotiation process.
Trump tried to take from the table the main three topics- Jerusalem, the refugees, and the borders, including settlements. Jerusalem is recognized as the eternal capital of the state of Israel. Refugees, he decided suddenly to cut all the financial support for the UNHRA, which is the UN agency responsible for protecting and helping the Palestinian refugees inside the borders and inside Gaza and the West Bank.
And finally, the borders and the settlements- when you appoint an ambassador of the United States and Israel who is a settler, who have a house in one of the settlements, who was the chairman, or supported financially, one of those terror groups or terror gangs- the settlers who attack Palestinians day and night.
I think we are talking, really, about a very sad day, especially, as I said, after seventy years we have expected the international community, the free world, especially the United States, as a leader of this free world, to help us to get our fundamental rights of independence, freedom, and sovereignty, and a dignified and decent life.
AARON MATÉ: Dr. Naim, The estimates that I’ve seen for the crowd today in Gaza taking part in The Great March of Return is something like up to forty thousand people, which is a large number. And to me, it’s all the more astounding, given that for the last six weeks, every single week when Palestinians have turned out, Israeli forces have opened fire, killing unarmed protesters. Were you surprised by this turnout? What did it take to mobilize so many people, and what do you think is their response now, now that today on this mobilization the response from Israel has been so brutal, so merciless?
BASEM NAIM: First, to correct something. I think our assessment that we are not talking about forty thousand. At least, we are talking about eighty to one hundred or thousands. Because when you are in the field, you see that people are coming and leaving. It is not a fixed number. Therefore, we are talking about at least eighty to one hundred thousand people in the different areas where the people- collecting near the fence.
I think Palestinians have a clear decision, and they are aware of what they are doing. First, they have nothing to lose. If you live in Gaza, no water, no electricity, no medicine, poverty, unemployment, the sea is spoiled, everything is. You are living in a real prison. Palestinians have a clear and conscious decision to go for these peaceful protests, this part of the very high price they are paying every week, again, because of the very disastrous situation here in Gaza.
They are the people who have nothing to lose. As I said, ninety five percent of water is unsuitable for human beings, and no access to the to the outside world. No electricity, no sewage, water bumped into the sea, unemployment, poverty. Eighty percent of people are depending on external food aid. Therefore, they have nothing to lose.
Second, I think Palestinians have given the international community, the region, all the UN agencies, all the time, to help us to get our crucial fundamental rights of return, of independence, of freedom. What we have after seventy years is zero, a big zero. Therefore, Palestinians have decided to take the initiative by their own hand and to go to protest peacefully against the occupation.
AARON MATÉ: Dr. Naim, what do you want from the international community? We’ve seen protests today in Turkey in solidarity with Palestinians. What are you asking for from people who want to defend Palestinian rights around the world?
BASEM NAIM: First, to stop this massacre immediately, because it is not acceptable to allow Israel to continue behaving as a state above the law, as a rogue state, to kill innocent peaceful protesters simply because it is Israel. And because it is protected from the United States, and they are not, as they said, used at least seventy-two to seventy-three times veto in the Security Council to protect Israel from being banished by the international community.
BASEM NAIM: Second, to lift immediately and unconditionally this immoral and illegal siege on the Gaza Strip. It is unacceptable anymore to die in silence. It is unacceptable anymore to behave with the Gazans on the Gaza Strip as an animal farm.
Finally, I think Palestinians have the right to have their own independent sovereign state, to the right of return. But at least immediately, to stop this massacre, to take those criminals to ICC, and to lift the siege immediately and unconditionally.
AARON MATÉ: And Dr. Naim, finally, Tuesday is the final day of The Great March of Return. It’s being held on the day that commemorates the Nakba, which you mentioned earlier, the day that marks the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. Do you expect Palestinians in Gaza to turn out again on Tuesday after such a horrific day today, so many losing their lives?
BASEM NAIM: I am sure they will return back to the fence and protest against the marches- sorry, against the occupation, to call for their freedom, for dignity, and for lifting the siege immediately and unconditionally.
Finally, by the way, the higher committee for The Great March of Return and lifting the siege, at 6:30 Gaza time, they announced that The Great Return March will continue. And the next peak is the first of June, which is the day where the Arabic armies, in ’67, were defeated. What we call the Naksa. And at that time, Gaza Strip and the West Bank was occupied by the Israeli occupation, fifty years ago. Therefore, I think Gazans and Palestinians will continue to protest, especially Gazans, and this very high price will not deter them from continuing calling for their freedom and dignity and lifting the siege, as I said, immediately and unconditionally.
AARON MATÉ: Dr. Basem Naim, thank you.
AARON MATÉ: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.