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Gaza protest leader speaks in Berlin

Ahmed Abu Artema called the Berlin wall “a joke” compared to the ones dividing Palestine

Ahmed Abu Artema, Palestinian journalist and peace activist, visited Berlin to discuss the Great March of Return and the situation in Gaza.

Abu Artema spoke at a meeting on Thursday hosted by Palästina Spricht (Palestine Speaks), Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Jewish Voice for Peace in the Middle East) and the Ibn Rushd Fund.

A UN report recently declared that Gaza will be “unliveable” by 2020. Abu Artema discussed the textures of daily life and processes of slow death that besiege Gaza. Lack of medical services, undrinkable water, the destruction of homes, the sounds of planes and bombs that terrify Abu Artema’s 5-year-old son: Gaza is, on the eve of 2020, already unliveable.

It is from this crisis that the Great March of Return emerged: it is a peaceful “scream for life”, in Abu Artema’s words. On 30th March 2018, tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered, unarmed and unaligned with any faction, to demand basic human rights, the right of return, and peace in the region.

Since then, the March has taken place almost every Friday, even in the face of violent responses from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In the last 20 months, the IDF has murdered more than 300 Palestinians and injured that is, maimed more than 30,000, often with live ammunition, in a brazen breach of international law.

Abu Artema understands the March as a struggle against hopelessness for Palestinians and for Jews. “We have one struggle,” he said, calling for a state that espouses equality and liveable standards for all based on citizenship, not creed or color. The March, he says, also aims to free Jews from walls of fear and discrimination.

In the lively question-and-answer session that followed Abu Artema’s inspiring presentation, the discussion thickened. Abu Artema discussed the prominent role of women in the Great March of Return, noting particularly the tragic murder of paramedic Razan Al-Najar in June 2018. He also spoke about the disastrous siege by Egypt and lack of support from neighbouring Arab countries. He explained the crucial role of social media in organizing the Great March of Return, and how international supporters can disseminate the call for solidarity online. Above all, he emphasised the need to fight extremism by sowing seeds of hope, not hatred.

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