SAIA York condemns horrific massacre in Gaza, reiterates call for divestment

Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University (SAIA York) condemns the massacre of 18 Palestinians by the Israeli army and the injuring of 1,400 on Friday, March 30, and we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza as they take part in the Great March of Return.

On March 30, which is the annual Palestinian Land Day, tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees marched towards the Israeli-controlled and heavily militarized border to demand their right to break free of their caged existence in Gaza and return to their homeland.

The march is set to extend until May 15, when Palestinians will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe) when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by Zionist forces in order to establish the state of Israel with a firm Jewish majority, consequently forcing many Palestinians into refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.

It is precisely these refugees and their progeny who are marching for their right of return, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and stipulated in UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which Israel has refused to implement for 70 years.

The Israeli army had already prepared for these protests by deploying more than 100 snipers above the hills and armoured vehicles along the boundary fence with orders to shoot down protesters like a hunting sport.

The Israeli-military spokesperson’s Twitter account deleted a tweet after realizing that it unintentionally confessed that none of the killings were by accident: “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.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa director, said in a tweet that “the shocking number of Palestinians killed and hurt today by soldiers firing across the Gaza fence raises serious questions about Israel’s longstanding use of live ammunition to police demonstrations. Israel’s allegations of violence by some protesters do not change the fact that using lethal force is banned by international law except to meet an imminent threat to life.”

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adalah, called for an investigation into the use of lethal force against Gaza protesters. “The Israeli military’s use of 100 snipers against unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip is illegal. Live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants,” Adalah stated.

Gaza is in the midst of a disastrous humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, after more than a decade of an Israeli blockade, which is reinforced by Egypt on the southern border.

The widespread destruction from three Israeli assaults on Gaza over the past six years, including damage to the enclave’s water, sanitation, energy and medical facilities, coupled with slow reconstruction due to the blockade led the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “unliveable” by 2020.

Israeli human rights group B’tselem charged that, “Israel has the power to immediately change life in Gaza for the better, but has chosen not to do so. It has made Gaza a huge prison, yet forbids the prisoners even to protest against this, on pain of death.”

We support calls for an independent, international investigation, and we welcome the recent resolution of the UN Human Rights Council calling on states to ensure respect of international law by, among other measures, preventing arms trade with Israel.

Accordingly, we call on the Canadian government to condemn the latest massacre and hold Israel accountable.

We expect progressive Canadian political parties like the NDP and the Green Party to call for accountability through the use of economic sanctions, namely, by means of an arms embargo and a boycott of illegal Israeli-settlement products.

We call on our allies, student clubs, unions and grassroots movements who value freedom, justice and equality to pressure the Canadian government and political parties, to issue statements of solidarity and to adopt BDS resolutions until Israel complies with its obligations under international law.

Finally, we join our YU Divest coalition partners in reiterating our call on York University’s Board of Governors to immediately implement the recommendations of the York University Advisory Committee on Responsible Investment (YUACRI) and its YU Divest report.

Indeed, Canada sold nearly $10 million worth of military equipment to Israel in 2016 alone.

As members of the York community, it is now more urgent than ever to rid our campus of investments in the same weapons and military equipment that kill and maim our loved ones back home.

In solidarity,
Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University