When 30,000 Palestinian men, women, and children marched to the border fence separating Israel from Gaza on Friday, March 30, the protest was billed by Hamas as a “peaceful demonstration”. Hamas declared that the purpose of this march was to show support for the Palestinians’ so-called “right of return”. While they had predicted that 100,000 Gazans would join the demonstration, they nevertheless called it a success. 

But what Hamas promoted as a “peaceful” march turned into a riot of hate that included throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, and rolling burning tires at the Israeli soldiers on the other side of the fence. ‘Peaceful’ demonstrators turned into a bloodthirsty mob that jeered and chanted endlessly, “Kill the Jews!” No less serious was the implicit threat that the mob presented, that they would succeed in swarming the fence and overwhelming the Israeli forces on the other side. Not so peaceful. 

“We are here to embrace the blessed land with our hearts and our eyes . . . which is being trampled by those accursed descendants of apes and pigs, the remnants of the brutal, savage, and barbaric colonialism, which continues to drain our resources.”

Words from Friday sermon from Gaza, broadcast by Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV on the day of the march.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh himself participated in the march and incited the crowd. He told the demonstrators that the Palestinians “will never recognize the Zionist entity and will never give up on Palestinian land, and on Jerusalem; [the city] is ours and there is no solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict]…”  

But Hamas had been warned. As plans of the demonstration became known, Israel made it clear that its security forces would not tolerate a mob of tens of thousands of people, swarming the border with the intention of doing as much destruction as possible, including the greatest prize of all – breaking through the fence and killing Israeli soldiers. 

During the day, there were six separate attempts to breach the security fence, in order to create openings that would allow thousands of Palestinians to swarm into Israel and overwhelm the soldiers. The Israelis, acting under orders, had no choice but to respond with force. And so they did.

They responded with rubber bullets, tear gas, and live fire. At the end of the day, it was reported that 17 Palestinian demonstrators had been killed, and more than 1,400 wounded. It was the most violent confrontation between Israel and Gaza since the last Gaza war in 2014.  

Not insignificant was the admission by Hamas that among those who had died, five had been members of its armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigade. Israel doubled that number, and identified them all, releasing their photographs under the heading “The Terrorists of the Violent Riots.” They also released videos that showed Palestinian snipers shooting at soldiers and showed proof that all of those killed were engaged in active violence against its soldiers at the time of their deaths.

Israel claimed the action was defensive, and made it quite clear that it would not allow tens of thousands of Palestinian demonstrators to threaten Israeli sovereignty by bringing down Israel’s border fence and entering en masse into sovereign Israeli territory. Were any other nation’s borders threated by an angry swarm of 30,000 people in a hostile demonstration sponsored by their government, it would be considered an act of war. In this context, Israel acted with extraordinary restraint.

At one point, Hamas even sent a little seven-year-old girl right up to the border fence, Hamas’ tiniest terrorist. The soldiers, however, picked her up and got her out of harm’s way, and arrangements were then made to get her back safely to her parents.

What’s in a Name?

The ‘demonstration’ marked the 42nd anniversary of “land day”, which Palestinians observe every year to commemorate the Israeli government’s expropriation of Arab-owned land on March 30, 1976. In the demonstrations that followed, six Arab-Israelis were killed. That day is observed every year with violent, anti-Israel demonstrations in Gaza and throughout the West Bank. 

This year has even greater significance for Palestinians because the day marks the beginning of 45 days of demonstrations and, no doubt, bloody violence, leading up to the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel on May 14,1948. For Israelis, it is a day of celebration. But the Arabs call it the anniversary of the “Nakba” or “catastrophe”.

The Aftermath

As dramatic as the demonstrations in Gaza were, what happened afterwards was equally stunning. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas immediately declared a day of mourning for those killed and wounded, and demanded UN protection for the “defenseless” Palestinians. He blamed injuries and the loss of Palestinian lives entirely on Israel, of course, holding them “fully responsible” for the carnage. He totally ignored the obvious threat that a mob of 30,000 hostile and violent people crowding towards the border presented to the Israeli soldiers beyond it, and to the sovereign nation they were protecting. 

Then on Saturday, the United Nations Security Council drafted a statement that affirmed “the right to peaceful protest” and expressed the council’s “sorrow at the loss of innocent Palestinian lives”. It called for “respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including protection of civilians.” It made no mention of what international law suggests when the ‘civilians’ are violent and intent on destruction of a sovereign state. It completely ignored the danger that the so-called ‘peaceful demonstration’ presented to Israel. Despite the pressure to pass the condemnation, the draft was squelched by a certain veto by the United States. 

The ‘Right of Return’

For Palestinians, the March of Return refers to the ‘right of return’ of millions of Palestinian ‘refugees’. Included in this ‘right of return’, are the original 750,000 Arabs who fled from Israel in 1948, and their children, and their grandchildren, and even their great-grandchildren, and their extended families. No other group of refugees in the world are so defined; only the Palestinians. There is even a separate UN organization, UNRWA, devoted only to the Palestinian refugees, to support their claims. It is estimated that only 30,000 of the original refugees are still alive, but there are, according to UNRWA, an estimated 5.9 million Palestinian ‘refugees’ eligible for UN support and the ‘right of return’. If these uniquely defined ‘refugees’ now scattered around the world (although some are still living in squalor in UN ‘refugee’ camps) were allowed to ‘return’, they would swamp the Jewish state, whose entire population  – including Arabs – is only a little more than 8 million. In size, Israel is smaller than the state of Vermont.

Israel and the Muslim World. (Israel is the small red dot in the center)

Israel survives – and thrives – amid a sea of enemy Muslim states, most of which are dedicated to its destruction. This hostile sea is slowly changing, as a small number of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, are reaching out to Israel in economic partnerships. This is not new, but it is no longer secret. And it has been supported by the new dynamics created by a strong, and solidly pro-Israel Trump administration in Washington, which may encourage Saudi Arabia to play a big role in the widening thaw and the developing relations between Israel and its Muslim neighbors. 

But Hamas in the south and Hizb’allah in the north continue to threaten Israel with a growing arsenal of weapons (supplied, in large part, by Iran) and a growing fire of rage, continually fanned by their leaders. In the face of this incitement, Israel will continue to face mortal danger from its enemies just across its borders. 

The Gaza “March of Return” is only the beginning of a new effort to destabilize Israel over the next 45 days. Support for the non-existent state of ‘Palestine’ from an increasingly anti-Semitic Europe will only give encouragement to Israel’s enemies in an already volatile and dangerous situation.

New Book by Ilana Freedman

But this time, Israel has the full support of the United States behind it. This is a force multiplier for Israel’s already awesome capabilities. Her adversaries do not want peace, they want Israel gone, and they will stop at nothing to make that happen.  

But Israel’s resolve and military strength, as shown in Gaza last week, will go a long way towards containing the deadly ambitions of her enemies, and help to maintain a stability in the face of an otherwise fragile part of the world. 

Ilana’s latest book, “Hamas, CAIR, and the Muslim Brotherhood: The Plot to Destroy Americawas just released by the Center for Security Policy and is available on Amazon.

Cover Image Credited to [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

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