n Friday, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip embarked on what they called the “Great March of Return”. In their thousands they walked and chanted metres away from the electric fence that has kept 2 million Gaza residents penned in for more than a decade. They planned to sit there, in a flimsily built tent-city, until Nakba day, on 15 May. That day marks the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe” – when the marchers, their parents or their grandparents, fled or were forced to flee their homes upon the creation of the state of Israel.
Friday also marked another anniversary for Palestinians: Land Day. On that day in 1976, Israel’s soldiers and police opened fire on its own Palestinian citizens as they protested about the expropriation of their land by the government, killing six of them. Yet another impetus for this march is the US government plan to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem on 15 May, legitimising Israel’s violation of international law – in this case its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem.
But perhaps the greatest driver of this march is the tragedy of the Gaza Strip itself. Under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for more than 10 years, Palestinians have experienced electricity shortages and a water supply crisis, with only a very few able to leave the tiny coastal enclave. They have been subjected to military assaults that make daily life seem like a post-apocalyptic vision.