Four more Palestinians, three of them teenagers, have sacrificed their lives and been killed by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. They have been added to the 190 others who have paid the ultimate price for freedom over the past 12 months while taking part in the powerful peace protests known as the Great March of Return. Palestinian refugees in the besieged territory have been demonstrating in support of their legitimate right of return to their homes and land usurped by Israel.
Each of these needless deaths is a tragedy and there are so many that the victims' names are hard to recall: fellow journalists Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein stick out in my mind, though, as does young paramedic Razan Al-Najjar, whose short life and violent death captured both the indomitable spirit of the people of Palestine and the murderous brutality of the Israeli occupation. She continues to loom large in our consciousness, largely for her heroism and bravery in the weeks leading up to the fateful day when she was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as she attended to the wounded during the ongoing protests.
In a poignant and moving article, Razan's mother Sabreen wrote how her 20-year-old daughter's death "transformed her into a symbol for an entire nation under the boot of Israel. But her mere presence at the 2018 protest, even in a medical capacity, was never guaranteed. Denied a career as a doctor by our financial circumstances, she studied nursing, and in anticipation of the Great March of Return, sold her phone and ring to buy medical equipment."
Those circumstances mentioned by Sabreen Al-Najjar make it all the more repugnant that supporters of Israel continue to ridicule the young paramedic who was killed on 1 June last year. It has now emerged that at one point, a particular pro-Israel lobby group in Britain took to social media to dismiss her death as fake news. Glasgow Friends of Israel posted on Facebook at the time: "We have deliberately said nothing about the death of Razan Najjar because we suspected that, as always, Pallywood was manufacturing a story. Was she shot? Did she even exist? Why does Pallywood NEVER tell the truth?"
It is barely conceivable that the killing of this brave young woman could be dismissed in such a way. Not only did Razan Al-Najjar exist, but her memory is still alive today. It will remain so in the minds of her family and friends as well as millions of others around the world who know of her heroic efforts, and the cowardice of the soldier who shot her.
Not content with trying to dismiss her death as fake news, Glasgow Friends of Israel's next tactic, revealed the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), which monitors the group closely, "proved to be much more vile and sordid. They pinned a tweet suggesting that the young girl Razan was raped and coerced into being at the Great March of Return for refugees." These "Friends of Israel" even claimed that Razan had deliberately used herself as a human shield with the specific purpose of trying to "get killed while shielding other terrorists."
Mick Napier, co-founder of SPSC, sent the evidence to MEMO. "If you think this coverage of the death of civilians is morally corrupt," he added, "[Glasgow Friends of Israel] decided to plumb the depths even further by injecting humour into their coverage of the deaths of Palestinians. 'Pallywood' is the concept invented by Israel supporters to suggest that the journalistic coverage of human rights abuses carried out by Israel on Palestinians is all fake."
There's certainly nothing fake about the moving words written by Razan's mother in MEMO and the Independent newspaper last week when she recalled the events leading to her daughter's killing with both pain and pride: "[Razan] defied those in Gazan society that would not have a young woman take part. And from the very first day of the protest, she was tending to the wounded. As at so many times during a life cruelly cut short, she evinced a determination that was born out of the rubble of Gaza following the 2008 attack on the city."
Razan, she pointed out, was insistent that she support her countrymen and women at the Great March. "As she saw it, she was not only a paramedic, but an active member of the resistance. She joined activists and writers, journalists and youth group members, and found herself at home among the mass of peaceful faces that together reflected the spirit of Palestine."
Reflecting the original grassroots aim of the protests, "Like so many of them, [Razan] held the simple dream of one day returning home – in her case, to her family's village in Jaffa. She was optimistic that she would meet her grandparents, from whom she was separated by the illegal blockade. But those who put that same blockade in place would make sure she never did."
Glasgow Friends of Israel then turned their odious attention away from their favoured rogue state and used their Facebook account to post offensive comments about the deadly shootings at the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand which shocked the world, but not Israel's heartless supporters. Messages on the GFI page included:
- Diana Meijer jeering at the victims.
- John Sanderson getting "likes" from 9am on the day of the murderous attacks for his suggestion that there was excessive press coverage of Christchurch.
- Richard Treadaway condemning "the hook of emotion in the water for you to bite onto when Muslims suffer."
- John Byrne welcoming the massacre and adding, "It's payback for the attacks that muslims [sic] have perpetrated across the globe.perhaps [sic] this will curb their appetite for bloodshed." He later asked about the massacre, "And the problem is?"
The SPSC's Mick Napier took the screenshots of the offensive comments. "All those who promote racism — including Islamophobia and hatred towards Jews — have to be called out for their creation of the hatred that prompts some to murder," he insisted, "including Glasgow Friends of Israel."
Napier added that just a few days ago, the group posted a red flagged warning on its Facebook account in an obvious effort to distance itself from the hatred that it allowed to fester on its page: "Please THINK before you post!!! Antisemitic groups seize on anything they can to try and show us in a bad light. Racism is unacceptable to us. Racist posts, including anti-Muslim or anti-Palestinian, will be deleted and the posters banned. Do not do the haters' work for them."
Such a robust and firm stance is welcome, albeit probably too little, too late. Perhaps the group should go further and challenge the so-called Israel Defence Forces for their anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian aggression in using battlefield weapons against civilians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Furthermore, a full apology to her family for the vile comments made about Razan Al-Najjar is the least that "Friends of Israel" can do.
The Great March of Return protests that Razan supported so much are a raw cry for justice by her people who are suffering unimaginable hardships under Israel's brutal military occupation and blockade. The peaceful protests show that the Palestinians are determined to win the kind of freedoms and liberties enjoyed elsewhere in the world, but not under the yoke of "the only democracy in the Middle East". Maybe Glasgow Friends of Israel and its enlightened "no anti-Muslim or anti-Palestinian" approach might want to reconsider its blind support for a state which has little regard for either Muslims or Palestinians, and tramples international laws and conventions into the dust with impunity. We shall monitor the group's social media with interest.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.