On March 30th, 2018 -- marking the 42nd commemoration of Land Day -- Palestinian refugees in the occupied Gaza Strip mobilized a mass march with the demand of returning to the villages they were expelled from in 1948. Men, women, and children gathered in unity under the banner of freedom and justice. These freedom-seeking people courageously marched to the Israeli-imposed separation barriers, braving Israeli snipers and walking under clouds of smoke and tear gas.
This past year, I’ve watched online week after week as Israeli forces have killed young men, women, and children -- among them paramedics, teachers, students, and journalists. To date, Israel has killed 250 precious lives who were taken for protesting for the rights that I take advantage of everyday - to live in a world where I have access to clean water, electricity, and the ability to move freely.
One of those lost was a young journalist who I worked with briefly during the beginning the Great March of Return. At the time, I was working with a group of journalists in Gaza to bring stories from Gaza to English-speaking audiences. Yaser Murtaja, a young, optimistic man with hopes to one day leave Gaza and share the story of his people with the world through his journalism and filmmaking, was killed on April 6th, 2018. The moment I found out Yaser was killed is an experience that will be forever be stained into my memory. I was speaking to a crowd at a New York City-protest for Gaza when my good friend rushed into my arms, crying, to tell me, “They killed Yaser.” My heartbroken friend grew up with Yaser in Gaza and considered him like a brother. Since then many stories of family members, friends, and colleagues losing their loved ones to senseless Israeli violence have become weekly headlines.
It’s almost been a year, and the Great Return March continues. Last week, I had the honor of organizing an event in New York City with one of the key figures who helped inspire the march. Ahmed Abu Artema, a poet, journalist, and activist who traveled to the United States with the help of the American Friends Service Committee. Ahmed shared a stage with Amy Goodman in a packed event hosted by The People’s Forum. It was there that Ahmed made a humble appeal to the audience saying, “Let us struggle to make this world better by supporting the people who struggle for freedom and justice.”
Across the ocean in Geneva, Soheir Asaad, the International Advocacy Coordinator of our sister organization, Adalah Legal Center, spoke to the United Nations Human Rights Council calling out Israel for its culture of impunity. Adalah has been working tirelessly to hold Israel accountable for their human rights violations through strategic litigation in the Israeli courts, in international bodies, and with advocacy efforts like the work of Adalah Justice Project in the United States.
We at Adalah Justice Project have made a commitment to struggle to make this world better for all-- and we hope you join us. We all have a role to play, and we must come together to realize justice from Standing Rock to Palestine, from Brazil to Sudan.
May we all gain courage and inspiration from those who rise up in the freedom struggle and show us the path toward a liberatory future.
Communications & Campaign Strategist
Adalah Justice Project