GUEST BLOG: Lois Griffiths – Let My People Go


Sing it sister:

   “When Gazans locked in no-man’s lan'”

    Let my people go!

   Oppressed so hard they could not stan’

    Let my people go!”

Sing it brother:

   Tell ol’ Bibi..Oh

   Let my people go!”

What is happening along the Israel imposed barrier between Gaza and the rest of Israel? How should our NZ media resource its information? One way is to report only the version of the Israeli military  and government. Is this journalism? Israeli officials will tell us that the protest, the Great Return March is stirred up by Hamas terrorists . Life in Gaza is fine really. The demonstrators were violent and the IDF had no choice but  to shoot some, in self-defence. End of story. 

The Christchurch Press has printed 2 feature World Section  articles about the incidents. On Monday 02 April, the article was titled  Israel Set to Move Inside Gaza . The article quoted the Israeli military spokesman Brigadier Manelis six times, telling his version that the Israeli regime  wants the world to accept. It also quoted Netanyahu. On Tuesday 03 April the article was titled Israel: Gaza killings ‘had to be done.This article quoted Defence Minister Lieberman twice,  remarks from the Israeli military three times. 

Middle East issues have interested me for many years. I am well aware of websites where reporting is done that Israel would rather the world didn’t read or hear about. 

Trying to squeeze your thoughts into a very restrictive Letters to the Editor word number count is not easy. Here is what I wrote:


The Gazan demonstrations and the Israeli response are reported by different sources, in different ways. (Press, April 2) As many Gazans are actually refugees, maybe they see demonstrating as the only way to remind the world that 1948 UN Resolution 194 granted them the right to return. Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy writes, “The killing of Palestinians is accepted in Israel more lightly than the killing of mosquitoes. There’s nothing cheaper in Israel than Palestinian blood. An army that prides itself on shooting a farmer on his land, an army that pits tanks against civilians and boasts of one hundred snipers waiting for the demonstrators is an army that has lost all restraint.”

Bernie Sanders condemned the killing of Palestinian demonstrators by tweeting “It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response.”  Jeremy Corbyn tweeted “The killing and wounding by Israeli forces of civilians demonstrating for Palestinian rights in Gaza is appalling.”

Any response from our politicians? 

I am annoyed but not surprised that the letter wasn’t printed. Yet I quoted  an Israeli journalist, not embedded and not  in favour with the ruling regime. I also quoted reactions from 2 well known Western politicians, surely of interest to readers.  

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There is so much more that needs to be said. The UN has reported that Gaza will be unliveable by 2020. What does ‘unliveable’ mean? Conditions are ghastly already, not because of an earthquake or cyclone. There is an on-going continuous reminder to the Gazans that they are expendable. Farmers are shot, farm land poisoned, fishermen are shot.  Pathetic Western politicians tend to shed crocodile tears as they say if only they would have more negotiations.  Another 7 decades of ‘negotiations’?

Israel has described the Great March of Return as a provocative publicity stunt, pre-meditated acts of violence organized and controlled by Hamas. Yet other reportings, such as what I have just read on Common Dreams , who got it from Huffington Post, In Gaza. Israel Aims to Massacre Hope by Yousef Munayyer, tell a different story. Here are excerpts .

So early last week, well before demonstrators began to amass in Gaza for a planned protest, I could see how Israel was laying the foundation for the massacre to come, describing the march as a Hamas-organized event aimed at violent provocation. In the days before, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs circulated talking points preemptively framing the event as violent, dangerous, a cover for terror activity and an exploitation of civilians. The Israeli military sent 100 snipers down to the fence between Gaza and Israel. The stage was set for a massacre and this time, the Israelis may have thought they sufficiently prepared an international audience to justify it ahead of time.

By the time the sun had set on Friday in Gaza, 17 Palestinians were killed and hundreds of others were wounded by live ammunition. Videos emerged of unarmed protesters dodging bullets before ultimately being gunned down. International condemnations would follow, as would an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to address the issue.

Once again, Israel had used lethal force against unarmed protesters, even as Israeli soldiers faced no imminent threat. Indeed, no Israeli soldiers were injured during the events. And it is hard to imagine how they could be. These are soldiers armed to the hilt and positioned atop dunes or in armored vehicles, behind a fence as well, firing at Palestinians from a great distance. Even if a Palestinian was throwing a stone, the chances that under these conditions such an act could cause an imminent threat to life ― the only situation that would justify the use of lethal force under international law ― are infinitesimal. Indeed, even if Palestinians were trying to climb the fence, that would not give Israel the right to use lethal force.

More than the atrocities committed or the condemnations that followed, perhaps the most important and also inspirational element of the events of last Friday was the demonstrations themselves. Tens of thousands of Palestinians congregated in disciplined, organized demonstrations at various points along the fence of the besieged Gaza Strip. People of all ages joined, songs were sung, meals were cooked, pick-up volleyball games were played. All of this, importantly, was done as a unified Palestinian front. Despite Israel’s efforts to slap a Hamas label on it, the only visible flags were Palestinian, not factional. For Palestinians, this was a vision that brought us together with great hope.

The massacre of protesters in Gaza this past week was Palestine’s version of the Sharpeville Massacre that happened almost exactly 58 years ago in South Africa.

The international community responded then with condemnation, beginning a process that included an arms embargo and ultimately led to the end of the apartheid system.

Let’s hear from two more Israelis who are very critical of their own Government. Israeli journalist Amira Hass has written, again in Haaretz, “Nevertheless, in Gaza, Israel surpasses its usual evil. There in particular it causes soldiers, commanders, bureaucrats and civilians to demonstrate behaviors and character traits that in any other context would be considered sadistic and criminal or, at best, inappropriate to a civilized society.”

The Washington Post quoted Amit Galutz, spokesperson for Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem,“These are the predictable outcomes of a manifestly illegal command: Israeli soldiers shooting live ammunition at unarmed Palestinian protestors. What is predictable too, is that no one, from the snipers on the ground to the top officials whose policies have turned Gaza into a giant prison, is likely to ever be held accountable.”

For how many decades are Western leaders and opinion makers, including New Zealand leaders : political, religious, media , or academic, going to look the other way? 

In my letter to The Press I challenged NZ political leaders to speak out, as Corbyn and Sanders have done. I’ll conclude this article with a musical quote. (Of course Pete Seegar meant boys and girls.)

“Which side are you on boys? Which side are you on?”


Lois Griffiths is a human rights activist and Palestinian Rights champion



  1. [Comment edited. Part of your contribution uses unacceptable language that might be considered anti-semitic. The Daily Blog does not encourage criticism of Israeli policies to be framed in offensive anti-semitic phrases. – Scarletmod]

    This country (Israel’Palestine) is an abomination to the international community which by the way is only 70yrs old this year but has a track record of ethnic cleansing and inhumane treatment of the Indigenous population for longer even before it self-recognized itself as a state in 1948

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