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PHOTOS: Life inside Gaza's Return March protest camp

This is what happens at the protest camp when the IDF isn’t shooting — and when the world isn’t looking.

Photos by Mohammed Zaanoun (Activestills.org), text by Mohammed Zaanoun and +972 Magazine Staff

Palestinian men make tea and talk at the Return March camp east of Shajiayia in Gaza. April 11, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Palestinian men make tea and talk at the Return March camp east of Shajiayia in Gaza. April 11, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

On Fridays, the Gaza tent encampment near the Israeli border fence is a deadly zone. Israel snipers have opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators for two consecutive weeks, killing more than 30 people and wounding over 1,000. But during the middle of the week, the protest camp, part of the Great Return March, is something entirely different — a peaceful, colorful staging ground for a range different activities that draws entire families, located a mere 400 meters from the Israeli border.

Mohammed Zaanoun, an Activestills photographer, visited the protest camp east of Shujaiya, a neighborhood devastated by Israeli bombing during the 2014 war. Several hundred people were there to participate in the activities, from dancing and children’s games to cooking and even pop-up barbershops. At night, the women go home while some of the men remain in the tents.

Palestinian women roll dough at the protest camp in Gaza, east of Shujaiya. April 11, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Palestinian women roll dough at the protest camp in Gaza, east of Shujaiya. April 11, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Um Yousef Lubbad was evicted in 1948 from her home in Al Majdal, where the Israeli city of Ashkelon now stands. She lives in the Gaza Strip and is married with children — 15 family members in total.

“Today we came to the Return Camp to emphasize our right to return to the land the Zionists took from us,” she said. “I wish I could return to Al Majdal.”

“Today we are making Msaffan, which is made from flour, olive oil, and some special spices,” Um Yousef continued. “It is a traditional dish from Al Majdal.”

Um Yousef Lubbad makes a traditional dish from her home town of Al Majdal at the protest encampment east of Shajaiya in Gaza. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Um Yousef Lubbad makes a traditional dish from her home town of Al Majdal at the protest encampment east of Shajaiya in Gaza. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

 

Um Youssef Lubbad, middle, poses at the protest encampment in Gaza, east of Shajaiya. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Um Youssef Lubbad, middle, poses at the protest encampment in Gaza, east of Shajaiya. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

“70 members [of] our family came to the Return Camp to join our people,” Um Youssef said. “We will keep coming here to the camp till we achieve our goals and return to our land.”

Palestinian girls hold a sign that says "We'll return to Al Majdal." (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Palestinian girls hold a sign that says “We’ll return to Al Majdal.” (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

The family-friendly activities, food and drink, dances and sports at protest camp have rarely appeared in reports about the Return March, which tend to focus on the violence and the dramatic images of burning tires and Israeli snipers. Reality in the protest camp is far different from what Israeli media claims it is. The protest organizers, and even Hamas, stress that this is an unarmed, popular protest against the occupation and for the Right of Return.

Palestinian children dressed in the colors of the Palestinian flag, at the protest encampment in Gaza east of Shujaiya. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Palestinian children dressed in the colors of the Palestinian flag, at the protest encampment in Gaza east of Shujaiya. (Mohammed Zaanoun / Activestills.org)

Roughly 70 percent of the population of Gaza are refugees — meaning they or their parents or grandparents fled or were expelled from towns, villages, and cities inside the territory that is now Israel in 1948, an event known as the Nakba. They have never been allowed to return. On clear days, across the fields near the Israeli border, they can see the the places where their homes once stood.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Lewis from Afula

      Look at the grinning, mischievous faces of these Hamas Youth. No doubt, their minds are focusing on their “Great Return” and the their planned Islamic butchery of the Israelis. I look forward to the day when IDF will bomb Aza back to the stone age, thus ridding the World of this Nazi-like infection.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bruce Gould

      @Ido Geller: I think the Palestinians have the right to deal with their own miserable, corrupt government without having to deal with Israel’s miserable, corrupt government on top of it. No?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ido

        The Palestinians elected their Jihadist Islamic terrorist organization with a running platform of “death to Israel” to rule Gaza. Their choice. Israel’s actions are a response to the actions of the Palestinians, not the other way around.
        You don’t know how things work in the Arab world ? anyone who dares call out Hamas or stand against them is arrested or killed. Probably both.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Bruce, Geller is a mindless troll. I can just as easily rewrite his mechanical claptrap in the opposite direction, demonstrating his mindlessness, his eerie blabbering emptiness:

        ‘The Israelis elected their Likudist Jewish terrorist organization with a running platform of “death to a Palestinian state” to rule the occupied territories. Their choice. The Palestinians’ actions are a response to the actions of the Israelis, not the other way around.
        You don’t know how things work in the Jewish world ? any Palestinian who dares call out the Likud or stand against them is arrested or killed by Israeli snipers. Probably both. We see it happening before our eyes in Gaza and the West Bank every day, fifty years now. Blah blah blah….’

        Reply to Comment
        • Ido

          Ben, calling me a troll will not somehow make the facts I’m pointing out less real.
          By all means, twist reality to the opposite of what I said, turn Hamas into what they are not, I would really like to see that, how deep is your detachment from reality ?

          Why are you lying about Likud ? Why are you ignoring the fact that Likud’s leader openly accepted the two state solution ? why are you ignoring the fact that Israel, under Likud, has offered a peace agreements to the Palestinians ?

          What’s with your outrageous lies about Likud killing people who oppose them ? everything you said is hilarious nonsense. you do understand what I posted about Hamas, right ? how they kill Palestinians who oppose them ? you can’t even twist up what I’m saying properly.
          Also it’s kinda hard not to notice that you couldn’t refute a single fact I stated but that’s a given by now.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Your “facts” are not facts, they’re mindlessly repeated distortions and irrelevancies and distractions. Propaganda.

            “Likud’s leader openly accepted the two state solution ? why are you ignoring the fact that Israel, under Likud, has offered a peace agreements to the Palestinians ?”

            This is a sneaky but to us obvious distortion and severe dumbing down of what is really going on. Propaganda. Mindlessness. Anyone here who has read a non-propaganda-sheet, such as +972 or Haaretz, for even a few months knows this. Knows you’re completely full of it with your “facts.” Stop insulting our intelligence. You are obvious. You are sneaky like Wiley E. Coyote. Beep beep!

            “your outrageous lies about Likud killing people who oppose them”

            They’re doing it right now in Gaza. No lie. And this is not the first time. They do it in the West Bank too.

            As I told you elsewhere, at greater length, for too long now we’ve let you trade in your cheap, easy false currency that “they are terrorists and we are not.” We are not accepting this counterfeit currency any more.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Ben, so along with the rest of your lies, denial of events that happened, efforts to ignore actual real world happenings, you have no idea what ‘facts’ mean.
            Explain how the events I described which happened in reality, which are very, very easy to prove are “propaganda”.
            “This is a sneaky but to us obvious distortion and severe dumbing down of what is really going on. Propaganda” – Fact: Likud officially accepted the two-state solution:
            http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7838189&page=1

            Currently this is not possible since the Palestinians refuse to accept the viable existence of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people:
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-palestinians-will-never-recognize-israel-as-jewish-state/

            “Anyone here who has read a non-propaganda-sheet, such as +972 or Haaretz” – you mean the most left-wing pro-Palestinian news and opinions outlets other than electronic-intifadah ? and you expect me to take you seriously ?

            “for even a few months knows this. Knows you’re completely full of it with your “facts”.” – refute it then, go right ahead. Why is this so difficult for you ?
            Let’s start from the top: Hamas are an Islamic Jihadist terrorist organization who see all of Israel as “Palestine”, their goal is the elimination of Israel and the murder of Jews.

            “They’re doing it right now in Gaza. No lie” – because it’s Palestinian season, right ? not because of this:
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-gaza-protesters-hurl-explosives-firebombs-try-to-damage-fence/
            Who cares about ‘context’, ‘reasons’ and ‘reality’ right ?

            “they are terrorists and we are not.” – the state of denial you are in is phenomenal. Is this pre-conditioned brainwashing or you are simply not aware what is happening ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Ben, so along with the rest of your lies, denial of events that happened, efforts to ignore actual real world happenings, you have no idea what ‘facts’ mean.
            Explain how the events I described which happened in reality, which are very, very easy to prove are “propaganda”.
            Fact: Likud officially accepted the two-state solution almost a decade ago:
            http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7838189&page=1

            Currently this is not possible since the Palestinians refuse to accept the viable existence of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people:
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-palestinians-will-never-recognize-israel-as-jewish-state/

            “for even a few months knows this. Knows you’re completely full of it with your “facts”.” – refute it then, go right ahead. Why is this so difficult for you ?
            Let’s start from the top: Hamas are an Islamic Jihadist terrorist organization who see all of Israel as “Palestine”, their goal is the elimination of Israel and the murder of Jews.

            “They’re doing it right now in Gaza. No lie” – because it’s Palestinian season, right ? not because of this:
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-gaza-protesters-hurl-explosives-firebombs-try-to-damage-fence/
            Who cares about ‘context’, ‘reasons’ and ‘reality’ right ?

            “they are terrorists and we are not.” – the state of denial you are in is phenomenal. Is this pre-conditioned brainwashing or you are simply not aware what is happening ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Ben, so along with the rest of your lies, denial of events that happened, efforts to ignore actual real world happenings, you have no idea what ‘facts’ mean.
            Explain how the events I described which happened in reality, which are very, very easy to prove are “propaganda”.
            “This is a sneaky but to us obvious distortion and severe dumbing down of what is really going on. Propaganda” – Fact: Likud officially accepted the two-state solution almost a decade ago:
            http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7838189&page=1

            Currently this is not possible since the Palestinians refuse to accept the viable existence of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people:
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-palestinians-will-never-recognize-israel-as-jewish-state/

            “for even a few months knows this. Knows you’re completely full of it with your “facts”.” – refute it then, go right ahead. Why is this so difficult for you ?
            Let’s start from the top: Hamas are an Islamic Jihadist terrorist organization who see all of Israel as “Palestine”, their goal is the elimination of Israel and the murder of Jews.

            “They’re doing it right now in Gaza. No lie” – because it’s Palestinian season, right ? not because of this:
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-gaza-protesters-hurl-explosives-firebombs-try-to-damage-fence/

            Who cares about ‘context’, ‘reasons’ and ‘reality’ right ?
            The state of denial you are in is phenomenal. Is this brainwashing or you are simply not aware what is happening ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Ben, so along with the rest of your lies, denial of events that happened, efforts to ignore actual real world happenings, you have no idea what ‘facts’ mean.
            Explain how the events I described which happened in reality, which are very, very easy to prove are “propaganda”.
            “This is a sneaky but to us obvious distortion and severe dumbing down of what is really going on. Propaganda” – Fact: Likud officially accepted the two-state solution:
            http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7838189&page=1

            Currently this is not possible since the Palestinians refuse to accept the viable existence of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people:
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-palestinians-will-never-recognize-israel-as-jewish-state/

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            “for even a few months knows this. Knows you’re completely full of it with your “facts”.” – refute it then, go right ahead. Why is this so difficult for you ?
            Let’s start from the top: Hamas are an Islamic Jihadist terrorist organization who see all of Israel as “Palestine”, their goal is the elimination of Israel and the murder of Jews.

            “They’re doing it right now in Gaza. No lie” – because it’s Palestinian season, right ? not because of this:
            https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-gaza-protesters-hurl-explosives-firebombs-try-to-damage-fence/
            Who cares about ‘context’, ‘reasons’ and ‘reality’ right ?

            “they are terrorists and we are not.” – the state of denial you are in is phenomenal. Is this pre-conditioned brainwashing or you are simply not aware what is happening ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            Ben, so along with the rest of your lies, denial of events that happened, efforts to ignore actual real world happenings, you have no idea what ‘facts’ mean.
            Explain how the events I described which happened in reality, which are very, very easy to prove are “propaganda”.
            “This is a sneaky but to us obvious distortion and severe dumbing down of what is really going on. Propaganda” – Fact: Likud officially accepted the two-state solution almost a decade ago.
            Currently this is not possible since the Palestinians refuse to accept the viable existence of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people. They say so openly.

            Reply to Comment
        • Ido

          1. “The Israelis elected their Likudist Jewish terrorist organization”: Likud is not a terrorist organization, Hamas are the definition of a terrorist organization based on their stated goals and actions, identified as such internationally most notably by Israel, the United States and the European Union. They are an Islamic Jihadist organization who sees the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews as a sacred religious duty.
          2. “Likudist’s running platform of “death to a Palestinian state”. Absurd lie. Hamas, as stated by their official charter and declaration of goals, see Israel’s elimination, as stated by their charter, as a primary goal.
          3. “The Palestinians’ actions are a response to the actions of the Israelis”. Again, lie. It’s the other way around. Well, unless you consider the mere existence of Israel as an action because that is the reason of the various Palestinian terrorist organizations to fight it.
          It’s exactly the opposite: Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, Israel’s offer of almost all the West Bank to the Palestinians as part of peace negotiations, etc.
          4. “You don’t know how things work in the Jewish world ? any Palestinian who dares call out the Likud or stand against them is arrested or killed by Israeli snipers” – another outrageous lie. Trying to kill Israeli soldiers and breach the border into Israel is not “dare to call on the Likud”. What’s with the stupid lies ?
          5. “We see it happening before our eyes in Gaza and the West Bank every day, fifty years now” – Another stupid lie. I call out the Likud, I did so multiple times here, huge chunks of my country does including Arab Israelis, they are not shot by snipers.
          This is apparently your version of “calling out the Likud”:
          https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-gaza-protesters-hurl-explosives-firebombs-try-to-damage-fence/

          If you are going to make stuff up and lie in such a ridiculous fashion, at least try to put some effort into it, it’s not even entertaining nonsense like your other stuff.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I already replied to you. Stop wasting my time and cluttering up this board.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ido

            And I already pointed out your nonsense, again. In detail.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      @Ido: Your version of history isn’t the same as the one I got from reading Baruch Kimmerling, or Benny Morris, or any of the guys who examined Israeli military archives when they were partially opened up in the 80’s. But this isn’t the place to discuss history – it’s 2018.

      One state, two states, or apartheid? There seem to be a lot of Israeli military people who think the question isn’t going to go away, and they also think that time is not on Israel’s side. http://en.cis.org.il/

      Reply to Comment
      • Ido

        Please point to anything I posted which you think is wrong, and I don’t think you read Benny Morris lately.
        I’m in favor of a two state solution. The Palestinians, as said very, very clearly by their own leaders, don’t see a viable Israel as part of a future of “Palestine”.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      I’m referencing “Ido” in his first post on April 14, 2018 above.

      Ido Geller: “Why are you lying about Likud ? …”

      Note what Ido Geller just demonstrated here.

      I took what I call his mechanical claptrap, his propaganda, his routine equations, and simply switched out the variables, from Palestinian to Israeli variables. Producing a mechanical piece of claptrap about the Israelis and Jews, instead of Palestinians and Arabs. And absolutely no less true or false than what he writes.

      Ido took this totally seriously and went for this, hook, line and sinker. I caught a troll and landed him, flopping on the bank. He went straight at it, dove right in and proceeded to go over my “facts” and ask why I am “lying,” with zero awareness of the trap laid.

      He’s intractably clueless about the meta-communication. He just couldn’t grasp that we showed how mechanical, meaningless, derailing and distracting his propaganda is; that one can simply switch out the variables and create the same dross from the other side. He went straight at it, dove right in. Swallowed it whole.

      “Why are you lying about Likud…?”

      Even though much of what I phrased is not far from the truth. It’s true, Likud is a kind of terrorist organization. So is the IDF. To deny this you have to trade in the false currency of “they are terrorists and we are not.” In which counterfeit Geller specializes. I pointed this out at length on April 13th here:
      “The IDF in fact, functions like a terrorist organization. For too long now right wing Israelis have dressed the other side up as “terrorists” and themselves up as “not terrorists……”
      https://972mag.com/we-demand-international-protection-for-journalists-in-gaza/134584/

      Ido got a taste of his own medicine in my variable switching exercise and doesn’t like it. (And you can tell no one has ever talked to him like this—he can’t get his mind around it—“Whaaaah?! IDF a terrorist organization?! You must me mad!!”) But Ido is at the same time utterly oblivious to the larger point about meta-communication and the misuse of simplistic pseudo-“facts.”

      Hook, line and sinker.

      Ido doesn’t get that he doesn’t get it.

      Q. E. D.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ido

        Ben, I pointed in detail exactly where you lied and where you had no idea about what you’re talking about. In detail, several times. Your comparison was a joke.
        I asked you to refute the facts I posted yet you still seem to have difficulty doing that.
        I asked you to answer a simple question, yet you refuse to touch it with a 10 foot pole. For 15 times now.
        And now you come with an announcement that “you laid a trap for me”. This is more sad than funny.
        Quoting a biased pro-Palestinian blog is a nice touch though.
        “Ido got a taste of his own medicine in my variable switching exercise and doesn’t like it.” – you mean the nonsense I refuted in detail above ?

        I ask again: 16th time: when you say ‘the entire occupation’ do you, like the Palestinians, mean the entire land of Israel from the river to the sea ?

        Reply to Comment
    5. Thanks for sharing such an informative post. They are peaceful and loving people please raise a voice for them.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Eldad Kisch, MD, member of PHR-Israel

      There should be be more support from the Israeli side for the peaceful part of the demonstrations of the Gazans, who live under impossible and inhuman conditions. Even if their governing body, Hamas, certainly bears responsability for their sorry situation by upholding misplaced priorities and enmity, this is no reason for Israel to suppress innocent citizens of the strip. We should be more lenient in letting patients get medical help, family visits, necessary provisions.

      Reply to Comment
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