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‘We will not wait 70 years more’: scenes from Gaza’s March of Return

Israel/Palestine
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Amid thousands of semi-cultivated wheat and barley fields in the area of Abu Safia, east of Jabalia in North Gaza, around 30 beige canvas tents have been set up within 700 meters of the adjacent Israeli border fence, ahead of a six-week protest camp under the gaze of wary Israeli soldiers.

Those crops could hardly be seen due to tens of thousands of participants joining the encampment, an unprecedented number according to the organizers of the Great March of Return.

The first rally was kicked off on Friday, March 30th when Palestinians worldwide mark Land Day, commemorating the killing of six unarmed Palestinians protesters in Israel in 1976.

Protesters watch Israeli troops massing beyond the Gaza border. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

On the first day of the exceptional event, which was called by the Palestinian factions for the past several weeks, the Gaza Health Ministry reported that 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops along the eastern border of the besieged strip.

Masses of angry young people tried to ignore the event organizer committee’s recommended safe distance from the border, but the tear gas bombs fired by the Israeli soldiers on the other side of the border forced them to back off.

Tents in the Great March of Return encampment (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Meanwhile, a wedding ceremony between groom Alaa Shahin and bride Maryam Hamdouna was able to capture the campers’ attention for a while with an unusual scene, a wedding in the middle of the growing tension at the border.

Alaa, 23, who was carried over his relative’ shoulders amid traditional wedding songs, said that this rally is the best place to start his new life.

“Few hundred meters away from those soldiers eyes, I would emphasize my right and the whole Palestinian peoples’ right to return home after 70 years of displacement, we will not wait another 70!” Alaa told Mondoweiss.

“Today, I will be at the nearest point of my home town Ni’ilya,” he said, adding, “with my wedding suit and tie I dance and sang with the melodies of the Return.”

Alaa Shahin celebrating his wedding that Great March of Return. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Maryam’s family is originally from Majdal village — now Ashkelon in southern Israel — which was only 3 kilometers from Alaa’s village of Ni’ilya. Maryam, 21, explained, “It is said that there was a route linking Ni’ilya with Majdal, making its way between orchards. I told Alaa, one day, we will travel that route with our children at the time of the return of the country”.

Five main camp sites have been set up spreading the length of the coastal enclave from near the Erez border crossing in the north to Rafah in the south, which is adjacent to Egypt. Camping and protests are expected to continue until May 15, the anniversary of the Nakba and around the time the Trump administration is set to move its controversial embassy to Jerusalem.

Suad Abdrabbou (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Before leaving the couple’s celebration, I met Suad Abdrabbou, who just arrived with her grandsons.

Suad, 67, who numbered her tent “1967”, said that she felt heartbreak once she saw the border for the first time.

“I recall the 1967 war, once Israel occupied the lands where I used to harvest the sweet cactus and figs, but all that became nightmares”.

The grandmother, whose origin is also from Ni’ilya, has not believed in peace with the Israelis for a day. “We have experienced them over seventy years, so I should not wait to be 140 years to return”.

The Great March of Return in Gaza. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Palestinians set up small soccer fields in the protest encampments. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Palestinian folklore and culture was celebrated in the encampment as protests began on Land Day. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

Some families moved many of their household items to the tents, meaning that they will spend a long time in the encampment. Military and political leaders in Israel seem concerned.

Israel’s Chief of Staff, General Gadi Eisenkot, has warned of escalating tensions along Israel’s borders and said reinforcements, including more than 100 special forces snipers, had been deployed to the Gaza frontier and the army was prepared for all scenarios.

“We won’t allow mass infiltration into Israel” or damage to the border barrier, he told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

According to the United Nations, some 1.3 million of Gaza’s 1.9 million residents are refugees or their descendants. The event organizers said that tens of thousands of meals would be delivered for more than 100,000 expected participants, while dozens of wooden toilets were set up and large generators whirred to life.

Ahmed Abu Meteq (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

In the back row of demonstrators, 84-year-old Ahmed Abu Meteq recalled when the fathers and grandfathers of the youth protesting entered Gaza through those same borders.

“All I need is to return to Hiribya – located 14 kilometers northeast of Gaza – I would die over there. We don’t want to cross to others’ countries, we just would apply the UN resolution to go back home to our original villages,” Ahmed told Mondoweiss.

“I was 14 when my father said that we have 30 dunums in Hiribya, where we were planting watermelon which he said ‘was as big as your head, son'”.

Palestinians have long demanded that as many as five million of their compatriots be granted the right to return to their homes and lands. Israel rules this out, fearing an influx of Palestinians would eliminate its Jewish majority. Israel argues the refugees should be resettled in a future state that the Palestinians seek in West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered on the border areas of the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

A sign on a tent in the encampment that says: “We do not come to fight, we came to return to home” (Photo: Mohammed Asad)

About Ahmad Kabariti

Ahmad Kabariti is a freelance journalist based in Gaza.

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35 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    March 31, 2018, 2:56 pm

    … Palestinians have long demanded that as many as five million of their compatriots be granted the right to return to their homes and lands. Israel rules this out, fearing an influx of Palestinians would eliminate its Jewish majority. …

    When it comes to I-P, Zionists hypocritically don’t give a shit about justice, accountability, equality, human rights or international laws. All they care about is Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

    • just
      just
      March 31, 2018, 4:14 pm

      To your point:

      “Upset With Israel’s ‘Muslim-Christian’ Look, Minister Aims to Make It More ‘Jewish’ …

      Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant is launching a project that would see Star of David-shaped decorations appearing in public spaces, in an attempt to counter what his ministry calls the country’s “Muslim-Christian look.”

      “Along the country’s highways and footpaths, from the Golan Heights in the north to the Negev in the south, one can mainly see tall minarets which dominate the landscape, giving the country a Muslim-Christian look,” says an internal presentation prepared by the ministry, as reported on Thursday in Yedioth Ahronoth. “The landscape does not reflect the fact that the country is Israeli and Jewish,” it adds. …

      The proposed project will be discussed by the cabinet at its next meeting on Sunday.

      The presentation features photos of the landscape today as well as images of what it will look like after the project is completed. The photos were taken in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, along Highway 6 and in other locations. They show minarets surrounded by red circles, alongside which are prominent structures on which projected images of a Star of David are shown.

      “Even though the state’s Jewish character is a key element in its definition, standing at the base of its identity, as specified in the Declaration of Independence, this is not appropriately expressed in the state’s public spaces. In practice, anyone traveling the country’s roads will not encounter the symbols of a Jewish state which would emphasize its Jewish character” says the proposal which will be brought to the cabinet for approval. …”

      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/upset-with-israel-s-muslim-christian-look-minister-aims-for-change-1.5962107

      Insane. Worse than apartheid. Ethnic cleansing @ its worst, yet the West mutters and is entirely complicit.

  2. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    March 31, 2018, 3:50 pm

    A good comment in the Guardian

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/31/gaza-strip-israel-conflict-border-season-of-conflicts
    Once again, Hamas and its supporters in Gaza, blockaded by Israel and Egypt and at odds with their Fatah rivals in the West Bank, are using mass civilian protest to end their isolation. Once again, Israel’s rightwing leaders, unwilling or unable to contemplate a two-state solution, compound myopic intransigence with a disproportionate use of force.

  3. mondonut
    mondonut
    March 31, 2018, 4:26 pm

    As witnessed by these unneeded and unnecessary deaths, nothing good can come from maintaining the delusion that the Palestinians have a “right” to “return”. The Palestinian people are being cynically manipulated by their worthless leaders, both the kleptocratic and Islamist ones.

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      March 31, 2018, 5:20 pm

      Israel has the future of the Crusaders. Wrong side of the Med for Disney land.

    • guyn
      guyn
      March 31, 2018, 5:40 pm

      Even if the Palestinians ask only for bananas at the frontier, they would be shot.

      • Stephen Shenfield
        Stephen Shenfield
        March 31, 2018, 7:04 pm

        They aren’t allowed to get anywhere near the frontier to ask for anything.

    • eljay
      eljay
      March 31, 2018, 6:02 pm

      || mon donut: As witnessed by these unneeded and unnecessary deaths, nothing good can come from maintaining the delusion that the Palestinians have a “right” to “return”. … ||

      Refugee right of return: A legal non-delusion.
      Jewish “Law of Return”: A religion-based delusion.

      || … The Palestinian people are being cynically manipulated by their worthless leaders … ||

      Unlike Zionist Jews, who appear to be informed and willing participants in the (war) crimes of Zionism.

      • mondonut
        mondonut
        March 31, 2018, 8:43 pm

        @elijay

        Palestinian RoR: Absolutely zero legally binding basis.
        Law of Return: Legal Immigration Policy, as afforded to every sovereign State.

      • eljay
        eljay
        March 31, 2018, 9:49 pm

        || mon donut: … Palestinian RoR: Absolutely zero legally binding basis.
        Law of Return: Legal Immigration Policy, as afforded to every sovereign State. ||

        Refugee right of return: Legitimate and moral.
        Jewish “Law of Return”: Religion-based supremacism.

      • genesto
        genesto
        April 2, 2018, 6:01 pm

        The Palestinians are fully aware of the dangers they face by confronting the IDF at the border and are willing to suffer the consequences, much like the Indian people, led by Gandhi, were when they revolted against British rule in the 40’s. The goal of the Palestinians now, as was that of the Indian people back then, is to continue to grow the resistance and wear down the Zionist regime until it realizes it’s better to lay down its arms than it is to continue its morally bankrupt Occupation.

    • Shingo
      Shingo
      March 31, 2018, 6:10 pm

      None of these murders had anything to do with demands for right of return. All those killed where in Gaza. At least one of the murders was at Rafah

      • mondonut
        mondonut
        March 31, 2018, 8:47 pm

        @Shingo

        The monsters who manipulated the Palestinians to gather and march with promises of “returning” to villages in Israel did so based on the RoR. They put them there, they put them on the fence, they threatened Israel. The entire event was literally called the March of Return.

        It had everything to do with the non-existent RoR.

    • oldgeezer
      oldgeezer
      March 31, 2018, 10:28 pm

      @mondonut

      Right of return as embodied in the UDHR and UN Resolution 194 which was agreed to by Israel. Whether the resolution was binding or not is irrelevant as Israel agreed to it and has since proved it’s agreement is never to be trusted.

      • JosephA
        JosephA
        March 31, 2018, 11:51 pm

        …in which old geezer deftly serves up facts with a side of international law flavored with a bit of history for “Mo’ Donut”.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        April 1, 2018, 9:19 am

        If memory serves, a condition subsequent (in the legal contractual sense) to the UN’s recognition of Israel as a sovereign state among the nations, was immediate allowance of return of the 750,000 non-Jewish natives terrorized from their centuries old homeland by the Nakba. Anybody?

      • mondonut
        mondonut
        April 1, 2018, 5:32 pm

        @oldgeezer

        As you correctly state, UNGA 194 is a non-binding resolution and has nothing to do with International Law. But you are absolutely incorrect to believe that Israel agreed that it was binding, there is nothing in UNGA 273 to back that ridiculous claim. Recalling GA resolutions does not magically turn them into binding International Law.

        As for the UDHR. It is not a treaty (that would bind), it was created after the 1948 exodus of the Palestinians (it is not retroactive) and again – it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        April 1, 2018, 8:43 pm

        @mondonut

        We aren’t in a court of law mondo so I’m not sure if you are splitting hairs but th the UDHR went on to be referred to as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty which was signed and ratified by Israel. UDHR is a lot easier to type than ICCPR (and to remember). Any who knows anything about it knows it’s progression,

        The issue of retroactivity is irrelevant and Israel continues to violate this treaty through it’s expulsions andeven insisting those who leave not return for a specified period of time.

        But then when doesn’t Israel violate law.

        I clearly never said that Israel agreed 194 but was binding. I said they agreed to adhere to it. And they did.

        More malicious lies from the GoI and the criminals that support it.

      • mondonut
        mondonut
        April 2, 2018, 12:55 pm

        @oldgeezer ” UDHR went on to be referred to as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”

        Fair enough, in force starting 1976 I believe and again as not being retroactive it does not provide special rights to the 1948 Palestinians. And as for returning to “their country”, the Gazans are already in Palestine – their country.

        As for 194, what point are you trying to make? Either it is binding or it is not. As it is not, it provides no rights to the Palestinians. And for the record, they did not agree to “adhere” to it, whatever that might mean.

      • Nathan
        Nathan
        April 3, 2018, 10:29 am

        Citizen – Your memory is faulty. There is no need for UN recognition of Israel. The acceptance of Israel to the UN was conditionalized on her accepting UNGA 194. And, indeed, Israel accepted the resolution, and she was admitted to the UN. In the anti-Israel world, UNGA is the basis of the “right of return”. If one reads the decision, one finds out that those refugees willing to live in peace with their neighbors should be allowed to return as soon as possible. “Willing to live in peace” means “end of conflict”, obviously. There is no return of refugees before resolving the conflict. And “should be allowed to return” is not quite the same as “must return”. Interestingly, the Arab states at the UN voted against 194. They understood exactly what the intention of the decision was: Agreeing to the existence of Israel and ending the state of war with her.

        Anyway, since UNGA 194, there have been other agreements vis-a-vis the refugees. UNSC 242 called for the solution of the refugee problem in the framework of establishing peace. What is the solution? UNSC 242 doesn’t say. So, it has to be (1) negotiated, and (2) the conflict has to be resolved. In the Oslo Agreement, the Palestinians themselves (under Mr Arafat) agreed to negotiate the refugee issue within the framework of final status (i.e. end of conflict).

        There is not going to be a return of refugees without first reaching an agreement to end the conflict. Of course, ending the conflict with Israel is understood as accepting Israel’s legitimacy – so, the Palestinians won’t ever go for it.

    • Emory Riddle
      Emory Riddle
      April 1, 2018, 4:11 pm

      Why don’t Palestinians who were driven off their land and out of their homes over the past 70 years have a right of return?

      Why do Jews from Europe and Russia and America who think they are related to Jews who held Palestine for a short time over 2,000 years ago have a right of return?

      Can you explain this?

      • Mayhem
        Mayhem
        April 2, 2018, 9:13 am

        Palestinians don’t have some special privilege to redeem land that they have lost in war and return to their former homes. Where is there an example in the world of a defeated antagonist being granted the entitlement to bring back its people to land lost in internecine conflict?

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        April 2, 2018, 11:09 am

        The “Mayhem” thing seems to be still asleep in the 1600s. The news that the only reward of conquest is, officially, a hanging in Nuremberg hasn’t reached inside the Z bubble yet. That’s why the US Gov is so careful never to formally annex any new conquests.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 2, 2018, 11:43 am

        “Where is there an example in the world of a defeated antagonist being granted the entitlement to bring back its people to land lost in internecine conflict?”

        Duh, I can’t think of a single example of “self-determination”.

      • amigo
        amigo
        April 2, 2018, 12:38 pm

        “Where is there an example in the world of a defeated antagonist being granted the entitlement to bring back its people to land lost in internecine conflict?”mayhem

        Ireland /France/Belgium /India/ Poland/ etc etc etc.

        Just to remind you mayhem !!!.

        “The Inadmissibility of Territories Gained through War.”.

      • mondonut
        mondonut
        April 2, 2018, 1:00 pm

        @Emory Riddle

        The only people claiming a RoR are the Palestinians. Anyone who legally emigrates to Israel does so in accordance with the immigration policy of the State of Israel. All countries are entitled to their own immigration policies, that is beyond dispute.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        April 2, 2018, 1:07 pm

        See ‘We reclaimed…German citizenship’ The Local January 26 2018 by Anja Samy about a Jewish family dispossessed by the Nazis – an example relevant to the question Mayhem asks. I think that if the Palestinian refugees were offered Israeli citizenship and compensation for loss of property on the German-Jewish model the whole problem might be on the way to a solution.

      • Jethro
        Jethro
        April 2, 2018, 4:15 pm

        ” I think that if the Palestinian refugees were offered Israeli citizenship and compensation for loss of property on the German-Jewish model the whole problem might be on the way to a solution.”

        Is this a joke, MHughes? Your suggestion implies that Israel would have to take responsibility and suffer a consequence (compensation) for its illegal activities. Israel doesn’t do that.

      • MHughes976
        MHughes976
        April 2, 2018, 4:35 pm

        I know it doesn’t, Jethro. However, I was offering Mayhem an example of a constructive recognition of refugee rights and of return after ‘internecine’ violence. Quite a relevant example, I believe.

      • Nathan
        Nathan
        April 3, 2018, 10:27 pm

        Emory Riddle – It’s really not too complicated. The issue of refugees is an end-of-conflict topic. This means that there must be an agreement that resolves the conflict.

        MHughes976 – It’s hard to believe that you really are of the opinion that offering Israeli citizenship and compensations to the refugees would be the way to solving the conflict. One of the many grievances of the Palestinians is that the State of Israel was founded in the first place, so it’s really silly to imagine that becoming a citizen of a state that shouldn’t exist would be a solution. The simple truth is the exact opposite of your outlook: First there should be an agreed solution to the conflict, and then it would be possible to imagine that there would be those who would want to be Israeli citizens or would ask for compensations.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      Stephen Shenfield
      April 2, 2018, 7:39 pm

      Do you think that it’s the leaders who somehow force Palestinians to keep the keys to their old homes, most of which were destroyed long ago, and pass them down from one generation to the next? I think it’s just the opposite. The leaders, even of Hamas, have a more realistic idea of what is attainable but dare not directly confront popular sentiment.

  4. Kay24
    Kay24
    April 1, 2018, 11:05 am

    At least Bernie Sanders has condemned the violence, and Israel’s killing of Palestinians.

    http://thehill.com/policy/international/381125-sanders-condemns-killing-of-palestinian-protesters

    I don’t hear a sound from the rest, not a murmur, whisper, or any human sound.
    Shame on them.

  5. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    April 1, 2018, 1:46 pm

    The “Great March of Return” demonstrations are due to continue up to at least 15th May.
    The first 3 stages of the Giro D`Italia in Israel are scheduled for 3rd , 4th and 5th May.
    I hope and pray that despite the relentless slaughter and violence being visited on them by the Fascist IOF the Palestinians in Gaza will have the courage to continue with their peaceful demonstrations for their right of return and that their fellow Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories will come out in masses to show their support on these three days.

    Now that is something which will have the Zios really fouling their pants.

    Tick tick.

  6. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    April 2, 2018, 1:51 pm

    Further to my previous post the Giro D`Italia organisers do have a Plan B:
    http://www.velonews.com/2017/12/giro-ditalia/giro-organizers-consider-plan-b-due-to-jerusalem-turmoil_453148

    So it would appear that the first three stages may well be in Italy after all. If it does go ahead as per Plan A it will IMHO as a cycling supporter permanently tarnish the image of the race and unfortunately by default the reputation of the Italian people.

  7. FreeToBeMe
    FreeToBeMe
    April 2, 2018, 2:38 pm

    Anyone want to comment on this guy’s YT channel?

    https://youtu.be/WDfYjCC2UnY

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