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On the one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return

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Today I participated in the Great March of Return with tens of thousands of Gazans. We marched on the fence of the Gaza concentration camp marking Land Day and the one-year anniversary of the March. We had the mother of all marches, sending a loud message to apartheid Israel, that we have not forgotten any of our rights. In the process we lost three young men and 316 protesters were injured, according to Gaza’s ministry of health.

For us, it is very clear that there is no hope in changing the indifference and apathy of the official international community, but we count on civil society. Israeli soldiers hiding in ditches behind the razor wire have so far killed 266 protesters, and injured 30,000 more. The UN’s Commission of Inquiry found that Israel’s attacks on the protesters “may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

This is why we have renewed our call for a military embargo against Israel and amplifying BDS campaigns to end Israel’s impunity and hold it accountable for its crimes. This was summed up in Razan Najjar’s mother’s words:

“it’s the obligation of the international community to act and stop supplying Israel with the weapons that it used to kill Razan and so many others like her. I call on organizations and states to implement our Palestinian call for a military embargo against Israel so that we can live in freedom and peace.”

The reason as to why Israel is very concerned about the Great March of Return — which began on March 30, 2018 and has not yet ended – is that it has shuffled the cards and brought crucial questions to the fore regarding the essence of the Palestinian cause as well as the status of the Gaza Strip. Despite the bleak reality of life in Gaza — which Israel’s siege will, with international and local collusion, soon render uninhabitable — a new consciousness is emerging.

Palestinian protesters gather east of Gaza city on March 30, 2019 for the Great March of Return

Palestinian protesters gather east of Gaza city on March 30, 2019 for the Great March of Return. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour/APA Images)

We have decided to peacefully mobilize to enforce international resolutions, beginning with UN Resolution 194 regarding the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and lands. We have also reached the conclusion that the only dependable power is that of the people, especially after the failure of the Palestinian leadership to unite despite the existential threat posed by the Trump administration’s so-called “deal of the century” which aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause once and for all. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the American civil rights movement have inspired us. We also draw on a history of popular resistance in Palestine, including the 1936 strike and later uprisings in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel. That is why we view the Great March of Return as an act of collective mass action against Israel’s settler-colonialism and apartheid.

Our activism in Gaza connects all forms of popular resistance. In particular, it upholds the call to boycott, divest from, and impose sanctions on Israel (BDS), inspired by the South African liberation movement. Indeed, the March of Return has created an unprecedented Palestinian consensus and is in line with the goals of the BDS movement.

Most participants in the Great March of Return demand a complete break with the Oslo process and its vision of a Bantustan alongside a Jewish state that practices racism against its own people. This is why we tend to believe that the Great March of Return has the potential to revive the concepts of national liberation and self-determination by addressing the new facts on the ground that Israel created. These realities have rendered it impossible to establish an independent, sovereign Palestinian state on 22% of the land of historic Palestine. Therefore, the time has come for a decisive struggle for freedom, equality, and justice. After all, two-thirds of Gaza residents are refugees whose rights to both return and reparations are guaranteed by international law.

Palestinian protesters join the Great March of Return in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2019.

Palestinian protesters join the Great March of Return in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2019. (Photo: Ramez Haboub/APA Images)

This is precisely why the Great March of Return’s goals fly in the face of the two-state solution since it is essentially in contradiction with the main demand of marchers, that is, the return and reparation of refugees. We are hoping that the March will soon spread from the besieged Gaza Strip to the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel itself where 1.4 million Palestinians are treated as second class citizens.

This popular initiative is an attempt to redirect efforts toward achieving legitimate rights and to interconnect the three segments of the Palestinian people – the Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the diaspora. It also proves that Gaza constitutes an integral part of Palestinian national identity. Palestinians of have played a vital role in shaping and vigorously defending modern Palestinian nationalism, which is precisely what the march has affirmed.

Finally, our struggle is for freedom, return, and equality for all segments of the Palestinian people, which, we believe is the concrete embodiment of our right to self-determination. This is defined by the new collective consciousness to which the March of Return and the BDS movement have largely contributed.

Haidar Eid

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza's al-Aqsa University. He has written widely on the Arab-Israeli conflict, including articles published at Znet, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, and Open Democracy. He has published papers on cultural Studies and literature in a number of journals, including Nebula, Journal of American Studies in Turkey, Cultural Logic, and the Journal of Comparative Literature.

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3 Responses

  1. brent on March 31, 2019, 11:41 pm

    What an encouraging article! Hope I’m reading correctly that the goal for the Great March of Return is freedom, equality and justice in all of Historic Palestine via a secular democratic state with the intent of uniting Palestinian citizens of Israel with those living under occupation toward the end of having peaceful neighborly relations with Jewish inhabitants.

    Elements of the civil rights movement in America was the omnipresence of signs and placards and the absence of stones or bottles. It was about building relationships respectfully.

    I was concerned about the take, “existential threat posed by the Trump administration’s so-called “deal of the century” which aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause once and for all.” I am not convinced of that and wonder the basis for reaching that conclusion. Trump has said he’s good with the one state and certainly knows equality would have to be central to it. I think its plausible Netanyahu’s calming of the situation of late could be based on a request by Trump to not muck up his plan. I’m inclined to see the debts by Netanyahu as a necessary ingredient for moving him. One thing about Trump is when it comes to his ego, no one is secure. On the possibility Trump wants the prestige of a deal, I’m hoping for a more nuanced view by Palestinians. Certainly not sabotage based on the unknown He must know success requires buyin from both sides. Now is the time for diplomatic savvy. Certainly, a campaign for equal rights will greatly strengthen Palestine’s hand.

    • Mooser on April 1, 2019, 1:39 pm

      “Certainly, a campaign for equal rights will greatly strengthen Palestine’s hand.”

      Oh, you bet “equal rights” is always good! But I’m a little confused by one thing, have the Palestinians up til now been asking for too many rights, or too few?

  2. Ossinev on April 1, 2019, 1:54 pm

    As has been the case from the Zionist Oslo “Accords” stitch up until today the problem has been the corrupt Fatah Vichy collaborators whose priority has never been the rights of the Palestinian people but their”rights” to hold on to power and privileges. Despite multiple “threats” to “hand back the keys” Abbas and his mouthpiece Erekat have never had any intention of doing so. Signs are that the younger generation of Palestinians in the West Bank are recognising this fact and the sham PA Authority`s days are nearing their end. Their supposed raison d`etre was as a transitional “Authority” pending a two states solution which is clearly now a particularly sick joke. There will be no formal handing over of the keys and Israel will use whatever ludicrous remaining tricks in their colonial book to prop up the PA sham but all to no avail. It will soon be history. The ugly Apartheid reality in the West Bank,in Gaza and in Israel itself will quickly become a huge and overwhelming issue which the Americans(Trump or no Trump) and the Europeans will no longer be able to avoid and one which they will have to address and rectify. Just as with Apartheid South Africa but this time with the Internet , 24/7 MSM coverage, and smartphones watching and documenting the evidence.

    Tick tick

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