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Critiquing the critique of the Great March of Return

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With the first anniversary of the Great March of Return, some disturbing questions have risen. Similar questions were raised in 2009, 2012, and 2014; in fact, this has been happening since 1948. It is becoming even more disturbing now to hear the same arguments being made by some of us who have internalized their subjugation by repeating the Israeli hasbara regarding our responsibility for our own death at the fence of the Gaza concentration camp! Victims blaming victims for their own death at the hands of Israeli snipers stationed on the other side of the eastern fence. Golda Meir, who unashamedly said that she would never forgive Palestinians for making Israeli soldiers kill them, would’ve been so delighted.

To Israel’s delight, we are being told by certain sectors that Hamas is behind the Great March of Return. That Hamas has been inciting people, who happen to be ignorant and passive, to demonstrate at the fence for one reason only: gaining more political power at the expense of Palestinian rights. Forget about the fact that almost all political organizations are represented on the Supreme High Committee of the March, that the Great March of Return is itself a civil society initiative. And forget about the fact that the majority of the demonstrators, including the writer of this piece, are not supporters of Hamas, that the main demand of the March is the implementation of UN resolution 194 which stipulates the right of return for all Palestinian refugees who happen to constitute more than 75% of the Palestinians of Gaza. And forget that the march is a form of non-violent, civil resistance that is part and parcel of the tradition of Palestinian, anti-colonial struggle, not unlike the South African anti-apartheid and American civil rights fights for justice. This is not to say that Hamas– being an opportunistic, right-wing organization– is not trying to hijack what it considers the “spoils” of the Great March of Return.

Resistance in all its forms, violent and otherwise, is considered, by these same people, “futile.” Typically, the defeatist Palestinian camp, simply uses the numbers of martyrs and disabled to condemn the Great March of Return. The question now being raised by some Palestinian intellectuals and political forces, after the (un)expected brutality of the Israeli military, is “is it worth it?”

The Great March of Return, like the BDS Movement, has created a political upheaval  that has not only put an end to the fiction of the two-state solution and brought back liberation rather than independence on the agenda. It has also contributed to, if not expedited, a new consciousness, one that sees a link between all forms of popular resistance and the end of the fictional, racist two-state solution, and, hence, the necessity for a new political vision based on a complete break from the Oslo ideology and its defeatist logic.

Within the context of resistance, it is worth quoting Frantz Fanon’s definitions of the role played by the “native intellectual” during the anti-colonial struggle: these are intellectuals who, according to Fanon’s theorization, “give proof that [they] [have] assimilated the culture of the occupying power. [Their] writings correspond point by point with those of [their] opposite numbers in the mother country. [Their] inspiration is European [i.e. Western] …” Hence the adoption of the Israeli narrative by some pro-Oslo and Palestinian Authority intellectuals, whereby Israel is exonerated of its crimes: “we are to blame for what happened”; “we were not consulted when Hamas started the so-called Great March of Return!” and “the people are paying the price, not the organizers;” “we cannot afford to lose so many lives; Hamas should have understood this;” and the worst one is that “mothers who send their children to the fence are to blame.” (Most of the critique is on social media in Arabic, you can see some examples here and here.) By the same token, one would also condemn the Algerian, South Africa, French, Vietnamese, Lebanese and Indian resistance to occupation. The same logic was used by the Bantustan chiefs of South Africa against the anti-apartheid movement, by the Vichy government of France, and the North Vietnamese government.

Obviously, these intellectuals’ assimilation of the (neo)liberal mentality makes them look down upon the culture of resistance as useless, futile and hopeless. Resistance, broadly speaking, is not only the ability to fight back against a militarily more powerful enemy, but also an ability to creatively resist the occupation of one’s land. This defeatist ideology fails to appreciate people power or even to see that it exists. They are defeated because they want to fight the battle on Israel’s terms– through the adoption of an Israel-Hamas dichotomy, rather than apartheid Israel vs. the Palestinian people — instead of looking for what their strengths are: that they are the natives of the land, they have international law supporting their claims, they have the moral high ground, the support of the international civil society in the form of a growing, global BDS movement, etc. They are unable to acknowledge Palestinian agency because they refuse to respect the will of the people as expressed in the hundreds of thousands marching every Friday at the fence of what most of them consider a concentration camp.

This expression of a rising new consciousness is manifest in a rejection of the conditions imposed by the Israeli apartheid and its allies on the majority of Palestinians and even more crucially, a rejection of the crumbs that are offered as a reward for good behaviour to a select minority of Palestinians ala Oslo. What Palestinians are constantly told is, either accept Israeli occupation in its ugliest form, i.e. the ongoing presence of the apartheid wall, colonies, checkpoints, zigzag roads, color coded number plates, house demolitions and security, or have a genocidal, medieval siege imposed on them. Alas, the first option seems to be the favorite of some Palestinian intellectuals!

Palestinians, whether in Gaza or in the Diaspora, or in Israel, cannot forget the blood of those children, men and women who sacrificed their lives at the fence of the concentration camp, so that all Palestinians could live and continue to resist, not surrender. The message from the eastern fence is very clear: there can be no going back to fake solutions and negotiations; it is time for a final push to real freedom, justice and equality.

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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10 Responses

  1. DaBakr on April 8, 2019, 12:08 pm

    hamas does not allow the people who are “all represented” to vote for their own leaders.

    • Misterioso on April 9, 2019, 10:07 am

      @Dabakr

      The problem is not Hamas. It is the fascistic, illegal/brutal occupier entity known as “Israel” and the mass suffering and killing it inflicts on the essentially defenseless Palestinian inhabitants that prevents the Gaza Strip from adopting democracy.

      For the record:
      Human Rights Watch, 2005: “…Israel will continue to be an Occupying Power [of the Gaza Strip] under international law and bound by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention because it will retain effective control over the territory and over crucial aspects of civilian life. Israel will not be withdrawing and handing power over to a sovereign authority – indeed, the word ‘withdrawal’ does not appear in the [2005 disengagement] document at all… The IDF will retain control over Gaza’s borders, coastline, and airspace, and will reserve the right to enter Gaza at will. According to the Hague Regulations, ‘A territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised’. International jurisprudence has clarified that the mere repositioning of troops is not sufficient to relieve an occupier of its responsibilities if it retains its overall authority and the ability to reassert direct control at will.”

      The International Committee of the Red Cross: “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, bans collective punishment of a civilian population.”

      “In practice, Gaza has become a huge, let me be blunt, concentration camp for right now 1,800,000 people” – Amira Hass, 2015 correspondent for Haaretz, speaking at the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University.

      To quote Dov Weisglass, then PM Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser:
      “‘The significance of the [then proposed] disengagement plan [implemented in 2005] is the freezing of the peace process,’ Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Ha’aretz. ‘And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda….’ Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, was speaking in an interview with Ha’aretz for the Friday Magazine. ‘The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,’ he said. ‘It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.’” (Top PM Aide: Gaza Plan Aims to Freeze the Peace Process, Ha’aretz, October 6, 2004)

      On 16 June 2009, after meeting with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Ismail Haniya, prime minister of Hamas’s Gaza Strip government, announced that “If there is a real plan to resolve the Palestinian question on the basis of the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967 [i.e. 22% of historic Palestine] and with full sovereignty, we are in favour of it.”

      “‘We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees,’ Haniyeh said, referring to the year of Middle East war in which Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories. ” (Haaretz, December 1, 2010) No response from the entity known as “Israel.” (By calling for a “resolution of the issue of refugees,” Haniyeh was in accordance with UNGA Res. 194, which calls for financial compensation as a possible option for the Palestinian refugees rather than their “inalienable Right of Return.”)

      In its revised Charter, April, 2017, Hamas again agreed to a Palestinian state based on the 4 June 1967 borders. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, “Israel” promptly rejected the Hamas overture instead of using it to open a dialogue.

      https://www.haaretz.com/isr…
      “Senior Hamas Official: ‘I Think We Can All Live Here in This Land – Muslims, Christians and Jews.’” By Nir Gontarz. March 28, 2018, Haaretz. No response from “Israel.”

      Unfortunately, Israel’s response to every peace overture from the Palestinians, including Hamas, and the Arab states, has been rapidly increasing illegal settlement construction along with escalating dispossession and violent oppression of the indigenous inhabitants in occupied Palestine and other Arab lands.

      As for Netanyahu and the Likud party, here’s a brief summation of their positions that are contrary to international law and explain why the conflict continues:
      The Likud Party Platform:
      a. “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”
      b. “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem”
      c. “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”
      d. “…. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

      • DaBakr on April 10, 2019, 12:28 am

        @m

        I actually read you typically outlandishly long post and I understand you feel that way. But most of the world, not all, but much of it and especilly the western liberal nations all caonsider hamas a terrorist organization. be that as it may and despite numerous reports from inside gaza with supporters of the ‘great march confirming hamas complete control of the protests and actions israel, without a final end-conflict treaty and with constant hamas calls to destroy the occupiers nation israel is not going to sit idely by while there is a violent rush to storm the border.

      • annie on April 10, 2019, 12:31 pm

        it’s not true that most of the world considers hamas a terrorist org. the UK hasn’t even listed hamas as a terrorist org, only the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. that also goes for australia and new zealand.

        china, (1.3 billion people) doesn’t nor does russia nor switzerland. one could also make the argument (easily) that ‘what liberal democracies think about israel’ diverges from their government as much as US public opinion vs how congress, under enormous pressure from the israel lobby, votes.

        i mention this because like everyone else here, your opinion just represents you. it’s not bolstered by ‘most of the world agrees with me and btw hamas is in complete control’.

        minus all the hasbara your comment amounts to “israel is not going to sit idely (sic) by “, implying, just like every israeli spokesperson since the beginning of time, that israeli forces are primarily reactionary. we get it, the victim brings on his own demise. boring.

      • DaBakr on April 11, 2019, 2:37 am

        @an

        all of the arab/muslim block at the UN considers israel a criminal regime even though some have strategic relations with it. its not exactly my opinion.
        as for hamas, its a fantical and tyrannial regime with no democratic mandate except the one election they won, period. but then again, israel deals with them as the leadership so on some levels the designationa as terrorist, resistance or other is not relevant to israel in the near future. if there was any local opposition to hamas allowed, then maybe that would change.
        also, nasrallah bitching about netanyahus democratic reelection has got to be the biggest joke coming from the appointed-for-life leader of the northern Iranian backed ‘resistance’. that is an opinion .

      • Mayhem on April 27, 2019, 11:35 pm

        @annie, as you would no doubt agree there is no real distinction between IDF and the Israeli government – the IDF is the military wing of the Israeli government. In the same way the military wing of Hamas, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which has been listed ubiquitously as a terrorist entity, is not really separable from Hamas who rule over Gaza.

    • johneill on April 10, 2019, 11:04 am

      how does it help? to compare hamas’ undemocratic regime to israel’s undemocratic regime equates more than differentiates the two.

    • CigarGod on April 22, 2019, 10:00 am

      DBakr:
      Since you choose to value and use Argumentum ad populum instead of legitimate argument; and since you don’t mention the countries in South America, Africa, and Asia (includes Arab countries), that don’t designate HAMAS as a terrorist entity (about 170 countries out of 200); and since the population of those countries equal about 6 Billion of the 7.5 Billion on earth; and since those countries are not white; I can’t help wondering what solid ground or firm handhold you think you have?

  2. johneill on April 9, 2019, 12:09 am

    small correction: ” The same logic was used by the Bantustan chiefs of South Africa against the anti-apartheid movement, by the Vichy government of France, and the North Vietnamese government.” should read South Vietnamese government, the experience of the north only proves that ‘bombing them to the stone age’ not only doesn’t produce submission, but cements the struggle against colonial policies more steadfastly in people’s hearts.

  3. brent on April 9, 2019, 1:32 am

    “it is time for a final push to real freedom, justice and equality”

    The article stopped on this critical point without delineating how and what has been learned on how to make the push. Will it use political strategizing or criticize violence by lone wolves?

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