Great March of Return founder Ahmed Abu-Artema gave the following speech via video to the 2019 Palestine Expo held in London, England on July 6 and 7.
Thank you dear friends. Peace be upon you all.
At this very moment over two million Palestinians are confined in the besieged Gaza Strip from which I’m speaking to you. We, the Palestinians of Gaza, have been blockaded by the Israeli occupation for over 11 years during which we have been denied our right to freedom. Hundreds of sick civilians have died due to the lack of lifesaving medicines, and due to the Israeli restrictions on medical referrals outside of Gaza. At the same time Israel bans the entry of goods and construction materials. Hundreds of facilities and factories have been destroyed by the Israeli attacks. Meanwhile tens of thousands of youth live with no jobs, no hope. Their dreams for a promising future have quashed by the miserable conditions.
Dear friends, the situation in the West Bank is not so different. Israel continues to tighten the military grip around the Palestinians’ neck. The occupation soldiers humiliate the Palestinians at the checkpoints. The Israeli government continues to annex more lands. It arrests thousands of Palestinians; some of them have spent more than 20 years in prison. The trauma and suffering inflicted by such practices are just beyond words, and represent another chain in a series of crimes that date back to 1948. Back in 1948, Israel aided by the world’s superpowers announced the establishment of a Jewish state on occupied Palestinian land; providing a shelter for Jews and paying no heed to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians that it killed, displaced, imprisoned, and traumatized. What has become an undeniable fact of history since 71 years is that the establishment of the state of Israel has caused a tragedy on an entire people. Over the years, Israel has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians, sent hundreds of thousands to jail, and demolished tens of thousands of homes. Today, over 6 million Palestinian refugees have been scattered across the globe awaiting the moment when Israel green lights their safe return to their homes as dictated by international law. Despite all the pains inflicted on us we have shown an unyielding commitment to our dream to return to our motherland and retrieve our freedom and dignity.
Dear friends, stability cannot be achieved in a place where millions of people are denied the right to return to their homes from which they have been forcibly displaced. Their only fault is that they are not Jews. There is no way to achieve stability in a world where millions of people are locked up behind bars, subjected to discrimination, and deprived of their rights to travel, work, and healthcare. Stability will only come true if all peoples are allowed to live freely and with dignity regardless of their color, religion, and race.
Dear friends, over recent months I have met dozens of Jewish friends who are against the Israeli occupation. I have kept telling each of them that we are sharing the same aspirations for justice and equality. Jews are not our enemies. Our sole enemy is the occupying force that took away our land from us, and forced us out of our homes. To my Jewish friends, and every free human being on the globe, I shall say all that we long for is justice and equality. Aren’t you striving for the same rights? We share the same goal and same struggle. Our enemy is one and the same — racial discrimination.
Let us combine forces. Let us struggle together. Cross the mountainous road together, and strive together for a better world for us, for our children, and for our grandchildren. A world where all human beings are equal, safe, and free.