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The Great March of Return

Members of "Coalition of Women for Peace" consisting Israeli and Palestinian activists hold a Palestinian flag during a protest held to support the "Great March of Return" near the Gaza border in Sderot, Israel on 31 March, 2018 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]
Members of "Coalition of Women for Peace" consisting Israeli and Palestinian activists hold a Palestinian flag during a protest held to support the "Great March of Return" near the Gaza border in Sderot, Israel on 31 March, 2018 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

How can it be that a nation which lost six martyrs in defence of their land on 30 March, 1976 has commemorated the event with the loss of 16 martyrs 42 years later, on 30 March, 2018? The astonishing Palestinian people, who have offered thousands of their people over the past century as a sacrifice for the sake of God and the Holy Land, can never be defeated. This is a nation that creates miracles, and if it wasn’t for the treacherous Arab governments, which act as spies for Israel and guards for its borders, Palestine would have been liberated a long time ago. Or, rather, the Israeli enemy would not have been able to occupy Palestine in the first place.

The Palestinians were betrayed in 1948 and 1967 by the Arab rulers who enabled the Israelis to occupy their land. Despite this, these heroic people did not surrender or give in; instead they continued to fight, resist and offer thousands of martyrs over the years, regardless of all of the conspiracies against them.

#LandDay

Every 30 March, the Palestinians commemorate Land Day to express their commitment to their land and national identity, and to remember when the Zionist Israeli authorities confiscated thousands of acres of privately-owned residential land on that day in 1976. There was a general strike at the time, as well as marches from Hebron to the Negev. The protests following these marches escalated and led to violent clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army. Six Palestinians were killed, with hundreds more arrested or wounded. Land Day is seen as a critical event in the timeline of the conflict over the land and the relationship between Israel’s Arab citizens and its political class; 1976 was the first time since 1948 that the so-called Israeli-Arabs had organised protests under a collective national and Palestinian banner as a response to Israel’s policies.

On this year’s anniversary, the Palestinians wanted to mark the day by calling for their legitimate right of return, a goal shared by all factions, with peaceful marches to the borders of the occupied Palestinian territories. It was called the Great March of Return, a clear dig at the conspiracy being hatched by Washington known as the “deal of the century”, which ignores the right of return and intends to transplant the Palestinians in an “alternative homeland” in Jordan and parts of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. According to the deal, these areas would be annexed to the Gaza Strip and form a demilitarised Palestinian state, which would also cede Jerusalem completely.

In the face of such a suspicious deal, with which some Arab rulers are unfortunately complicit, the Palestinians have been forced to unite over common goals and constants, to which every Palestinian, regardless of their affiliation, is committed. Despite the peaceful nature and intent of the resultant march, the participants were met with Israeli bullets and tear gas; at least 16 were killed, with 1,500 wounded.

Read: Palestinian succumbs to wounds sustained during Friday protests in Gaza

Such a massive civil society protest by Palestinians created a sense of panic and fear within the Palestinian Authority, as well as among the Jewish settlers occupying Palestinian land. The UN Security Council felt obliged to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in the occupied territories.

One of the things we can say about the Great March is that it has returned the Palestinian issue to its rightful status within the region, as the most honourable cause that deserves to be at the forefront of the international agenda. The world has been distracted by other issues in places like Syria, Yemen and Libya. The march has also undermined the “deal of the century”, as no one will be able to agree to it after witnessing with their own eyes the crowds of Palestinian people standing near Israel and demanding their legitimate rights.

Read: Palestinians Will Not Cease to Demand their Rights

However, I am saddened by the separation of the Arab streets from those in Palestine, for the first time since this bitter conflict began. We have not seen any solidarity acts in any Arab country; it is as if Palestine is no longer an Arab country and Jerusalem is no longer an Arab city. We witnessed the death of 16 martyrs, and it is as if nothing happened, with neither official nor popular voices raised in protest.

Furthermore, the “Zionised” governments announced a fierce war against the Arab nations and all the others who were resisting the occupation and normalisation but are now occupied themselves and are resisting in order to liberate themselves. The Arab nations have turned away from one another and have become distracted with their own issues and conflicts with their own governments. As such, unfortunately, they are distracted from the Palestinian cause.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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