The Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip, which began last Friday, has not only created confusion, in the Zionist settler-colonial state, but also a new situation on the ground. Many of the political issues in the region have re-surfaced as the international community rushes to impose its will and complete its dismantling of the established order.
The march has also provoked controversial views about its importance and the significance of the outcome. While some saw it as a marginal event that would not have any meaningful impact on the Palestinian cause, others insist that it has raised awareness and highlighted the struggle, especially for the refugees’ right of return.
The initial reading of the march, held on this year’s Land Day, goes beyond it being a simple act of popular resistance, the like of which has been proven in the history of the Palestinian national struggle. It has redirected attention to the essence of the conflict, which is all too often neutralised by regional and international political forces who impose their own expectations.
Israel clearly feels vulnerable, despite the massive arsenal and armed forces at its disposal. Why else would it resort to crimes against humanity when faced with a peaceful march of protesters seeking their legitimate rights? What happened last Friday has to be added to the already lengthy list of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, who must not be allowed to disturb the Zionist-imposed status quo at any cost.
The cold-blooded killing and wounding of hundreds of unarmed civilians by Israeli soldiers was meant to stifle the protest before it even got going. What will be the reaction when the Palestinians marching in the Gaza Strip are joined in spirit by those who will march in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and the wider diaspora?
The Israelis appear to be incensed that their long-held belief that the first generation of refugees would pass away and the newer generations will simply forget about their land in “1948-occupied Palestine” is entirely misguided. The younger generations are not abandoning their right of return or any of the other national principles that underpin the Palestinian cause, including the right to worship at their sacred sites, embodied in the city of Jerusalem.
At the local level, the march has become a popular referendum on the choice between standing up for one’s rights, or compromising those rights for nothing or very little in return. The marchers demonstrated clearly that unity is the key to Palestinian steadfastness, utilising resistance in all its forms and endowing the people of Palestine with the strength to continue the struggle until the occupation is ended and freedom is assured.
The residents of Gaza are at the forefront of the struggle and have spared no effort to counter the conspiracies which seek to undermine Palestinian national rights. They have sacrificed their lives in order to put an end to the theft of their land and looting of its natural resources by the Zionist state of Israel.
Efforts to tear the heart out of the struggle by handing Jerusalem over to the Zionists will not succeed. The March of Return will ensure that Jerusalem will remain the motivation for the flame of the struggle to burn even brighter.
The protest has shown that the factions can come together around a single issue. It is thus a shining example of political unity and social harmony, connected by the precious blood of the martyrs gunned down so callously on Friday.
Nevertheless, it is essential for the international community to provide protection for Palestinian civilians from the brutality and aggression of the Israeli occupation army. The Palestinian Authority President himself called for this when he praised the steadfastness and sacrifices of the people in his speech last Friday. Mahmoud Abbas also praised their firm positions, which stick to legitimate rights and national constants despite all the difficulties and conspiracies targeting the Palestinian cause.
The Supreme National Committee for the Great March of Return Movement, which includes all the Palestinian factions, confirmed that the sit-in and demonstrations will continue until the 15 May and the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (Catastrophe) of the founding of the state of Israel on Palestinian land. This sends a message that the national constants will not be changed through any deals or conspiracies seeking to strip Palestinians of their rights.
That message was aimed at every citizen in the Arab and Islamic nations, as well as free people around the world, to stand up for their rights, and the rights of those who, like the Palestinians, are oppressed and facing grave injustices every day.
The younger generations of Palestinians have surprised the world with their national and political maturity and their ability to act in an organised manner. That the struggle for freedom and the right of return will continue cannot be in doubt. The Palestinian people will not compromise the legitimacy of their cause or their rights. That is the main lesson learnt from the Great March of Return.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.