Israeli police and organizers have reached a deal on holding the annual March of Return that commemorates the Nakba (“catastrophe,” as Palestinians refer to the founding of the State of Israel), planned for Israeli Independence Day.
The police had previously denied a permit to the Association for the Defense of the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Israel, which organizes the march.
The northern district commander, Amos Yaakov, approved in principle holding the march as planned next to Kibbutz Kabri but in another location west of Kibbutz Gaaton.
The police confirmed the deal but noted that there are still negotiations to close details regarding preparation, organization and security issues for the event, which is expected to attract 10,000 participants.
The association will commence in the coming days preparations for parking lots and the route of the march, which is supposed to take place not far from the Kabri Regional School, which is built on the remains of the destroyed pre-1948 village of Al-Kabri.
Haaretz reported in late March that the police would not grant a permit even though the march has taken place 18 consecutive years on Independence Day. The police asserted at the time that the reason for the refusal was that they would not have enough resources to secure the event due to the holiday.
The Association for the Defense of the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Israel countered that their permit was denied because politicians were exerting pressure on the police.
Adalah, The Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel, wrote to attorney Osnat Mandel, head of the High Court of Justice department in the state prosecution, asking that it order the police to approve the march.
“The event isn’t meant to be secured by the police, but by ushers supplied by the organizers,” wrote attorney Mohammed Bassam, who added that if the permit wasn’t issued, the group would petition the High Court. “Past experience shows that events to mark the Nakba organized by the aforementioned association went off very well.”
Association representatives and Nahariya police have been in talks in recent weeks, visiting the site and eventually deciding together to change the march’s route and the spot where the march will end.
Wakim Wakim, general secretary of the association, told Haaretz that the organizers also received a permit from Kibbutz Gaaton to hold the event, and that the association is working on meeting all the demands in order to hold the event in an orderly and safe manner.
“There was absolutely no intent to clash with anyone, and the decision to change the route is for the good of the march and the participants because the place we initially chose cannot accommodate the expected number of participants,” he said.
The association rejected out of hand the claim that the original planned route would have crossed a memorial site for the 47 Haganah fighters killed in the Yehiam convoy, which was ambushed in March 1948 near al-Kabri. Organizers say there was never a plan to pass through the site, but that some people had tried to present the issue as a reason to oppose the event.