The Marches for the Palestinian Right of Return, which will begin on March 30 and continue at least until mid-May (in the hope that by then a discussion of the right of return will begin), are beginning a new stage in the Palestinian struggle for liberation, a stage of nonviolent popular resistance. The marches were decided on through cooperation between an international coordinating committee and civil society organizations, dignitaries and heads of hamulot (extended families) in the Gaza Strip
The initiative is being supported by the political groups (such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad) in light of the stagnation in the efforts at national reconciliation and the failure of both the armed struggle and the diplomatic strategy. In addition to the marches, the chairman of the Palestinian Club in Great Britain and the chairman of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza have announced their intention of sending ships to Gaza.
The organizers of the marches believe that the Israeli army will not be able to withstand a nation armed with a strong desire to shake off the dust of the refugee camps and restore its honor and natural rights. They hope the presence of international media outlets and the official responsibility of UN institutions for the Palestinian refugees will ensure that Israel won’t harm them.
A manifesto disseminated by the Coordinating Committee of the Right of Return states that the marches are based on Paragraph 11 of UN Resolution 194 (which refers to the right of return). In order to prevent any Israeli claim that the marches are the initiative of terror organizations, the manifesto also states that they are popular marches of families rather than of political parties or military factions.
Participants will include Palestinians from Gaza, the West Bank, the diaspora and the areas taken over by Israel in 1948. According to the organizers, the marches will continue on a regular basis and won’t end until the right of return is implemented. They are not violent and there is no intention of clashing with Israeli soldiers or throwing stones at them. The first stage of the marches will begin with a sit-down strike and building of tents at a distance of 700 meters from the barbed wire fences.
Among the visual presentations on the campaign’s Facebook page, one can find the caricature of Hanzala, the Palestinian refugee who became an activist who cuts barbed wire fences. Or a tent and a dove and an olive branch above the UN symbol, which symbolize freedom and a return to the land. They use the Arab word “a’ad” (returnee) and not “laga” (refugee), and in the end there is also a sign warning against crossing the fence against orders.
The Palestinian national liberation movement is undergoing a profound crisis, which requires it to decide whether to reconstruct the awareness of armed resistance, inspired by Iranian films that have recently been seen in Gazan movie theaters, and bring ruin to the Palestinian people; or to prefer to build an awareness of nonviolent civil resistance, inspired by cultural heroes such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
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The latter understood that the greatest obstacle facing the black man is not the Ku Klux Klan but the moderate and arrogant white man, who believes in public order more than in justice, and thinks that he can determine a timetable for another person’s freedom and demand that he wait for a more convenient time.
The organizers of the March of Return are unwilling to wait for a more convenient time. After trying violence and entreaties and the diplomatic approach, they have decided to violate the public order and arouse the masses to a civil rebellion. This is therefore the best time for Israel and the international community to turn their gaze to the nonviolent Palestinian outcry a moment before it crosses the separation barriers.
The writer has a doctorate in Middle East history and is a researcher of Palestinian society and politics at the University of Haifa.