[News] Great March of Return is Palestinians’ Cry for Justice
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 3 17:07:43 EDT 2019
Great March of Return is Palestinians’ Cry for Justice
April 3, 2019
*By Ramzy Baroud <http://www.palestinechronicle.com/writers/ramzy-baroud>*
The aims of the Great March of Return protests, which began in Gaza on
March 30 last year, are to put an end to the suffocating Israeli siege
and implement the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were
expelled from their homes and towns in historic Palestine 70 years ago.
But there is much more to the protests than a few demands, especially
bearing in mind the high human cost associated with them. According to
Gaza’s Ministry of Health, more than 250 people have been killed and
6,500 wounded, including children, medics and journalists.
Aside from the disproportionately covered “flaming kites” and youths
symbolically cutting through the metal fences that have caged them for
many years, the marches have been largely nonviolent. Despite this,
Israel has killed and maimed protesters with impunity.
A UN human rights commission of inquiry found last month that Israel may
have committed war crimes, resulting in the deaths of 189 Palestinians,
within the period March 30 to December 31. The inquiry found “reasonable
grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at children, medics and
journalists, even though they were clearly recognizable as such,” the
Many in the media, however, still do not understand what the Great March
of Return really means for Palestinians. A cynically titled report in
the Washington Post attempted to offer an answer. The article, “Gazans
have paid in blood for a year of protests. Now many wonder what it was
for,” selectively quoted wounded Palestinians who, supposedly, feel that
their sacrifices were in vain. Aside from providing the Israeli military
with a platform to blame Hamas for the year-long march, the long report
ended with these two quotes: The March of Return “achieved nothing,”
according to one injured Palestinian. And “the only thing I can find is
that it made people pay attention,” said another.
If the Washington Post paid attention, it would have realized that the
mood among Palestinians is neither cynical nor despairing. The Post
should have wondered: If the march had “achieved nothing,” then why are
Gazans still protesting, and why has the popular and inclusive nature of
the march not been compromised?
Sabreen Al-Najjar, the mother of young Palestinian medic Razan, who was
fatally shot by the Israeli army while trying to help wounded
protesters, wrote in the Independent last week: “The right of return is
more than a political position, more than a principle: Wrapped up in it,
and reflected in literature and art and music, is the essence of what it
means to be Palestinian. It is in our blood.”
Indeed, what is the Great March of Return but a people attempting to
reclaim their role, and be recognized and heard in the struggle for the
liberation of Palestine?
What is largely missing from the discussion on Gaza is the collective
psychology behind this kind of mobilization, and why it is essential for
hundreds of thousands of besieged people to rediscover their power and
understand their true position, not as hapless victims, but as agents of
change in their society.
The narrow reading, or the misrepresentation, of the Great March of
Return speaks volumes about the overall underestimation of the role of
the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and
The story of Palestine is the story of the Palestinian people, for they
are the victims of oppression and the main channel of resistance,
starting with the Nakba — the creation of Israel on the ruins of
Palestinian towns and villages in 1948. Had Palestinians not resisted,
their story would have concluded then, and they would have disappeared.
Those who admonish Palestinian resistance or, like the Post, fail to
understand the underlying value of popular movement and sacrifices, have
little understanding of the psychological ramifications of resistance —
the sense of collective empowerment and hope that spreads among the
people. In his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s “The Wretched of the
Earth,” Jean-Paul Sartre describes resistance, as was passionately
vindicated by Fanon, as a process through which “a man is recreating
For 70 years, Palestinians have embarked on that journey of recreation
of the self. They have resisted, and their resistance in all of its
forms has molded a sense of collective unity, despite the numerous
divisions that were erected among the people. The Great March of Return
is the latest manifestation of the ongoing Palestinian resistance.
It is obvious that elitist interpretations of Palestine have failed —
Oslo proved a worthless exercise in empty cliches, aimed at sustaining
American political dominance in Palestine as well as in the rest of the
Middle East. The signing of the Oslo I Accord in 1993 shattered the
relative cohesiveness of the Palestinian discourse, thus weakening and
dividing the Palestinian people.
In the Israeli Zionist narrative, Palestinians are depicted as drifting
lunatics, an inconvenience that hinders the path of progress: A
description that regularly defined the relationship between every
Western colonial power and the colonized, resisting natives.
Within some Israeli political and academic circles, Palestinians merely
“existed” to be “cleansed,” to make room for a different, more deserving
people. From the Zionist perspective, the “existence” of the natives is
meant to be temporary. “We must expel Arabs and take their place,” wrote
Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.
Assigning the roles of being dislocated, disinherited and nomadic to the
Palestinian people, without consideration for the ethical and political
implications of such a perception, has erroneously presented
Palestinians as a docile and submissive collective.
Hence, it is imperative that we develop a clearer understanding of the
layered meanings behind the Great March of Return. Hundreds of thousands
of Palestinians in Gaza did not risk life and limb over the last year
simply because they required urgent medicine and food supplies. They did
so because they understand their centrality in their struggle. Their
protests are a collective statement, a cry for justice, an ultimate
reclamation of their narrative as a people — still standing, still
powerful and still hopeful after 70 years of Nakba, 50 years of military
occupation and 12 years of unrelenting siege.
/– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine
Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’
(Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the
University of Exeter (2015) and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea
Center for Global and International Studies, University of California
Santa Barbara. His website is//www.ramzybaroud.net/
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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