[News] Great March of Return is Palestinians’ Cry for Justice

Anti-Imperialist News 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 
investigators concluded.

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 
national liberation.

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/ 

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863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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