Image Credit: Hugo A. Sanchez/©Gulf News

The Palestinian ‘Marches of Return’ managed, among other things, to restore some major issues back onto the local, Arab, and international agendas — including the right of Palestinians to return to their lands and houses usurped by Zionist military forces during the 1948 war, as well as the ongoing unjust siege of the Gaza Strip.

Such results are significant in facing up to American-Zionist schemes, and above all, US President Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’!

It is true that the Palestinians made inroads as far as the media is concerned, with the marches held to mark the Land Day of 1976 and the 1948 Nakba anniversary on the Gaza borders adding to their cause.

The marches also proved that the Palestinian people will not stand idle vis-a-vis American plans to downplay their cause. The ‘Marches of Return’ have resulted in confusion among Israeli political and military leaders alike, as they are unsure about how to confront these mass movements.

Waging a war against defenceless Palestinian civilians could be embarrassing to the Israeli occupation army, which — on the other hand — “cannot keep silent” when it comes to any Palestinian activity or movement that reminds the world of its historic rights. This has led the army to use excessive force, resulting in killings and the inflicting of sufferings on protesting Palestinians, thus exposing to the world the brutal practices used by Israel against peaceful protesters.

With the world’s media, especially in the West, awakened to Israel’s brutal response to the marches, courageous standpoints have emerged from amongst Israel’s writers, journalists, thinkers and academics. Below are some salient examples:

Israeli radio correspondent Kobi Meidan said: “I’m ashamed to be Israeli.”

Professor of political science Shaul Mishal wrote: “Hamas [contrary to us] pays attention to world opinion [local and international] which appeared in the march of return.”

Meretz leftist party leader Tamar Zandberg said, “The Palestinians have the right to demonstrate and I call on the army to stop harming the innocent.”

The famous journalist Nahum Barnea bluntly wrote: “We cannot blame the Palestinians for their strong hatred of us, for they live in refugee camps in Gaza and we live before their eyes in their farms, homes and homes of their fathers from which we forcibly removed them (in 1948)”. Internationally, the marches created a situation of contradictions, especially at the UN Security Council, which failed to issue a statement condemning Israeli violence. However, global civil society roundly condemned the use of flagrant violence by Israeli occupation forces against peaceful Palestinian demonstrators. Within this context, the Palestinian foreign minister handed International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatu Bensouda files detailing crimes committed by Israel at present and in the past, and other possible ones. Locally, many believe that the Palestinian struggle for peace may be the title of the next phase after the failure of both the Fatah “peace negotiations” and the freezing of the armed struggle by Hamas. For Israel, this peaceful struggle has proved to be exhausting and draining, with the world condemning Israel for using excessive force against unarmed civilians. The ‘Marches of Return’ painted a scene which Palestinians at home and in the diaspora had hoped to see for a long time, a truly natural scene where all gathered united around their national issues — with the issue of the land, an integral part of their cause, being topmost.

Furthermore, the marches brought Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Palestinians in 1948 areas under one flag, after more than 11 years of a bitter rift between Hamas and Fatah.

People’s contribution

The important question today is: How will the Palestinian political leadership invest in the ‘Marches of Return’ to leverage them in favour of the Palestinian cause? The defenceless Palestinian citizen has stood up to Israeli tanks and has, thus, providing a great service to the Palestinian leadership, enabling it to achieve gains on the political and media landscape that help foster the Palestinian national cause — despite the costly, unavoidable and yet regrettable loss of human lives.

A failure to do so will make the high price, which has been paid with blood, futile. Here, we cannot but warn of the consequences of the Israeli 2014 war on the Gaza Strip, when Palestinian resistance fighters stood steadfast in its alleys, camps and neighbourhoods, while Palestinian leaders failed to achieve tangible political results in addressing the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Instead, the Israeli siege tightened. With great courage and generosity, the people of Gaza have faced death over the years. Therefore, the positive political activity on the Arab and international stage created by the ‘Marches of Return’ in support of the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as the condemnation of Israeli war crimes committed against peaceful protesters, should be utilised to achieve bigger goals.

One of those is the need to abort Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ and to ensure an end to the siege and sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of Palestinian Encyclopaedia.