Easter and the accompanying procession of Jesus Christ (the first Palestinian resistance fighter) on the ‘Path of Pain’ coincided with the ‘great march of return’ initiated by Palestinian masses (starting from Land Day on March 30 to the middle of May, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba). The masses headed out from the depths of their large prison in the Gaza Strip and the areas of Israeli occupation, raising the slogan “uphold the right of return of Palestinian refugees”.
This march is not just a whirlwind in a cup, but a massive outpouring launched by the Palestinian people in Gaza (where the momentum was greatest), as well as in the West Bank, Jerusalem and inside the Green Line, refugee camps, and the Diaspora, resulting in 20 marchers martyred and more than 1,700 others wounded in its first week. The toll rose as the march expanded during the following Friday with protesters burning tires to shield themselves from Israeli gunfire. Ten more were martyred and more than 1,354 injured including 491 by live ammunition with 33 reported in serious condition. Those Palestinians have said their word with red blood, drawing attention to their situation and their central national cause.
Political views from all over the world, including those from Israel, showed that the marches over the past two weeks brought to light many Palestinian facts and gains. They include the following:
First: The Palestinian cause, despite all frustrations, remains alive in the hearts and minds of the Palestinians.
Secondly: Commitment to the Palestinian flag demonstrated the Palestinian people’s choice for national unity despite the current stalled reconciliation. Such commitment represented rejection of Palestinian division and all of those who ignite it and the need for a unified leadership that can lead the national struggle away from any factional or partisan narrow interests.
Third: The momentum of the popular and peaceful struggle is restored, where the Palestinian factions appear in a new garb of the popular revolution, despite Israel’s attempts to drag them into armed clashes. This kind of peaceful mass struggle embarrasses Israel, prompting violent reactions from it, subject to global condemnation.
Fourth: The international community is reminded of the fact that greater Israel is an illegal entity, established by usurping the land of Palestine and displacing its Arab people.
Fifth: Regional and international states and organisations were encouraged (in addition to embarrassing some countries that have been forced to do so, unwillingly) to condemn Israeli repression and demand an international investigation into mass shootings against isolated demonstrators who demanded their rights.
Sixth: The ‘marginalised’ Palestinian cause was put back on the world radar and on top of the regional and international agendas, thus ending indifference of the world community.
Seventh: Shedding light on the tragedy and humanitarian crisis in the besieged Gaza Strip, with its eastern, southern and northern borders turned into new friction points between the Palestinians and the Israeli army, as well as attracting attention to the various sanctions on the Gaza Strip by working to lift them or at least ease them.
Eighth: Light shed on differences among the Israeli forces, parties and figures due to the violent methods of handling the events of the marches and the army’s reaction with excessive force against the peaceful demonstrators. The disparity here is around the myth of “IDF ethics” as it turns into a “killing army” rather than the ‘defence’ force.
Ninth: A full debate should be reopened on the lack of attention to the need for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
Tenth: The high financial costs incurred by Israel as a result of re-recruitment and deployment of various sectors of the army, security and “Civil Defence forces”. This included spoiling Israeli Jewish holidays (Pesach or Jewish Passover) among various sections of the troops, their families and others — especially those living in Jewish colonies along the Gaza Strip and in parts of West Bank.
The non-violent, mass struggle has become one of the most effective forms of current and future Palestinian struggle, which had earlier shown results in India, South Africa and elsewhere. Towards that end, the current development requires the forces of Palestinian people to advance their performance through conscious interaction with these marches, to provide backing and support and take advantage of the fact that the popular Palestinian struggle will make Israel both morally and diplomatically isolated. Victory — in the end — will not be of the oppressive occupier, but of those who are determined to exercise their rights with sacrifices, to uphold freedom and justice.
Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.