How to Invest in the Political Gains of the Palestinian “Marches of Return”?

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

The Palestinian “Marches of Return” managed, among other results, to restore back to the local/ Arab/ and international agenda some major issues including their right to return to their lands and houses usurped by the Zionist military forces during the 1948 war as well as the ongoing unjust siege of Gaza Strip. Such results are significant in facing up to the American-Zionist schemes, and above all the so-called Trump Deal of the Century!!!

It is true that the Palestinians gained a lot in the media to their cause when the marches were continuously held to mark Land Day of 1976 and the 1948 Nakba anniversary on the Gaza borders. Furthermore, the marches sent a strong message to influential circles in Israel and the western world that the explosion of Gaza Strip will go towards Israel when it occurs as long as the siege continues and the living conditions worsen. The marches also proved that the Palestinian people will not stand idle vis-à-vis the American plans to liquidate the Palestinian cause.

Israel faced, with clear concern, the “Marches of Return” which have resulted in confusion among Israeli political and military leaders alike who were rather uncertain about how to deal with the Palestinians and how to confront these mass movements. Waging a war against the defenceless Palestinian civilians could be embarrassing to the Israeli occupation army which – on the other hand – “cannot keep silent” on any Palestinian activity or movement that reminds the world of its historic rights. This has led the army to use excessive force that resulted in killing, wounding and inflicting sufferings on the Palestinian civilian protesters, thus exposing to the world the brutal practices used by Israel against the Palestinian peaceful protestors.

With the world media, especially in the West, awakened to the Israeli brutal response to the marches, courageous views appeared among Israel’s writers, journalists, thinkers and academics. Some of the 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 contradiction, especially in the UN Security Council, which failed to issue a statement condemning the Israeli violence, while the legal opinion was raised, both by individuals and institutions of the global civil society, which condemned the use of flagrant violence by the Israeli occupation forces against peaceful Palestinian demonstrators. Within this context, the Palestinian foreign minister handed the 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 Fateh “peace negotiations” and the Hamas freezing of the armed struggle. This peaceful struggle proved to be exhausting and draining to Israel because it has been condemned by the world for using excessive force against unarmed civilians. The “Marches of Return” painted a scene which the Palestinians at home and in the Diaspora hoped to see for long, a truly natural scene where all gathered united around their national issues, above all, the issue of the land, an integral part of their cause. Furthermore, the marches brought the Palestinians in Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the 1948 “Israeli” Palestinians under one flag, after more than 11 years of a bitter division between Hamas and Fatah.

The important question today is: How will the Palestinian political leadership invest in the “Marches of Return” in favor of the Palestinian cause? The defenseless Palestinian citizen has stood up to the Israeli tanks and has, thus, provided a great service to the Palestinian leadership, enabling it to achieve political and media results that help and foster the Palestinian national cause despite the costly and unavoidable human losses. But failure to invest nationally in the losses of precious human lives will make the high price, paid with the red blood, futile. Here, we cannot but warn of the consequences of the Israeli 2014 war on the Gaza Strip, when the Palestinian resistance fighters stood steadfast in its alleys, camps and neighborhoods, while the Palestinian leaders failed to achieve tangible political results against the blockage of the Gaza Strip. Instead, the Israeli siege tightened.

With great courage and generosity, the people of Gaza faced death in every way over the past years. Therefore, the Arab and international positive political activity created by the “Marches of Return” in support of besieged Gaza Strip, and the condemnation of Israeli war crimes against the peaceful protesters, should be utilized towards bigger goals.  One of those is the need to abort President Trump “deal of the century’ and to ensure an end to the siege and sanctions imposed on Gaza Strip.