Saturday,25 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1393, (10 - 16 May 2018)
Saturday,25 May, 2019
Issue 1393, (10 - 16 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Time of action

The Palestinian popular movement March of Return has Israeli security and military analysts worried ahead of the 15 May anniversary of the Nakba, writes Haitham Ahmed


Time of action
Time of action

Palestinian activists and politicians assert that all options are open for protesters on the Gaza border on the anniversary of the Nakba on 15 May as part of the March of Return. They say protesters are only demanding natural rights based on international law: the return of refugees to the homes they were forced to abandon, as per UN resolutions, and ending Israel’s 12-year siege of Gaza.

Ahmed Abu Retima, member of the Coordinating Committee for the March of Return, said that six weeks after the start of protests there is still strong momentum and mass support for the movement, and full participation by all segments of Palestinian society. Abu Retima believes at the 70th anniversary of the “crime that uprooted us from our land”, which also coincides with the US relocating its embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinian people across the spectrum will be present and active as never before. This is a general feeling among the masses, he said, and no longer the sentiment of a single faction. “All Palestinians are involved and we will send a strong and peaceful message from the people to the occupation that we are insisting on our rights, and there is no alternative but to return home. We will accept nothing less than our full national rights.”

Talking about overrunning the barbed wire fence, he said 70 per cent of Gazans are Palestinian refugees whose villages are located in what is currently known as Israel, and have UN Resolution 194 Article 11 ordering their right of return. “On principle, it is the right of refugees to return home based on international law and norms, but so far no decision has been taken on this matter. When the moment comes, it will be up to popular sentiment,” he said, adding there is no single person or body that has decided there will be a crossing. “Anything is possible in light of the scenes on the border and the Palestinians being fearless about approaching the border fence in past weeks.”

If they cross over, it is their right as refugees. “They are not violating the sovereignty of another state, but demanding to act on an international resolution they have earned,” he noted.

Responding to claims by Israel that it is losing millions of dollars, he said the picture is clear to the world there is a people under occupation. “I believe the whole world sees this; there is occupation, there are refugees in the Gaza Strip and around the world. They cannot be the cause of the problem which is the crime of occupation,” he said.

Abu Retima said if Israel cared about ethics and law, it must abide by international law that “grants Palestinians the right of return and determining our destiny. It must end this crime, and only then can the world condemn what the Palestinian people are doing if they continue. We cannot separate issues and forget the origin of the problem.”

Khaled Mansour, member of the People’s Party in the West Bank, said the West Bank front is preparing for the Nakba anniversary including a general strike across all sectors, including education. Mansour said the Supreme Committee for Nakba Action decided to organise a massive march across the West Bank starting at Yasser Arafat Square in Ramallah, and it could move to the frontline with Israel to assert the right of return.

Buses will be ready to transport protesters to areas usurped by occupation, noting there is popular support for March of Return in the West Bank especially since it focuses on the right of return which Trump wanted to dissolve by his embassy decision.

In the territories occupied in 1948, Raja Aghbariya, member of the political bureau of Abnaa Al-Balad (Sons of the Land), said Palestinians inside Israel are also preparing for a series of events in mid-May. They will head to Jerusalem and form a human chain around the US embassy and reach Damascus Gate, but he did not give any more details. Aghbariya said they will do everything they can to mobilise thousands of Palestinians in Israel in coordination with Palestinians in Jerusalem to participate in confronting the relocation of the US embassy, and assert the right of return to territories occupied in 1948.

He emphasised the importance of all Palestinians participating in events and going to Jerusalem, noting that 14 and 15 May are “eventful and definitive days regarding the March of Return and making its core goal a success”. Aghbariya stressed the need to achieve the desires of the Palestinian people on that day while holding planned events for the March of Return in the Gaza Strip.

Abghbariya expects Israel will use suppressive tools against Palestinians especially as it continues to issue threats, but he countered “this will not dampen the will of the Palestinian people”.

Abdel-Latif Al-Qanuu, spokesman for Hamas, said mid-May will witness the largest peaceful human march and will be a historic day for Palestinians. “Our people cannot take any more pressure and siege,” said Qanuu. “Continued rage and pressure will lead to a mass explosion in the face of occupation so we can have better lives and safe return.”

Haaretz newspaper reported that top Israeli security officials are worried about the masses participating in the March of Return in Gaza on 15 May. One writer, Ami Ador, said “Israel could be forced to use new means to prevent Palestinians from raiding the truce line with Israel, including planting landmines along the border to kill anyone who tries to penetrate the border. This would be done at night so Israel is not directly accused of killing protesters.”

Ador continued that “the possibility of Palestinian protesters crossing the truce line is a source of concern for Israeli political and security agencies, since shooting live ammunition at protesters is no longer a realistic solution due to complaints filed with the Supreme Court by human rights groups.” He added: “These Palestinian marches forced on Israel a new form of war that is unwinnable, but the Israeli brain can invent alternatives and options to confront them such as releasing bees or snakes or stray dogs in the direction of protesters to prevent them from approaching the border fence and beyond.”

A military expert on Walla Website said “Palestinian protesters overrunning Karam Abu Salem border crossing in southern Gaza on Friday was a small rehearsal for what they are preparing for on 14 May. These actions are not spontaneous but directed and intentional.” Amir Boukhbat said in his analysis on the Hebrew Website that “Palestinians will intentionally escalate the situation on the ground in front of world public opinion and deepen the crisis triggered in Gaza which could cause the Israeli army to ask the political leadership to place new bases and prevent further deterioration so we don’t reach the point of all-out war.”

He continued: “The compounded humanitarian crisis in Gaza can serve the Palestinians and require more involvement by the international community, therefore overrunning the border crossing by protesters is another level of escalation by Palestinian marches which began weeks ago. They follow damage done to the border wall, setting tires on fire, setting off explosives, burning engineering equipment used in eliminating tunnels, sending lit paper planes that have burned hundreds of agricultural dunams. The Israeli army has not responded especially after Palestinians brought down several video drones sent in by Israel.”

Boukbat concluded: “Although Israeli security assessments today focus on Palestinians preferring popular resistance rather than war, this was the same assessment before the last war of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The war that lasted for 51 days debunked this theory. The army will need to innovate new ways to prevent matters from turning into a war before the anniversary date when massive protests are expected.”

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