Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition stands with Palestinians in Gaza and people around the world in marking the first anniversary of the Great March of Return, with the and the 43rd anniversary of Land Day. Palestinians in Gaza have braved severe, bloody repression, war crimes and crimes against humanity to march for a full year under the banner of the most fundamental right of the Palestinian people: the right to return to their homes and lands.
Gaza has been under a stifling siege for over 12 years. Palestinians in Gaza are denied the right to travel, trade or even see their own homeland; for many Palestinians in Gaza, visiting Jerusalem is a dream. They face constant power cuts, attacks on their electricity sources and dangerously contaminated water supplies. Even Palestinian fishers and farmers face the threat of attack, shooting or arrest and imprisonment for tilling the land in the so-called “buffer zone” or for venturing into the seas to fish. The Palestinian economy in Gaza has also been devastated, exacerbating an unacceptable situation in which unemployment is skyrocketing.
This is not simply a humanitarian crisis; it is a deliberately created situation, a part and parcel of the ongoing Nakba for over 70 years. The siege is one component of the land theft, colonization and brutal repression carried out by the Zionist occupation. Gaza is an open-air prison, locking inside two million Palestinians deprived of their most fundamental rights; in particular, 70 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are themselves Palestinian refugees who have been denied their right to return to their homes and lands for over 70 years.
Through all this time, Palestinian refugees have steadfastly continued their struggle to return to their homes and lands. This fundamental right is codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as UN Resolution 194. It has been denied for all of this time to maintain racist, exclusionary, colonial Zionist rule over the land of Palestine.
Therefore, the past year of resistance, of popular marches, of mass organizing, of a true uprising in Gaza, has focused on and highlighted the right of return, the heart of the Palestinian liberation struggle. It is also important to note that this struggle began and continues on Land Day, the date in 1976 when six Palestinians in Palestine ’48, holding Israeli citizenship, were shot down by Israeli occupation forces for protesting land confiscation. The ongoing Nakba affects all Palestinians, and the resistance to it bridges time and location in a unified struggle for liberation.
The siege imposed on Gaza – and on the Palestinian people as a whole – involves many complicit partners with ongoing Zionist crimes. The United States is a full partner in besieging the Palestinian and Arab people of the region. Most recently, President Donald Trump announced his blessing for the theft of Syrian land in the Golan Heights, only the latest imperial outrage amid ongoing wars, invasions and occupations.
In addition, the Palestinian Authority, acting as an agent for the Israeli occupation, is also complicit in exacerbating the conditions created by the Zionist siege, cutting necessary wages for public employees that sustain entire families, forcing over 13,000 into “early retirement.” This reflects the complete co-optation of the PA as a security force for the occupier rather than as a mechanism to represent or defend Palestinians.
Over the past year, the Israeli army has met these popular, peaceful protests with massive military force. 266 Palestinians have been killed while upholding their fundamental human right to return home, including journalists, medics, people with disabilities and children. Over 16,000 have been hospitalized, with 6,857 injured with live fire opened on demonstrators.
However, the Great March of Return makes clear that despite all of the powers lined up against the Palestinian people, they will continue to resist and march forward despite all circumstances to defend their land and attain their return and liberation.
The Great March of Return proves once more that the goal for Palestinians, through over a century of anti-colonial struggle, is not simply a modification of the imposed humanitarian crisis or a slight reduction in war crimes. The Great March of Return brings to the forefront the fundamental question in Palestine: how Palestinian refugees, the majority of the Palestinian population, can achieve justice and liberation. The answer is clear: all of the rights Palestinian refugees are entitled to exercise under international law – return, restitution and compensation and the dismantlement of the structures of Zionist oppression.
From Gaza to al-Quds, from Nazareth to Ain el-Helweh, from the Golan to Dheisheh camp, the Palestinian and Arab people will continue to resist land theft and colonialism despite the violence and brutality of the oppressor.
Al-Awda members and chapters are participating in events and actions across the country this weekend, marching as the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege continues here, from New York to San Francisco and everywhere in between. We urge you to join Al-Awda PRRC in these important events and actions and to join us in continuing the struggle to achieve justice in Palestine, which is only possible through the implementation of the Right to Return.
Our events include the following actions. Please send your own events to Al-Awda at firstname.lastname@example.org:
FRIDAY MARCH 29:
- New York – 52 Fridays of the Great Return March, Times Square, 4 pm – Facebook event
SATURDAY MARCH 30
- San Francisco – 24th St Mission BART Station, 12 pm – Facebook event
- Miami – Torch of Friendship, 4 pm – Facebook event
- Charlotte – Commemorating Land Day (indoor event), UNC Charlotte COED 102, 2 pm – Facebook event