Here are the reasons why the Palestinians and their supporters are organising the Great March of Return, which started on Palestine Land Day and is planned to last until Palestine Nakba Day.
First, in 1948, 75 per cent of all Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homeland and forced into exile. The UN declared that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date” (UNGA Resolution 194).
Now, 70 years later, the Palestinians are marching for this right of return, which was approved by the UN.
Second, since 2007, the Israeli occupation have kept the Gaza Strip under a strict blockade by land, sea and air. This has brought about:
- restrictions on freedom of movement – residents are rarely permitted to leave Gaza, even for educational, family, or medical reasons; in 2017, 54 Gazans died waiting for visas to leave for medical treatment,
- restrictions on food aid – 80 per cent of Gazans rely on humanitarian assistance, and Israel is allowing just enough to avert starvation,
- restrictions on medical aid – supplies and medications are running out, and;
- a crisis of water and electricity – nearly 100 per cent of water is contaminated; Gazans receive an average of 2-4 hours of electricity per day.
These inhumane measures, which have destroyed the economy and resulted in high unemployment and poverty rates, amount to collective punishment.
Third, in 2009-8, 2012 and 2014, the Israeli occupation carried out massive offensives on the Gaza Strip that resulted in the following:
- 2008-9: 1,417 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and more than 2,200 were wounded. Nine Israelis were killed.
- 2012: 174 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and about 1,500 others were wounded. Six Israeli were killed.
- 2014: 2,260 Palestinians were killed and more than 11,200 were wounded and, according to a UN report, 400,000 were displaced. Some 72 Israelis were killed.
- Most of the Israelis in the three offensives were killed in the battlefield.
Why did the Israeli occupation carry out offensive on Gaza?
The Israeli occupation claimed it wanted end launching the Palestinian rockets into the Israeli cities.
Forty years after the UN resolution 194, which stipulated the return of Palestine refugees, the Palestinians started their Intifada of the Stones to remind the world that they were still waiting for materialising the will of the international community.
After a couple of years, namely in 1993, the Israeli occupation singed a peace agreement with the PLO, which relinquished 78 per cent of the historical land of Palestine and postpones discussing the issue of the refugees.
However, the Israeli occupation did not stop its ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians and continues stealing their lands. Since Oslo, up to 500,000 illegal Israeli Jewish settlers have been moved to the occupied Palestinian territories.
In 2000, the Palestinians started their second intifada in response to the desecration of the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Al-Aqsa Mosque. They insisted to put an end to the expansionist Israeli imperialism and materialise the terms of the peace agreement.
Sharon replied to this with an iron fist and carried out massive attack on Palestinians in West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians started to think of new methods of resistance to be more effective than the stones. They imitated other the resistance of other nations and carried out bombing attacks, but stopped them after a while because of the controversy around them and started to use the primitive homemade rockets, which for years landed over the heads of the Palestinians before penetrating into the bases of the Israeli occupation forces.
This pushed the Israeli occupation to bring the effective Palestinian resistance party –Hamas– to the political game by putting pressure on it to take part in general elections to be carried out in the occupied territories.
In 2006, Hamas agreed to take the democratic pathway of resistance. However, between 2000 and 2006, the Israeli occupation killed more than 6,000 Palestinian men, women and children, while only tens of Israelis were killed during the same period.
Hamas achieved a landslide victory in the elections and wanted to form a Palestinian government. Contradicting pledges given to the former Qatari Emir Hamad al-Thani, the US mobilised the international community, including the Arab states to work on ousting Hamas. They pushed the rival Fatah movement to refrain from cooperating with it and to cause security chaos in the Palestinian territories.
After one and half a year of failure attempts to end this chaos and form a stable Palestinian government, Hamas took over the Palestinian government offices in Gaza and controlled the borders and crossings, but could not do the same in the West Bank and Jerusalem because of the support of the Israeli occupation to Fatah.
Since then, mid-2007, the Israeli occupation and Fatah-led government in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem have been waging a strict war on Hamas and its MPs, some of them are still inside the Israeli jails until today and some others were expelled from their homes. Gaza has been kept under a strict siege and from time to time, the Israeli occupation and Fatah carry out punishing measures against it. The last measures were the leader of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to slash the salaries of the public servants in Gaza, reducing electricity supplies and shares of medical treatment referrals to Gaza.
Therefore, the Palestinians decided to prepare themselves to peacefully demonstrate and take lift the siege and return to their homes by their own. The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas adopted this popular choice, supported and defended it.