The Middle East Monitor reported this week that The Committee of the March of Return has announced that Palestinian refugees will start peace marches towards Israel to return to their homes. The Monitor quotes the Committee:
“The 1948 war ended 70 years ago and there is no reason that refugees should remain away from their homes…returning is your right…There is no longer any point in waiting for just political solutions that will return the refugees to their homes or prevent the occupation from settlement, land confiscation, repeated aggression and siege.”
For most Americans whose exposure to the conflict has been limited to Israel’s version, this may seem surprising. Zionists have been inordinately successful in controlling the narrative in the US. I can’t think of another conflict in which, for so long, the victors got away with blaming the indigenous people whom they ousted.
It may be that the only effective option the Palestinians have to regain their land is to return to their property. The act of reclaiming their property puts the lie to Israel’s claim that it was never Palestinian property to begin with.
Instead, under its law of return, Israel offers citizenship to all Jews, their spouses, children and grandchildren. This is a law like no other, since Jews are not defined by religion or place of birth; it is purely and openly race-based.
How can Zionism justify taking land from Palestinians and offering it to any Jew? First there is the somewhat tortured biblical explanation. For the secular and political, the Zionist narrative relies upon the supposed nonexistence of Palestinians and with Palestinians 'running away’ and thereby somehow losing rights to land. (Presumably this logic does not apply to holocaust survivors who fought relentlessly to get back their assets.) Leaving aside the falsity of these allegations, even if true, do they really matter? Seventy years ago and ever since, Israel has claimed land belonging to others.
A peaceful return by Palestinian refugees will likely disrupt the flow of Israel’s depiction of itself as the victim and place the Palestinians in their rightful place as the ousted owners of the land.
This is a dangerous situation. Nothing Israel has done in the 70 years of its existence indicates that Israel will voluntarily relinquish land to the Palestinians. We can assume that those who profited from stolen goods in World War II would not have returned a thing had those with ownership claims not asserted them. Similarly, and much more crucially, Palestinians have no hope to regain any of their property without asserting ownership.
I would not be so brave. There is no doubt that such Palestinian action will be met with violence. I’ve always wondered at the bravery of those who effect this kind of change. History is replete with scenes of masses of civilians fighting heavily armed soldiers. I wonder, how can their leaders urge them to battle when so many will die? I think I am beginning to understand. Their circumstances are such that change may never come about in any other way.
For years, Palestinians have protested by martyring themselves, attacking Israelis, joining the knesset, boycotting Israeli goods, etc. These techniques have had limited success. Palestinians have been ‘allowed’ ever decreasing freedoms and land. I don’t envy the Palestinians their battle.