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The struggle for the Palestinian popular memory 

The ongoing Palestinian return march, which started 30. March, and has gathered tens of thousands of Palestinians, is a message to Israel and the international community that Palestinians maintain the demand for the right to return to their homeland.


A group of elderly people have met at the border between the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories. They carry the keys to what was once their homes in 1948. They ponder and talk to one another about their former – but now lost – villages, trees, orchards, the history of escape and the loss of their loved ones during the great relocation.

This scene and others take place during the big return march organized to mark the 42. the year of the Palestinian "country day". It was the day when Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in 1976, following protests against Israeli confiscation of their territories.

The demonstrations – which have gathered tens of thousands of protesters since it launched 30. March – is a response to Israel's refusal to grant refugees the right to return to their homes before 1948. The protests are expected to last until 15. May, marking the 70 anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba ("the disaster"), where over 750 000 Palestinians were displaced by Israeli forces in connection with the Arab-Israeli war in 1948.

The march is a message to all local and international parties – including the occupation authorities – that Palestinian refugees still demand the right to return to their homes and land.

Waiting to return. From the refugee camps on the Gaza Strip, thousands of people flock to the camps that are scattered along the border of the occupied territories.

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"I will fight for the coming home day."
Mohamed Abu Amra

Between the camps, Mohamed Abu Amra (76) is working to tighten a bardun to one of the tents with the inscription "Beersheba tent", and he tells us: "I do not intend to be a refugee for long. I will return to my village. ”

Then he goes on to tell us about the day of moving when he was seven years old. "Although I have grown older, the little boy inside me remembers very well the vineyards, fig trees, our home and the mosque that they took from us 70 years ago. I will fight for the coming home day. If that day does not come in my lifetime, it is enough for my children to remember many of the stories I and my grandfather told them. "

While Abu Amra is singing for his homeland, a cake on a car tire catches our attention. It is intended to celebrate the birthday of martyr Hussein Madi. He was shot and killed the 6. April of Israeli snipers, just 4 days before their 14 anniversary, during the Palestinian mass protests. His grandmother tells us: "I always looked at Hussein as the well-behaved child who learned quickly and was loved by relatives and neighbors."

For a moment, Hussein – whom his parents had to wait for seven years before pregnancy became a fact – became a martyr, not only for his family, but for all of humanity.

His uncle goes to the place where he was shot and says, "Here Hussein wore the flag of Palestine before the bullet from the occupation forces hit him."

Then the uncle starts shouting: "Where are you free people in the world? Defenders of the rights of innocent children? ”

Bassam abu sharif

On this earth life is worth living. When the company of the deceased child martyr Hussein is over, a bridal party starts. In the middle of the cheerful celebration, a group of clowns come to entertain, followed by a theatrical performance. It is as if they say "on this earth life is worth living".

Mohamed Abu Obeid (23) is another participant hit by Israeli snipers. He was one of the players on the Al Salah football team. Now, for the first time, he has missed a fight with his team after the bullet hit him while participating in the big return march. He was shot in the left knee, which was smashed by the bullet that went right through it.

"I had a promising sports career ahead of me, but now it's all over. It does not mean that I am finished as a human being, and I am firmly in my right to return, despite the damage. ”

A battle for memory. Political analyst Dr Husam Al Dagani says that the return march's demands are in line with the right of return for Palestinian refugees as expressed in UN Resolution No. 194, paragraph 11, which gives Palestinian refugees the right to return to their home country.

Dagani links these marches to the tightening of the Gaza Strip siege, which has caused the Palestinians to explode. It is primarily Israel's responsibility, according to Dagani.

Al Dagani believes that the peaceful people campaign – which these marches represent – will continue after 15. May, and that it will develop with increasing strength rather than continue as a peaceful march.

The Palestinian claim revives the memory and awareness that this territory belongs to the Palestinians.

Abd Al Rahman Shahab, a Zionist specialist, says Israel sees the march as a threat to the country's existence. The Palestinian demand for the right to return revives the memory and awareness that this territory belongs to the Palestinians. This is contrary to Israeli memorials. Therefore, these marches pose a real challenge to the Israeli people's memory, as they reinforce the fact that the Israelis are not the native inhabitants of the country, but that they are newcomers in the land to the Palestinian people.

Martyrs and injured. Shahab describes the return marches as a creative form of resistance, leading to a new popular and peaceful resistance instead of armed action. Ashref Al Qidra, the spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health, says the number of victims – now celebrated as martyrs – during the demonstrations is so far about 30. This figure also includes children. The number of injured is over 3000. Of these, 129 is damaged in the head and neck, 51 is damaged in the chest and abdomen, 68 is injured in the pelvic area, and there are 1027 injuries in the lower parts of the body.

Al Qidra also states that more than 300 children and 78 women are among the injured.

Unanswered questions. There are still several unanswered questions on the table: Will the return marches succeed in securing the right of return for the Palestinian refugees? If one were to succeed, what would be the next phase in the history of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict? Will Mohamed Abu Amra return to Beersheba again? Can we expect more victims like Hussein Madi? Does anyone still want their lives or dreams crushed by Israeli snipers, such as Mohamed Abu Obeid? Will Israel's response be limited to deploying snipers on the border? Will it possibly escalate to bombing civilians and the start of a war?

It is noteworthy that the return marches involve young and old men and women with the love and determination to return to the land they were thrown out of many years ago. Although peaceful, the exaggerated use of force by the occupiers, which has the aim of journalists, civilians and first aid workers, is very dangerous. The margins will continue to 15. May. This will be an important point in the ongoing conflict. Maybe it will trigger a big bang.

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Hamada Hamada Fajer
Hamada is a freelancer for New Time from Gaza.

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