The fundamental issue

A right to return

By Jody McIntyre, Monday, 16 May 2011 at 3:29 pm

No amount of time can make an injustice legitimate.  No amount of oppression can make a people forget.

Sunday, May 15th 2011 marked the 63rd anniversary of al-Nakba, or the catastrophe, to commemorate the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians from their land.  Yesterday, thousands of Palestinian refugees marched alongside Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Lebanese, to demand their right to return to their homes.  On the Syrian border, many managed to cross over into the Israeli-occupied Syrian territory of Majdal Shams, in the Golan Heights.  In the village of Maroun al-Ras, southern Lebanon, thousands marched to the border to return home, and were shot at by Israeli soldiers.  In Gaza, snipers picked off unarmed demonstrators as they marched to the Erez crossing.  In the space of one day, Israeli soldiers had killed citizens of three different nationalities; Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese.  It was not even the top news story of the day.

I often wonder how I am expected to recognise the legitimacy of a state that does not recognise its own borders.  I often wonder how I can recognise a state that has invaded and occupied every country it shares a border with.  How can I recognise a country that refuses to recognise the right of return, as enshrined in international law, of the Palestinian refugees?  Yesterday, those refugees proved that they will never allow that right to be forgotten.  Despite the combined efforts of Israel, the US, and the Palestinian Authority, they will never forget the homes that they left in 1948.

In Egypt, thousands of demonstrators marched to the Israeli embassy in Cairo, after plans for a march on the Rafah border were thwarted by the Egyptian army.  The army fired on demonstrators as demands were made that the Israeli ambassador be expelled from the country.  By attacking the demonstrators in such a brutal manner, the army made it clear where their loyalties lie.  The Egyptian revolution remains far from complete.

But finally, the sudden wave of uprisings in the Arab world have returned to the fundamental issue; the occupation of Palestine.  We have bombed Libya, we have spoken for weeks about the possibility of military intervention in Syria, as if we have some divine moral superiority, whilst continuing to ignore the fundamental injustice that undermines any possibility of a solution in the region.  Until there is justice for the Palestinians, there can never be peace.

Some will refer to yesterday’s events as Israel’s Bloody Sunday, and many will mourn their losses from the demonstrations.  But for all of Israel’s ammunition, supplied to them by the governments and the taxpayers of the UK and the US, they cannot destroy public opinion.  No amount of live ammunition will shoot through the will of the Palestinian refugees in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Jordan, who continue to say; we will return!  No amount of political maneuverings, on either side of “negotiations”, will alienate that right.

And we must ask ourselves, how do we want to be viewed in history; as those who stood with the refugees as they marched home, or as those who supplied the bullets to shoot them down at border crossings? or or

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