The Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip has reminded the world of Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian struggle for rights. Since March 30, Palestinians in Gaza have engaged in peaceful, grassroots mass protests at the Israeli military fence that imprisons them, calling for an end to the dire conditions in the Strip as well as for the right to return to the land from which they were expelled 70 years ago this month – what Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe. The protestors are literally placing their bodies on the line risking being shot by Israeli snipers. Before the US embassy move today, more than 40 Palestinians had been shot dead by Israeli snipers, and thousands had been seriously injured. Today saw the bloodiest day, with over 52 Palestinians killed at the demonstrations and again thousands injured. The brutal cost that Palestinians in Gaza are paying is because of their resistance to Israel- a resistance that began over seven decades ago.
In 1948, the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) saw the state of Israel established, 750,000 Palestinians forced into exile, and over 500 Palestinian villages and towns destroyed. Palestinian society was torn apart and Palestinians were geographically fragmented. Yet not only did the Palestinian people survive, they also demonstrated remarkable resistance to the attempt to erase them through sumud (steadfastness), collective action, and defiance. The Great March of Return is the latest manifestation of this legacy.
In the first few years after 1948, thousands of Palestinian refugees attempted to return to their homes, only to be shot by the Israeli military along the new borders. The Israeli state called them “infiltrators” and passed the Prevention of Infiltration Law to legislate its practice of preventing them from returning. Meanwhile, Israel placed the 150,000 Palestinians who managed to stay within the borders of the new state – the Palestinian citizens of Israel – under a severe military regime and politically repressed them.