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Thousands join Palestinian March of Return on Israeli Independence Day

The annual March of Return brought approximately 7,000 people to the destroyed village of Khubeizy on Israel’s Independence Day. The march, which went through village lands and debris, now a national park, ended with a rally in which speakers called for the implementation of UN Resolution 194, recognizing the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, and for the release of political prisoners.

Speakers called for the implementation of UN resolution 194 (Haggai Matar)

Speakers call for the implementation of UN resolution 194. (Haggai Matar)

The march was organized by the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Displaced People (ADRID), and was attended mostly by Palestinians with Israeli citizenship (dubbed “’48 Palestinians”) and a few Jewish Israeli activists. Aside from the speeches, the rally included a cultural festival with book and food stands, and Palestinian flags and accessories and “Free Samer Issawi” shirts were sold in mass numbers. The event ended with a performance by singer Walaa Sbeit, himself a descendant of the displaced from Iqrit, who gained a large round of applause when he mentioned the outpost he and his friends have been holding for nine months now on the old village lands.

Thousands marched through village lands (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Thousands march through the village lands. (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

A small counter demonstration of about 40 Israeli flag-wavers welcomed the marchers to Khubeizy’s lands. Within the Palestinian protest itself, two arguments caused rifts within the crowd: one small group near the stage pulled out Syrian flags in support of Assad’s regime and against the “American-Zionist plot” to topple it, despite the request by organizers not to bring any party sign nor signs of support for either side of the Syrian civil war (arguments within the group almost turned violent). Another small group resented the fact that a Jewish Israeli, Dr. Gerardo Leibner of the Tarabut movement, was invited to speak on stage. Leibner himself responded to critics and said that unity between Arabs and non-Zionist Jews was important for the struggle.

Some of the young were showing off horse riding tricks (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Some of the young were showing off horse riding tricks. (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

The village of Khubeizy, named after the edible plant (Malva, in English), is located in north Wadi Ara, about 40 kilometers southeast of Haifa. In 1948 it was home to 350 residents, who according to ADRID did not put up a fight when occupied. However, the village was demolished and villagers dispersed to nearby towns within Israeli territory, as well as to refugee camps in Jenin and Jordan.

Flags, books and "Free Samer Issawi" T-shirts were sold around the festival (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

Flags, books and “Free Samer Issawi” T-shirts were sold around the festival. (Oren Ziv / Activestills)

About a million Israelis celebrated Independence Day, in parallel to the annual March of Return, with the traditional barbecues and trips to nature reserves and beaches.

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    1. XYZ

      Actions like this go far to convince the clear majority of Israelis that contractual peace with the Palestinians is impossible, that ending the “1967 occupation” would do nothing to end Palestinian grievances and in fact would aggravate the situation further, because it would inevitable lead to a Palestinian civil war as reflected in the extreme divisions caused by support for or opposition to Assad’s regime.

      Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Lieberman and XYZ are blind to the fact that the Israeli Independence day is a “march of hate” for the Palestinians, an orgy of triumphalism.

          Reply to Comment
      • Haggai Matar

        XYZ – the only people who would be “convinced” by this demonstration that peace is impossible are those who think it is all only about 1967. Anyone who understands the problem is wider and goes back to 1948 will not be afraid from something like this.

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel


          Why stop there?

          Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          Hagai, this is exactly what XYZ is saying.

          It’s not really about the six days war, or the settlements. It’s about our presence here.

          The call for the right of return (AKA the implementation of resolution 194) is a call to for the destruction of Israel as we know it. This is the *core* of the conflict.

          Reply to Comment
          • Haggai Matar

            Yes, Vadim, a dramatic change of Israel as we know it, surely. But not destruction.

            Reply to Comment
          • XYZ

            If you are referring to Israel hypothetically accepting the principle of “right of return” of the Palestinian, refugees, you can forget it. I know that FATAH spokesmen in the past has said “first you accept the principle, then we will talk about how it will be implemented”, but that is demanding that Israel committed a crime in the War of Independence. Even a true believer in peace like Shlomo Ben-Ami said in his important interview in 2001 in Ha’aretz that the main demand of the Palestinians is that the world put Israel in the dock as a criminal state.
            You seem to believe that demonstrations like this one will somehow convince Israelis to admit they are criminals. The large majority of Israeli believe creation of Israel was not a crime, Zionism is a righteous movement, the Arabs started the 1948 war, and they brought the Nakba on themselves and that Israel has NO obligation to the refugees…the Arab leaders do who inflicted it on them. As long as the Arab side refuses to look at things as we do there is no chance for peace.

            Reply to Comment
      • Vitaliy

        What is your solution? I am not the most Palestinian loving person in the world, but I do not expect them to simply give up their claims- just or unjust.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Charles-Jerusalem

      In itself such a demonstration has no impact: 7000 people demonstrating for something called the end of Israel (right of return of the Palestiniens refugees in Israel).
      We are in a democraty, the opposition has the right to express its ideas and demonstrate.
      As long as they remain as a non representative monority, it is not a problem. When they will have enough votes to influence the laws in Israel, it will be an other story.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Palestinian

      How can our return to our homeland destroy Israel ? Today 4 out of 5 citizens are Jewish ,tomorrow it will be 1 out of 2 .Sooner or later there will be no Jewish majority in Palestine ,let it be the peaceful way .If Zionists insist on a Jewish state ,they can have it somewhere else.

      Reply to Comment
      • Michael W.

        Israeli social, economic, and political institutions couldn’t possibly handle an influx of 5+ million people with such different culture.

        Reply to Comment
        • Palestinian

          Assuming all the 5+ million will arrive in one day,what you say is true but it wont be the case.
          I’m not sure what you mean by different culture but I’m sure we arent that different from half of your Jewish population.Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live ,work and study in several countries that are economically and socially superior to Israel.Remember that 20% of your population are Palestinian and thousands of Palestinian workers work (and few live) inside the Green Line.

          Reply to Comment
          • Michael W.

            Almost a million immigrants from the former USSR across a decade. Can you imagine if 5+ million arrived across two, three decades? By that time there would be 10+ million Palestinian refugees.

            Those Palestinians that work in superior economic countries are a small fraction compared to the total population that has absorbed them.

            Cultural/social issues of contrast:
            – Public appearance
            – The role of women in society
            – Arts and entertainment
            – Gays and lesbians

            Political issues of contrast:
            – Religion in politics
            – Freedom of speech and press
            – Capital punishment
            – Judicial system
            – Pluralism
            – Accountability
            – Education

            Economic issues of contrast:
            – GDP per capita (and welfare)
            – National healthcare (cost and trained staff)
            – Employment
            – Housing
            – Water
            – Tax base
            – Training
            – Limited venture capital

            Many of these issues are already problematic in Israel and they are even more severe among the Palestinians especially when compared to Western and Israeli eyes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinian

            Once a refugee is allowed back he/she will no longer be a refugee ,so in three decades you wont be dealing with 8 or 10 million people. Bear in mind you are assuming that every single refugee will return.

            The cultural, social and political issues you mentioned aren’t agreed upon by all Israelis.I don’t think a Jewish Yemenite in 1950 was more “open-minded” than a Palestinian refugee in Ein Al-Hilweh refugee camp today.If Beit Shemesh citizens can survive there then the Palestinian refugees can definitely do it.

            Refugee resettlement needs funds ,whether inside or outside the Green Line,a new city can be built in Akka instead of Nablus ,the same goes for national healthcare,employment,water …..and Israel can contribute with billions of dollars wasted on military .

            Reply to Comment
          • Michael W.

            I was talking about the remaining Palestinian population in the diaspora. Lets say it takes three decades to absorb 3+ million. There will still be another 5 million in the diaspora because of the population growth rate.

            I don’t think you are aware the magnitude of the resources needed.

            The Mizrachim of the 50’s, and later the Ethiopians of the 80’s, were Zionists by default. Consider the Bedouin issues that still exist today. Multiply that by 100, add in the Islamist movement and Arab nationalism, and you got a pressure cooker.

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinian

            Almost half of the refugees already live in historic Palestine.You need to check the numbers.

            How can a Jewish Arab be Zionist by default? And how can that change his/her cultural and social background? I think ,in your eyes, our only problem is that we arent Jewish.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            It’s not even that. There are 1 million refugees in Gaza and another million in West Bank. There are currently 4.5 million UNRWA registered refugees. If the right of return is upheld, those two million will not ‘return’ per se, it simply means they will have greater access to their ancestoral homeland.

            Even then, it is unlikely the rest of the 2.5 million will come back immediately (probably those who live in camps will return immediatly such as the ones in Syria and Lebanon).

            As for the diaspora, I think the fact that they cannot even go for a visit makes them want to go back even more. If given proper access, acknolwedge the Nakba, I am willing to bet that half of them or even 1/4 of them will be willing to leave behind their jobs, families, friends, life to go back to palestine.

            Acknowledging the right of return is more than that, it is the acknolwedgment that the Zionists have done something terrible to the Palestinians and purged them from their homes. The US acknowledges its crimes against the Native American population, it is not something unheard of.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            Interestingly, as I’ve looked through the demographs of the Palestinian population… there are 11 mil around the world. 6 mil are living in Palestine and Israel alone. 3 mil in Jordan (and unlikely to move, but the refugees will certainly will and I think they compromise about half of the population). That leaves us with 2 million. According to my calculation, 1.5 mil of the Palestinian population live in more economically superior countries than Israel. So, I think the whole ‘they will be a burden’ isn’t an extremely strong argument.

            Reply to Comment
          • Michael W.

            Do any of you really think that Israelis will tolerate Haniyeh walking around Yaffo?

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinian

            I dont think Palestinians tolerate Peres or Netenyahu walking around Yafa or Akka.I dont think we like German,Polish and Russian colonists living in our homes,so ….

            Reply to Comment
          • Michael W.

            – Your statement is confusing. Are you saying that these refugees already in “historic Palestine” have exercised RoR?

            – How can you not see that Mizrachim don’t aspire to Arab nationalism? How can you not see that Arab nationalists don’t intend to include Mizrachim within their aspirations? All that matters is whether an individual and the community they live in aspire to a future that includes both.

            – Re: “I dont think Palestinians tolerate Peres or Netenyahu walking around Yafa or Akka.I dont think we like German,Polish and Russian colonists living in our homes,so ….”

            That sentiment was never in question. The – “How can our return to our homeland destroy Israel ?” – sentiment is.

            – Zionism does include Arabs within its its statist-Zionist aspiration. I believe that aspiration affords Arabs more rights and freedoms than anything that is offered by Palestinian Arab nationalism.

            Palestinian Arab nationalism doesn’t include Ashkenazim, nor Mizrachim, within its aspiration. The same applies to the Islamist movement.

            Arab nationalism, the Islamist movement, or Zionism. Those are the three things the leaders of the relevant communities had to choose from in the 1920’s and later. While most of the region chose Arab nationalism, its exclusiveness led to its defeat in 1948 Palestine.

            Reply to Comment
          • Palestinian

            Some of the refugees in Gaza and the West Bank (and elsewhere) wont return to their original villages once they have access to all Palestinian cities as Leen said earlier.Forbidden fruit is sweet .

            Our discussion is about our ROR not Arab nationalism nor Jewish Arabs.

            You are the one who questioned the feelings of Israelis seeing Haniyeh walking around Yafa!

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            I don’t think people tolerated Begin running around as he was dubbed the first Middle Eastern terrorist. Nor did people particularly tolerated Kahane who as you are well aware of was considered a terrorist, even by US standards. Nor do people tolerate Sharon who as we all know is also dubbed as a war criminal. But hey it happens.

            Reply to Comment
          • Michael W.

            Leed, what’s your point? Two are dead and one is in a coma. Pick someone more current.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leen

            Doesn’t exactly refute my point though does it.

            Although Palestinian has listed more current cases, I will list a similar case. Magee, who as you know tried to assassinate Thatcher and was released in 1999 and was responsible for many IRA attacks, can pretty much walk around the streets of london and people are living with it.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Eilon

      The so-called fakestinians or a bogus nation set up by the PLO in 1964. They do not exist nor will ever exist.

      What we have in Yesha are a bunch of Jordanians who deserve to return to home. When Feiglin is PM, this will be quickly returned.

      Have a nice day!!

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        “The so-called fakestinians or a bogus nation set up by the PLO in 1964. They do not exist nor will ever exist.”

        I assume that neither you or your ancestors were “Palestinians” – that means citizens of Palestine before 1948. The PLO definition doesn’t even exclude Jews (and their paternal descendents) who lived in the territory before the mandate.

        So we have two definition of Palestinans as a national term and citizenship. Jewish isn’t and has never been. So if you want to talk about a fake nation …

        “What we have in Yesha are a bunch of Jordanians who deserve to return to home. When Feiglin is PM, this will be quickly returned.

        Have a nice day!!”

        They always lived in the Westbank and were citizens of Palestine. Again, if you want to talk about sending someone home …

        That what I love about extreme Zionists. They always shoot themselves with their bogus arguments into their own …

        Reply to Comment
    5. XYZ

      I am not sure what sort of “dramatic changes” Haggai Matar wants to see here, but massive (unjustified) return of Palestinian refugees, or a “single state” would INEVITABLY lead to massive bloodshed and the turning of Israel into another Lebanon-Syria-Iraq. Unarmed minority groups simply have no chance in this region, as we can all see with the whithering away of the regions Christian communities and other minority groups. Having the Jews convert to Islam wouldn’t help, just like conversion to Christianity in Spain in the 15 century and Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries wouldn’t help, because the Jews would still be a undigested, recognizable group that would arose jealousy from other Muslims. That is Israelis will NOT accept the “right of return” or a “single state”.

      Reply to Comment
    6. NIZ

      XYZ nothing resolves the deep anxiety of minorities in this region (and i come from one) are sick and need therapy. If by the majority you mean Islam, Sunni Islam, here they are in the Levant being destroyed by Alawites in Syria, Christians in Lebanon and now Shiites and Jews in Palestine. By doing so, they have unknowingly given the majority the moral right to do unto them what they have been doing for the past 80 years to the majority. XYZ your view is the view of the majority of Israelis which is that might makes right, in that view, is a vision to the region that is bleak, that of perpetual war, that has no borders. For embedded in it a complete rejection of the region and the other and the possibility of a solution. The solution is the negation of the other. Everyone eventually gets what he/she asks for! bravo.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        NIZ, the middle east as a region with perpetual war and no borders is not a vision. It is the reality and has very little to do with Israel. The lack of respect for minorities in the region is also a fact, but yes, I suppose they must have all brought it upon them including the Christians of Iraq and Egypt and Syria, the Bahais of Iran, etc, etc, etc… Heaven forbid that we admit that there is something fundamentally wrong with the political culture of this region.

        Reply to Comment
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