MOUSA ABU MARZOUQ, poliburo member of the Hamas Movement, writes an exclusive article for Muslim Views.
TWO million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are slowly being suffocated. Over 40 per cent of Gazans are unemployed; there is virtually no economy, no electricity, the water is undrinkable and the medical system has collapsed.
It is the Israeli occupation that is responsible for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza due to its illegal, 11-year-old siege imposed on the coastal enclave.
Since 2007, following Hamas’s victory in internationally-monitored elections, Israel has retained absolute control over the movement of people and goods via Gaza’s airspace, sea and land borders.
This blockade subjects Gaza’s population to collective punishment, in contravention of international law.
Confronted with such oppression and the world’s silence in response to Israeli war crimes, Palestinians in Gaza have no other option than to resist.
Seventy per cent of Gaza’s population are refugees, or descendants of refugees, of the Nakba.
We, Palestinians, have never been allowed to return to our land, despite United Nations Resolution 194 guaranteeing us this inalienable right. In the Israeli apartheid state, Palestinians are stripped of their humanity; our identity reduced to that of ‘demographic threat’.
Since March 30, thousands of Palestinians have been raising their voices in protest by participating in the Great Return March (GRM).
Through the GRM, they have been sending a united message to Israel and the world: we have the right to return to our homeland that was stolen from us in 1948. We have the right to move freely, to have electricity, to travel, to work. Through the GRM movement, Palestinians are not only demanding the right to return but also the right to live.
The GRM is not Hamas-driven, it is Palestinian-inspired and driven.
It is the embodiment of Palestinian popular resistance involving youth, women and many Palestinian parties in Gaza.
Popular resistance has always been an important part of the Palestinian liberation struggle, and we call on all Palestinians, including Fateh – as the ruling party in Ramallah – to also use this strategic tool against the occupiers.
Our right to resist, using both popular and armed resistance, is natural and guaranteed under international law, and can never be questioned.
The GRM protests have also shown the world the brutality of the Israeli occupation government, which killed more than 117 Palestinians – 63 slaughtered on May 14 alone. Over 13 000 others were injured.
The international community reacted with anger to this massacre. South Africa’s withdrawal of its ambassador from apartheid Israel is a significant gesture that Palestinians deeply appreciate. We hope that this is the beginning of the downgrading of ties between apartheid Israel and democratic South Africa.
By killing and wounding so many, Israel had hoped that the masses would retreat, that the protests would subside and, eventually, end. This was not the case, and popular resistance will only intensify. The GRM will continue until we achieve our goals.
Like the apartheid South African government, Israel justifies its murder of protesters and decades of state terrorism by demonising legitimate resistance movements, especially Hamas.
Hamas was established only in 1987. What then explains the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since 1948? What explains 50 years of Israeli settlements and land thefts, Palestinian home demolitions, forced displacement, disproportionate use of force, detention without trial, arrest without due process, denial of entry, land confiscations, and movement restrictions against Palestinians?
Israel can no longer rationalise its oppression of Palestinians by blaming Palestinians who exercise their natural and internationally recognised right to resist.
The GRM is a turning point, just as the 1960 Sharpeville massacre was a turning point in South Africa’s liberation struggle.
In Gaza, the world is witnessing an apartheid military regime killing peaceful protesters. The world did not look away from Sharpeville, and it must not look away from occupied Palestine either. The Palestinian call for justice, freedom and dignity must be heard and respected.
Seventy years after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to become refugees through Zionist massacres and violence, we, our children and our grandchildren remain firm in our desire to exercise our right to return home.
For Palestinians – and especially Palestinian refugees – the GRM represents a reclaiming of our dignity, and an announcement to the world that we will not accept the oppression of our people.
Submit or fight. These were the two choices facing South Africans during their struggle against apartheid. Like the South Africans, Palestinians have also chosen to fight, to steadfastly refuse to collaborate with the occupiers and submit to Zionist apartheid.
All Palestinians must continue to fight back, armed with our rights and international law.
We will continue resisting, the occupation will end, and we will achieve our liberation.