Commemoration of Palestine Land Day and the Great Return March

From the May/June 2018 PNL #860

Various authors

Every year on May 15, Palestinians and their allies around the world mark the Nakba, or "catastrophe" in Arabic, referring to the violent expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland to establish the state of Israel. Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 out of 1.9 million Palestinians were forced to leave their homes in Palestine and become refugees. 2018 marks 70 years since the ongoing dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestine began.

On March 30, 2018, Palestinian refugees in Gaza initiated the Great March of Return along the border fence with Israel to demand their right to return to their families’ homes, as recognized by the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 194 (III), stating that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date…” At the time of writing, Israel had killed over 40 protesters, including two journalists who were both wearing vests with the word PRESS printed in large letters across the front, actions that have been condemned by the international Committee to Protect Journalists.

As long as the US government continues to shower Israel with $3.8 million annually in military aid, people of conscience must speak out against the crimes sustained with our tax dollars. To achieve peace, the Israeli state and government officialsmust be held accountable for their crimes. We must push Congress to implement sanctions against Israel until it ends the occupation of Palestinian lands and recognizes the full rights of Palestinians, including the rights of refugees to return to their homes.  

Below is the statement of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) about the Great Return March taking place during the days that commemorate Land Day and the Nakba. The PYM is a transnational, independent, grassroots movement of young Palestinians in Palestine and in exile worldwide. See

– Ursula Rozum


(Originally circulated 3/30/18)

It has been 42 years since this day in 1976 when six Palestinians were martyred by the Zionist entity during a nationwide protest against the Zionist government’s recurrent expropriation of Palestinian land, what is now recognized by Palestinians as Land Day. On this anniversary, today Palestinians in Gaza began a 46-day tent city protest at the border between the Palestinian lands colonized by the Zionist entity in 1948 and Gaza to bring attention to the right of return. However, the colonial Zionist government responded to the first week of popular protest with immense and indiscriminate brutal force against unarmed Palestinians. While we as the Palestinian Youth Movement recognize the legitimacy of our people’s resistance to colonization in all of its forms, such a response reveals that the issue for our colonizers is not tactics, but any form of resistance or insistence on our rightful claim to our own land and sovereignty. As Fatima Nasser, 65, claimed according to an article in The Guardian, “To die with dignity is better than living a life full of humiliation. We will return to our land, we will return to our homeland,” she said. “Israel kills us anyway, whether it’s by shooting or blockade.”       


As of this writing, there have been 15 confirmed Palestinian deaths at the hand of the Zionist Occupation Forces. Even as we mourn our martyrs, we remain steadfast in the support of our people in Gaza and the Great March of Return. We call on all of our youth in exile to express their support through actions of their own and by speaking truth to power through as many mediums as possible.

Most importantly, we recognize that 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, which means our people have endured 70 years of colonization, dispossession, and deprivation at the hands of a brutal settler regime. But it also means something else: 70 years of resistance. It means that, for 70 years, Zionist forces have tried--and failed--to eliminate us. Even as all of Palestine presently remains colonized and occupied, the persistence of our spirit in struggle will surely drive the total decolonization of our homeland forward. For what our people in Gaza have shown the rest of us and the world today is that, no matter how severe our dispossession, the Zionist entity will never be able to erase their/our presence, the rightfulness of our claim, and the inevitability of our return. On this Land Day, we affirm: our land and people will be free!



Resisting Zionism from Within


Growing up in Syracuse’s Jewish community, Zionism was heavily integrated into all of my Jewish education. We were made to feel we've been part of some magical, illusive place spiritually and physically since all of time, that it is our unquestionable homeland.  Any history lacked context that included Palestinians or the inception of the Jewish state. Education on the ‘conflict’ was limited to the narrative that it was ever-present, and that Israel attempts having dialogue and offers peace with Palestine but ultimately claims, “We just don’t know why Palestinians hate us.”

Self-criticism is also an integral part of Judaism. Wanting that accountability, which is so much a part of my culture, identity and morals, I began scrutinizing Israel at a young age. To my surprise, Israel was not open for debate. It wasn't until I culminated my Jewish education with the "trip to Israel", which most temple youth went on the summer after confirmation, that I witnessed inconsistencies in the Zionist narrative firsthand: Jews travelled on separate roads near the West Bank, we were told not to speak to or buy chickens from Arab children because the Israeli military could consider it 'aiding terrorism', and there was a bizarre silence around the topic of the conflict. I began to piece together the propaganda for young Jews to support a state that occupies another people with racist and apartheid policies. I knew there was not and could never be an excuse for such an occupation simply because we had suffered - no justification for the violent expulsion of people, expansion of settlements, obstruction of movement, and limitations on education, employment and housing for native Palestinians. Those weren't the values Judaism taught me.

Being part of an ethnicity perpetrating this violence and theft in its name gives Jews a unique responsibility to create awareness of the context of the state's creation and its effect on Palestinians, and advocate for acceptance of this reality within our community. Only then may we begin to end this occupation, repair the damage inflicted and honor indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. "The time has come to end our community's support for the occupation. We will be the generation to do it." – IfNotNow


Lisa Cohen is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace - Syracuse. Contact to learn more.