This was the message conveyed by more than 4,000 refugees and internally displaced Palestinians in three Right-of-Return Marches organized in historical Palestine on 15-16 September in coordination with similar rallies and marches held by the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, Europe and the United States.
In Haifa, more than 800 internally displaced Palestinians, representatives of Palestinian political parties, NGOs and Palestinian MKs marched on Friday, 15 July from the city center towards Haifa’s historical Arab neighborhoods, whose houses - home to many Palestinian refugees – have remained expropriated by Israel until today.
On Saturday, 16 July some 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the 1967 Israeli occupied West Bank held two Right-of-Return Marches in Balata Camp, Nablus and in Bethlehem. The marches organized by popular refugee organizations, were joined by Palestinian parliamentarians (PLC), representatives of political parties, public institutions and NGOs.
The Right-of-Return March in Bethlehem, organized by refugee organizations in the southern West Bank refugee camps (al-Fawwar, al-Arroub, Deheishe, Aida, Beit Jibrin/Azza), moved northward on the Jerusalem-Hebron road. Starting at the memorial of the Palestinian martyrs of the Intifada in Deheishe camp, some 1,000 demonstrators – including numerous children – carried black flags and signs reminding of the 1982 massacre at the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut and transparents stating the refugees’demand to return to their original homes and properties.
Upon their arrival at Aida refugee camp, the demonstrators gathered in a rally on the border of the camp, right next to the newly-opened Bethlehem Intercontinental Hotel. Camp children read out letters received from children of Shatilla camp Beirut, a greeting address sent by Aidoun-Syria, and the statement of the Right-of-Return Rally in the Southern West Bank. The rally was closed with a short ceremony in which the new “Memorial for the Victims of the Massacres at Sabra and Shatilla and the Palestinan Exile”, established in Aida Camp on a plot provided by the Islamic Waqf, was presented to the public.
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Statement by the Right-of-Return Rally, Southern West Bank
"NO PEACE without THE RIGHT OF RETURN!"
Everything has been in motion in the camps of the Palestinian exile, from the early times of the house, the carob, and the beauty of Palestine, through fifty years of massacres and patience, until the moment of the angry decision, when we raise the key of return as the symbol of blood, fire and determination. Our identity will not be diffused by strangers and aggressors who came with their misconceptions, killing and settlements. Our memory will not be buried by normalization and half-solutions that represent nothing but loss and defeat. The Palestinian refugee camp continues to remember everything; it knows everything; it is moved by its martyrs and its tales. The land talks with the camp, and the skies call out for it.
Today the camp is flourishing in the garden of blood, which has grown thorns for the throats of the killers. Here is Sabra, ready to implement the prophecy of the martyrs, who have returned with the stone and the gun; there is Shatilla, rising from the darkness to expose the criminals who stole the moon from its sky - and it will never forgive.
The camp will decide in the battlefield and at the negotiation table, in the United Nations, and in the arena of the new world order. It is the source of war and peace. The camp says: "The blood of our martyrs is not for sale, neither for compensation funds nor for the charity of donor countries. We will never be deceived by the slogans calling for coexistence and resettlement, and by solutions which, in the name of so-called realism, accept our humiliation by the arrogance of force and war." The camp also says: "We do not know any solution but the return of our children to the homeland of their dreams and their ancestors, to their land and their olive trees. The future is for us," says the camp, "for the generations who have not forgotten the names of their villages and have remained tied to their soil, which is still waiting there in historical Palestine.
The camp does not hate a peace that does not surrender the national cause, and a peace that will not tear apart its people by means of restricted family reunification schemes. A fair and comprehensive peace does not plant a settlement on land, which is waiting for its children to return, the keys to their homes in its hand, and homes, graves and songs in its chest. A fair peace does not leave the killers of Sabra and Shatilla, Deir Yassin, Kufr Qassem, al-Dawayma and al-Tantoura without judgment by an international tribunal, in which fifty years of alienation, hunger, displacement and death on the wires of the borders will serve as witness.
The camp will decide - and it is warning of the consequences of a final solution of the conflict, which will not guarantee its historical right to return to the original homeland. This right, legitimate and sacred, accompanied by human anger will bring to fall all formulas and calculations that do not respect the human right to live on one's own land, in one's own home, freely and without restrictions and enslavement. The camp knows the future, and it can read the message of the refugees' stones and the dreams of their children. Statement issued by Refugee Institutions and Popular Refugee Initiatives Southern West Bank, Palestine Right-of-Return March, September 16, 2000.