For the first time in 52 years, internally displaced Palestinians in Israel - constituting one-quarter of Israel's Palestinian population today - succeeded to draw wide local and international attention to their struggle for return to their homes and properties by means of public "Return Marches" and rallies organized by the National Committee for the Defense of Internally Displaced Palestinians in the destroyed villages of Umm al-Zeinat and Damoun (10-5) and the Palestinian town of Umm Al-Fahm (15-5).
In the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the 52nd anniversary of the massive expulsion of the Palestinian people from homes and properties now located in Israel (Al-Nakba) came at a time of public outrage at Israeli arrogance revealed both on the level of the political negotiations and concrete policies in 1967 occupied Palestinian territories (land confiscation, settlement expansion, house demolitions), concern for the lives of the approximately 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike for more than two weeks, and Palestinian refugees' apprehension about Israel's ongoing rejection of their right of return (UN Resolution 194). Massive protests and violent confrontations with the Israeli occupation army between 13- 15 May involved Palestinian civilians and police forces and resulted in five Palestinian deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Marches and rallies demanding implementation of UN Resolution 194, by local refugee camp organizations, the Union of Youth Activity Centers, Women Centers in the camps, the Popular Service Committees and political parties, were held in all major refugee camps of the West Bank and Gaza Strip between May 14-15. The largest event in the West Bank was the Return March-Rally organized in Balata Camp (Nablus) on May 14. This march was joined by delegations from the city of Nablus and adjacent villages, students of al-Najah University and Al-Quds Open University, and refugee Return Marches arriving from the camps of Nur-Shams, Jenin, Tulkarem, al-Far'ah, al-'Ain, and the two 'Askar camps. By noon, some 5,000 people, carrying signs and slogans, walked through the streets of Balata Camp to form a rally attended by representatives of the political parties, the Governor of Nablus, and all major refugee organizations.
The rally was opened on behalf of the Coordinating Committee by Tayseer Nasrallah/Committee for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights with a Pledge of Honor of the Palestinian Person to the Palestinian Land:
- The right of return to historical Palestine is a natural, legal, political, and human right; it is a right of the Palestinian individual and the collective, and its implementation is possible. Any person who bargains on or surrenders this right is a traitor;
- Security, stability, and peace in the region cannot be achieved without a just and comprehensive solution of the Palestinian refugee question according to international legitimacy, especially UN Resolution 194. Any effort to bypass this question will lead the region into a new round of conflict;
- It is the duty of the Palestinian negotiators to abstain from negotiations over the principle of the right of return. Any step in this direction is rejected by the national consensus;
- The rights of Palestinian refugees are indivisible. The refugee question is a Palestinian responsibility and no side is mandated to bypass it.
- We call upon the Lebanese government to lift immediately the siege of the camps of steadfastness in Lebanon, and to treat Palestinians according to the standards defined by human, ethical, and political norms.
- We call upon UNRWA to continue providing its services and to work for the improvement of living conditions in the camps until a just and comprehensive solution to the refugee issue is found.
We, refugees from the camps of Balata, 'Askar 1 and 'Askar 2, al-'Ain, al-Far'ah, Tulkarem, Nur Shams, and Jenin, state with loud voice: Palestine is ours! Our only choice is the return to the land of historical Palestine.
We greet our Palestinian people in the camps of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Gaza.
Yes to the right of return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194!
Yes to the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital!
Eternal glory to our martyrs and freedom to our steadfast prisoners!"
(The Follow-up Committee for the Commemoration of the 52 Anniversary of the Nakba, May 2000).