Thousands of Palestinians and their supporters rallied in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan on 7 April in one of the largest gatherings of Palestinians ever, to bring to world attention the plight of the Palestinian refugees and the right of return to their homes, and to demand the end of the belligerent occupation in Palestine.
In New York, some 5000-8000 demonstrators assembled in front of the Israeli consulate chanting “No Return = No Peace” and carrying a map of Palestine and a key, symbolic of the return home. The rally featured prominent speakers, such as Palestinian intellectual Edward Said and the former Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine George Habbash, live interviews with participants at the Right-of-Return Rally held simultaneously in Nazareth, and a statement by the Intifada leadership in the 1967 occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. “It was a great moment of solidarity and unity with Palestinians in exile all over the world. We have no choice but to stand up for the rights of our people wherever we are” said an activist of the Palestine Right of Return Coalition (Al-Awda), the organizer of the 7 April rallies.
This message of solidarity and unity reached Palestine, where the right of return of Palestinian refugees is a demand raised daily in public assemblies, rallies and statements of the Intifada leadership and Palestinian community organizations. In the 1967 occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, refugees confronted with daily repression by the Israeli army and settlers and confined to their camps were unable to launch large public events. Palestinian community organizations thus joined the world wide right-of-return rallies with a series of decentralized activities in the city of Hebron, in the camps of the West Bank (Balata, Nur Shams, a.o.), and in the Gaza Strip (Maghazi, Deir al-Ballah, Nusseirat, and Breij camps). Activities included children’s marches, exhibitions featuring the history of Palestinian refugees and Palestinian martyrs of the current uprising, theater and dance performances, and public debates about issues related to the Palestinian right of return. In Nazareth, however, a rally organized by the Society for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced Palestinians was joined by numerous activists in political parties and national institutions, as well as Palestinian members of Knesset and showed that Palestinians in Israel – just like refugees in exile – continue to demand their right to return to their homes and properties.
Also in Jordan and Lebanon, the scope and character of the April 7 Right-of-Return rallies was determined by the restrictive living conditions of Palestinian refugees. In Amman, following a renewed official ban on demonstrations, the High Committee for the Defense of the Right of Return and some 200 unionists and political activists held an in-door rally in solidarity with the Palestinian uprising and the right of return. In Lebanon, right-of-return marches were held in all Palestinian refugee camps, and the A’idun Group organized lectures in the camps of Burj al-Shamali and Nahar al-Bared. Palestinian children and community organizations gathered in the Ain al-Hilweh camp and flew thousands of balloons into the air which would carry them to Palestine. The balloons carried one message: “A’IDUN – we will return.”
For more on the 7 April Right-of-Return rallies world wide see: http://al-awda.org