The Palestinian refugees issue is the core of the Palestinian cause. It is the issue of the expulsion of a nation from its original land 70 years ago using terrorism, to be replaced by a nation who denies the existence of the expelled indigenous nation. Ownership of the land was given to the replacing nation under the claim that “A land with no people for a people without land’. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes and forced to leave their properties to become refugees in various surrounding Arab countries and around the world. A new foreign entity was established on the ruins of their societies and homeland known as ‘Israel’. Despite the recognition of the international community of the right of Palestinian refugees to return and compensation, as guaranteed by the principles of the International law and international conventions and treaties and relevant United Nation’s resolutions, the International community has failed to enforce the relevant resolutions on the return of refugees. Despite the Palestinian refugees’ continuous struggle to secure their rights, the Israeli occupation continues to deny their right of return to their homelands which they were expelled from. Therefore, the refugees decided to take the initiative through peaceful movements and through the Great Return March. This comes as a continuation of the struggle of the Palestinian people for their right of return, the most important of which was the Return March in 2011, the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) in 2012 and the Palestinians’ marches in the areas occupied in 1948 on the 19th of April each year.
Definition of the Great Return March (GRM):
It is an organised public action, based on legitimate legal foundations and clear humanitarian principles, in which the masses of refugees embark on peaceful marches to implement paragraph 11 of UN Resolution 194 and to achieve the return of the refugees who were displaced in 1948 to their land, homes and properties. They are armed with firm faith that rights are not lost if pursued and that rights do not diminish with time. They base their movement on the legitimacy of the UN resolution 194 and their right to its application as officially registered refugees in the international organisation. The GRM adopts the following general principles:
- It is a sustained and cumulative struggle, not a seasonal or a one-day event. It will only end with the actual return of Palestinian refugees and the sit-in may last for weeks or months.
- It is a national march in which Palestinians of all ages and various political and social groups and their supporters from the free world meet around the universal issue of the return of refugees and their compensation as a national consensus.
- It is a humanitarian march calling for the human right of the return of refugees, failure to achieve that right is a justification to continue the march regardless of how long it takes. It has nothing to do with any political deals or offers from any side.
- It is a legal march based on international resolutions, most notably paragraph 11 from the UN Resolution 194, which explicitly calls for the return of Palestinian refugees as soon as possible to their villages and towns from which they were forcibly displaced and to be compensated.
- It includes the various locations of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jerusalem, the areas occupied in 1948, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other countries around the world. It aims to peacefully protest at the nearest points to their homes which they were forcibly displaced from.
- Participants will be from all components of the Palestinian civil society and all political parties or factions that believe in peaceful public resistance as an effective way to contribute to achieving peace and justice based on the restoration of the national rights of Palestinians, foremost of which is the right of return.
- It is a fully peaceful march from the beginning to the end. It adopts the style of open sit-ins, gradual progress, the construction of tents and the establishment of a normal life near the separation fence with their lands, homes and properties which they were forcibly removed from in 1948. The organisers are keen to invite international media to cover their message to all the world and are keen on the participation of international and human rights organisations to monitor and ensure the march is peaceful.
- The organisers are keen to spread the culture of public resistance through the peaceful nature of the march and all accompanying events both inside and outside Palestine, and affirm that it is a new form of resistance different to confrontations and throwing stones. To ensure that the march does not deviate from its mission and to prevent any pretexts from stopping it, it is prohibited for the participating individuals and organisations to carry out any acts that violate the law. In Gaza Strip, as a central arena of the movement, it is preferable to start a sit-in 700 meters away from the separation fence to prevent the clash of young people with the occupation forces. Progress will be gradual and in accordance with the discretion of the committees and national bodies in charge, which can be done in stages to prolong the duration of internal and external mobilisation.
- The civilian bodies supervising the management of the march are decentralised units established in each location/country appropriately. The various units in all locations should coordinate to ensure the success of the project.
- The only flag to be raised during the march is the Palestinian flag with no partisan slogans, in addition to the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and humanitarian slogans explaining the just cause of refugees in Arabic, English and Hebrew.
- Refugees are the responsibility of the United Nations. Therefore, human rights organisations have the task of contacting the United Nations and its international institutions to request their supervision for the marches and to send warning messages to the occupation not to target them.
- Communication should be made with various activists and solidarity organisations supporting Palestinian rights around the world to create global support for the initiative of the Great Return March. All media, political, legal and solidarity efforts should be mobilised to protect the march from the potential Israeli violence.
The International Coordination Committee of the GRM
March 15th 2018