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Palestinians in New York And Worldwide Demand ‘Right to Return’

Jesse Rubin May 23

In the wake of Israel’s recent massacre in Gaza of Palestinians participating in the Great March of Return, NY4Palestine, a coalition of eight Palestine rights organizations, drew more than 200 to a Times Square rally and march to the Israeli Consulate in New York, Friday.

Israel’s use of deadly force on Gaza’s civilians who have been demonstrating at the border since March 30 has resulted in the most casualties inside the impoverished strip since Israel’s 2014 summer assault when more than 1,400 civilians died.

So far this spring, Israel has killed 116 Palestinians and wounded upwards of 12,000 since demonstrations began, the majority with live fire, according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs.

“All [Palestinians are] doing is demanding their right to return, a right that is recognized by the international community,” said Fatin Jarar of the Al-Awda Right to Return Coalition. “They have just been going on the streets and marching. The response has been outrageous, it’s been brutal, it’s been sickening.”

Friday’s protest was more than a condemnation of the recent mass casualties. Palestinians and their supporters worldwide marked the somber 70th anniversary of the Nakba on May 15, when Zionist militias forcibly expelled an estimated 750,000 Palestinians from their home villages and subsequently declared the creation of the state of Israel. And on May 14, the United States relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in an unprecedented move. Guatemala and Paraguay have since followed suit and the United Kingdom has reportedly agreed to attend meetings at the new U.S. embassy despite initial criticism.

After the rally, organizers led a march across 42nd Street east to the Israeli Consulate on 2nd Avenue. Outside the consulate organizers highlighted the necessity of bringing the fight to their campuses and taking concrete steps to end U.S. military aid to Israel.

Noura Farouq, an organizer with NY4Palestine and co-founder of Within Our Lifetime noted the particular significance of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba and the urgency among Palestinians to end the occupation and return home after seven decades.

Farouq’s 91-year-old grandmother was forced from her village of Akka in 1948 at the age of twenty, gaining refugee status in Lebanon. She now lives in the United States, but neither she nor the rest of her family can return home to Palestine. After 70 years, this generation of Nakba survivors are getting older and memories of the event are fading. “That’s creating a big sense of urgency, especially for the Palestinian youth,” Farouq said. “Secondly, it creates the idea that Israel is a permanent fixture, that settler colonialism is a permanent thing — a success.”

“You can’t have settler colonialism without either expelling, killing or oppressing the indigenous population” and for exactly this reason said Farouq, “we can’t normalize settler colonialism.”

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Photo: Demonstrators marking Nakba Day near Times Square on May 18. Credit: Joe Catron.