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News ::
Rallies "Demand Right of Return" for Palestinian Refugees
11 Apr 2001
Activists came from across the country, including California, Illinois and Michigan to actively support Palestinian's right to return. Other rallies were also held in Canada, Australia, Spain, Jordan, Japan and Israel.
Rallies "Demand Right of Return" for Palestinian Refugees
Suzy Abu-Nie, AlterNet
April 10, 2001

Thousands of activists marched in New York City and in cities across the globe Saturday, April 7, demanding that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homeland.

Activists from all walks of life kicked off the "No Return = No Peace" march and rally in front of the Israeli consulate, chanting slogans like "Love Live Palestine" and "Down With Israel" in both English and Arabic.

With colorful banners detailing Israel's brutality toward Palestinian civilians, rally goers listened to speeches made by members of Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, a national association of grassroots activists who sponsored the event. Soon after, the protesters took to the streets and marched down Second Avenue and toward Union Square for the culmination of the event.

"We're here to show that the Palestinians are demanding their right to return to their homeland. They are not asking for something they don't deserve," said Donna Wallach, who flew in from San Jose, CA to attend the rally.

Wallach says Israel is a Zionist state that was created illegally and ousted native Palestinians from their homeland 53 years ago. "I know the truth, and it means that Zionism is racism," she said. "I traveled in Gaza in the refugee camps. I saw how the Palestinians were living."

Since Israel's establishment in 1948, millions of Palestinians have been forced to live in neighboring Arab countries and throughout the world. The United Nations reports that the Palestinians are the largest refugee population in the world, numbering more than 5 million.

"It's like someone comes to your door, kicks you out of your house, builds a tent across the street and says you can spend the rest of your life there," said Maysan Haydar of Brooklyn, NY.

Eyad Kishawi, a Palestinian refugee who now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is co-chair of Al-Awda there, says that Saturday's rally may finally help Palestinians' voices to be heard.

"Al-Awda achieved its goal: sending a message to the American government that it should stop subsidizing Israel with $6 billion for conducting a campaign of terrorism against the Palestinian people," he said.

Activists came from across the country, including California, Illinois and Michigan to actively support Palestinian's right to return. Other rallies were also held in Canada, Australia, Spain, Jordan, Japan and Israel.

Haydar hopes that as Palestinians make themselves more visible, the general population in the U.S. will start leaning toward their side. "The Vietnam War is an example of that. The intense struggles and rallies in the U.S. made the entire country shifted. I'm looking for a repeat," she said.

As marchers made their way downtown, activists sporting an oversized cardboard replica of an Israeli military tank performed a skit on the sidewalk, in which they imitated Palestinian children throwing "rocks" at the aggressor. A man dressed as Uncle Sam, walking in stilts and following the tank, carried a sign saying, "Your Tax Dollars at Work."

Al-Awda not only advocates for the right of return, but also the return of all confiscated and destroyed property by the Israelis. The coalition insists that Israel comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law and the implementation of the United Nations Resolutions stating that Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes have a legal and moral right to do so.

During the closing stages of the rally at Union Square, marchers greeted renowned Palestinian scholar, Edward Said, as he spoke about the current Palestinian uprising. "This is a battle between an imperialist and colonial occupier. Israel is a state armed to the teeth by the United States," he said. "This (uprising) isn't Palestinian violence. It's Palestinian resistance."
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