Ahmed Abu Artema on the Palestinian Great March of Return

“The only possible option for them is to continue knocking on the walls of their prison with the hope that the world will hear them.”


Ahmed Abu Artema has organized the Great March of Return in protest of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. (Hosney Salah)

Esty Dinur, The Progressive, April 11, 2019

Ahmed Abu Artema is a Palestinian writer and activist. A resident of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, his family was expelled from its home in the Ramle district in 1948. A follower of nonviolent resistance, he is one of the main organizers of the Great March of Return, which has taken place every Friday for more than a year at the separation wall with Israel. A heavy-handed Israeli response has caused hundreds of Palestinian deaths and many more people injured.

A slight man with sad eyes, married and father of four, Abu Atrema was the featured speaker in a nationwide tour in March organized by the American Friends Service Committee and titled “Hashtag to Headlines: How the Gaza Great March of Return Challenged the World.”

I interviewed him recently for my radio show in Madison, Wisconsin, and followed up with emailed questions, which were translated from Arabic by Jehad Abusalim.

Q: What is the Great March of Return about?

Ahmed Abu Artema: The Great March of Return represents the clearest expression of the will of the displaced Palestinian refugees: They want to go home. In 1948, Zionist militias expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their cities and villages to pave the way for the establishment of the state of Israel. These forces believed that, with time, the refugees would adapt to the reality of refugeehood and would forget their homeland.

But the message of the Great March of Return clearly says that the Right of Return is to be negotiated, and that new generations of refugees who were born in the refugee camps in exile still adhere to their inalienable right to return to their homes and property.

Q: How did the march come into being and what has happened since?

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April 22, 2019
71 Years Without a Country

The 2019 North America Nakba Tour comes to Madison

UW-Madison Red Gym, On Wisconsin room
716 Langdon St
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Mariam Fathalla was just 18 years old in 1948 when her 4,000 year old village was leveled and she was forced to flee Palestine along with hundreds of thousands of others to make way for the establishment of the State of Israel. For the past 71 years she has lived in crowded, makeshift refugee camps in Lebanon. Now an 89-year-old great-grandmother, she has seen five Israeli invasions of Lebanon, as well as the 1976 Tel al-Zaatar massacre that killed more than 2000 refugees.

Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to hear Mariam’s eye-witness story and learn the true story of the event that Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe). She will be joined by 24-year-old Palestinian journalist and translator Amena ElAskhar, herself the great-granddaughter of Nakba survivors.

Co-sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine, and WUD Society and Politics. Welcomed by WORT Radio.



Amena ElAshkar will be a guest on WORT Radio’s Morning Buzz with host Jan Miyasaki on Wednesday, April 17 between 8 and 8:30 am. Tune in at 89.9 FM or listen live online.

Amena ElAshkar will be a guest on WORT Radio’s A Public Affair with host Esty Dinur on Friday, April 19 from 12:40 to 1:00 pm. Tune in at 89.9 FM or listen live online.


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IDF puts Palestinians under closure as Israelis go to the polls

While Jewish Israelis will be able to move freely in and out of the occupied West Bank, millions of Palestinians — even those with entry permits issued by the Israeli army — will be on lock-down.

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers voting at a portable ballot box, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers voting at a portable ballot box, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Edo Konrad, +972 Magazine, April 8, 2019

As millions of Israeli citizens head to the polls to vote on Tuesday, the Israeli army will put Palestinians in the West Bank under complete closure and will seal the Gaza Strip entirely. Movement within the West Bank should not be affected.

This means that as Israeli citizens living in settlements across the occupied territories may move freely back and forth across the Green Line separating Israel and the West Bank, millions of Palestinians are barred from doing so.

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First Anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege

Israeli Forces Kill 3 Palestinian Civilians and Wound 364

Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Ref: 50/2019, March 30, 2019

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, in excessive use of force against the peaceful protesters in the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces killed 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 364 others, including 74 children, 12 women, 7 journalists, and 6 paramedics. The injury of seven of them was reported serious.

It should be mentioned that before the protests started today, the Israeli forces deployed military reinforcements along the border fence with the Gaza Strip, and set up more fortified sniper positions. This indicates an Israeli intention to use excessive force against the demonstrators.

Israeli media reported that the Israeli forces had deployed three military brigades and an artillery battalion, and announced the deployment of 200 snipers along the border with the Gaza Strip. This is reminiscent of similar preparations on the eve of the outbreak of Return March a year ago, preceded with systematic incitement by the Israeli political and military echelons and giving direct orders to target the peaceful demonstrators, especially those who were described as “inciters.”

The Israeli military reinforcements came despite the prior declaration of the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege that the demonstrations will be peaceful. On Thursday, the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege confirmed in a press conference the peaceful and popular nature of all activities in the Earth Day demonstrations in order to block the Israeli authorities’ plans, which intend to shed the blood of peaceful demonstrators.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them. As a result, dozens of the demonstrators were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

Moreover, PCHR’s fieldworkers said that the Israeli forces increased the sniper-positioning points and raised the sand berms on which the snipers position, enabling them to see clearly and completely the area ,where the protestors spread, and deep into the Return encampment.

PCHR’s fieldworkers monitored the deployment of hundreds of police officers to control the demonstrations and prevent the demonstrators from approaching the border fence. The demonstrations were as always fully peaceful and some protesters in very limited cases approached the border fence and attempted to threw stones at the fence.

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 07:00, Israeli forces opened fire at a group of Palestinian young men who approached the border fence, adjacent to the Return camp in eastern Gaza Strip. As a result, Mohamed Jehad Jawdat Sa’d (20), from al-Shuja’iyia neighborhood, was hit with a live bullet to the chest and his death was declared after half an hour of his arrival at al-Shifa Hospital. It should be noted that Mohamed died before the actual start of the demonstrations to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking and the 43rd anniversary of the Earth Day, which the Supreme National Commission has called “the millions of land and return.”

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How the Battle Over Israel and Anti-Semitism Is Fracturing American Politics

The growing prominence of the B.D.S. movement — and the backlash to it — is widening fault lines from college campuses to Capitol Hill.

Nathan Thrall, New York Times, March 28, 2019

On June 9, 2016, the committee tasked with drafting the new Democratic Party platform held its second day of hearings at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, in the upscale Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington. The platform, which is rewritten every presidential-election year, is meant to express a consensus among Democrats on the major issues of the day. The afternoon session, on “America’s role in the world,” included discussions of platform language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At stake was whether Democrats would reaffirm the party’s strongly pro-Israel position or make some concessions to the Palestinians.

Days before the hearing, The Associated Press declared that Hillary Clinton had crossed the threshold of delegates and superdelegates needed to secure the nomination. But Bernie Sanders had not yet conceded. And the Democratic National Committee, which normally chooses the platform-drafting committee, decided in May to allow the two leading candidates to select most of the committee’s 15 members: Sanders was allowed to pick five; Clinton, six; the D.N.C., the remaining four.

The group met in the hotel’s Palladian Ballroom, whose walls are covered in murals depicting Thomas Jefferson’s slave plantation, Monticello. The representatives chosen by Sanders who spoke during the Israel-Palestine hearing were all minorities, including James Zogby, the head of the Arab American Institute and a former senior official on Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns; the Native American activist Deborah Parker; and Cornel West, the African-American professor and author then teaching at Union Theological Seminary. The representatives selected by Clinton and the D.N.C. who spoke on the issue were all Jewish and included the retired congressman Howard Berman, who is now a lobbyist; Wendy Sherman, a former under secretary of state for political affairs; and Bonnie Schaefer, a Florida philanthropist and Democratic donor, who had made contributions to Clinton.

Sanders and Clinton each assigned one person to deliver expert testimony. Sanders’s expert was Matt Duss, who was then president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and would go on to become Sanders’s foreign-policy adviser. Clinton’s expert, Robert Wexler, a former seven-term congressman from Florida who is Jewish, was introduced as “an outspoken advocate for the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.” Wexler spoke in favor of a two-state solution and argued against including the words “occupation” and “settlements” in the party platform. He also spoke against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement, which seeks to exert economic, moral and political pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel and recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return. “While some proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement may hope that pressuring Israel will lead to peace, the truth is outside forces will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Wexler said. “Particularly when anti-Semitism is rising throughout the world, Democrats must condemn efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

The Sanders appointees had a different view. James Zogby took issue with Wexler’s opposition to mentioning the words “occupation” and “settlements.” In his opening testimony, Wexler called for a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel’s capital would be Jerusalem, long a flash point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making no mention of Palestinian claims to the city, whose eastern and predominantly Palestinian half — including the Old City and the major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites within it — has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Noting Wexler’s assertion that the platform shouldn’t include positions on which there still needed to be “delicate” negotiations, Zogby asked pointedly: “Should we leave Jerusalem out of the platform? I think that would fit your notion appropriately.”


A mock Israeli checkpoint demonstration at U.C. Berkeley’s Sather Gate in 2016 organized by Students for Justice in Palestine. (Tracy Lam/The Daily Californian)

Wexler appealed to the longstanding U.S.-Israeli relationship: “Whether one agrees with Prime Minister Netanyahu or not, one point he always makes is that Israel is our one ally that never, ever has asked and I can’t imagine would ever ask for an American to do their fighting for them. Israelis fight for themselves.” At this, an audience member called out, “With our money!”

Cornel West, a Sanders appointee, expressed concern that “for too long, the Democratic Party has been beholden to Aipac” — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the bipartisan pro-Israel lobbying group — which “didn’t take seriously the humanity of Palestinian brothers and sisters.” He added that the party was now at a “turning point,” which was why he supports the B.D.S. movement, disputing the charge that it’s anti-Semitic. “We’ve got to fight anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish hatred,” he said, adding: “It’s wrong, it’s unjust. But that cannot be the excuse for in any way downplaying the unbelievable misery that we see in Gaza and the West Bank and other places.”

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