Michael Slate Interviews Asaad Abu Sharkh on the Great March of Return:

“We want to live in honor and dignity. We cannot be reduced to subhuman... with Israel killing us every day”

April 16, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The following is from an interview with Asaad Abu Sharkh, a member of the organizing committee of the Great March of Return, aired on March 13, 2018, on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK Pacifica radio. The entire interview is available at themichaelslateshow.com. The Michael Slate Show airs every Friday at 10 am Pacific Time on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. The show can be streamed live here and people can listen to or download archived shows here.

Revolution/revcom.us features interviews from The Michael Slate Show to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theatre, music and literature, science, sport, and politics. The views expressed by those interviewed are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere by Revolution/revcom.us.


Michael Slate: On Friday, March 30, Israeli military forces opened fire on thousands of unarmed Palestinians at a non-violent protest along Gaza’s border with Israel. Fifteen protesters were killed by Israeli troops; over 1,400 were injured by bullets, tank rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas. On Saturday, March 31, 49 more unarmed demonstrators were wounded by Israeli gunfire. A week later thousands of Palestinian people protested again, demanding their right to return to lands that had been stolen from the Palestinian people. Israeli troops answered with vicious gunfire and 10 more Palestinians were killed and 1,000 more wounded.

In two days, 30 Palestinians were killed and 2,500 were wounded and injured. But in the face of this, the Palestinian people will not back down—demanding the right to return to the land that was stolen from them by the Zionist settler regime. A movement drawing in tens of thousands of Palestinian people was launched with a plan to have a series of marches culminating in a million strong march in mid-May to correspond with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli settler regime, the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and Nakba, the day that marks the theft of Palestine by the Zionists in 1948.

Joining us to talk about all of this is Asaad Abu Sharkh, a member of and spokesperson for the organizing committee of the protest known as the Great March of Return. Asaad, welcome to the show.

Asaad Abu Sharkh: Thank you very much.

Michael Slate: Let’s talk first about what is the Great March of Return.

Asaad Abu Sharkh: This Great March of Return is organized by the Palestinian people, the Refugee Committee, university professors, trade unions, workers, academics—all sections of the Palestinian people, including schools, women’s organizations. Everybody in Palestine, they organize this Great March of Return. As the name may suggest, to return to the land and properties from which they were evicted and uprooted by the Zionist gang in 1948. There has been dreaming and wishing to return to these lands and properties ever since. Let me remind the whole world that the United Nations in 1948 adopted Resolution Number 194, which calls for the return of all refugees who were driven out by the force of arms by the Zionist gang.

Yet Israel never implemented this resolution. Israel ignored totally such a resolution and it fell on deaf ears. The Palestinian people have been yearning and longing for return ever since. This is why they are asking the international community, the peoples of the world, the democracies of the world, the parliamentarians of the world—an intervention of all of the world in order to help them redress the wrongs committed against them and allow them to return to their land and property and to live in peace and justice and equality in their property, their homes, in Palestine. This is very, very important for peace and stability in the Middle East.

The Right and Dream of Return

Asaad Abu Sharkh: The Palestinian people, various sectors of the Palestinian people—families with grandfathers, fathers, sons, daughters and wives from the Palestinian society in Rafa, in Gaza Al Hanoun, in many Palestinian villages, towns and refugee camps—marched towards the border or the truce line imposed by the settler Zionist regime. And they go there and sit in these camps. They dance Dabke, they sing, they chat, they eat, they demonstrate, they look at their towns and villages which they lost in 1948, the land from which they were driven by the force of arms in 1948, in order to breathe in the cool breeze of the country in order to see it and in order to send a message and outcry to the whole world that the Palestinian refugees cannot forget and will never forget their right of return. Each and every Palestinian has a dream, the dream of return, the dream of living in peace—not Pax Israel, not Pax America—peace with justice and equality, and their ancestral lands and their homes from which they were driven out to the desert by the Zionist gangs at that time.

So these are non-violent, peaceful demonstrations modeled after Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and all those great leaders who were demonstrating and marching for freedom in order to get their own rights. We are human beings like any other human beings. We want to live in honor and dignity. We cannot continue to live miserable lives, to be reduced to subhuman, to animals in such refugee camps, deprived of everything, under occupation, under hermetic, medieval siege with Israel killing us every day. By the day they are committing massacres against us with the whole world unfortunately giving us a deaf ear and with the United States of America giving unlimited support, protecting them [Israel] in the United Nations by using their veto and giving them state-of-the-art arms in order to commit more massacres. Israel, so far, has committed more than 40 massacres against the Palestinian people, documented by Ilan Pappé and other Israeli historians.

This is why we cry to the whole world to do us justice, to treat us as human beings, to impose sanctions on Israel, to try the Israeli leaders as war criminals, to divest from Israel and to use BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions), as they did with South Africa in order to force Israel to allow us to return, and return to our lands to live in honor and peace and dignity. We are ready to live with Jews, with Christians, with Moslems, with all sorts of people in order to do our part to contribute toward welfare, civilization, progress—to live as human beings because the Palestinian people are a dynamic people and we can contribute a lot if there is peace and security.

However, if there is no peace and security for the Palestinians there will be always be viciousness and insecurity in this part of the world because we are quite determined. We are resolved to have our right of return, especially as the United Nations adopted this Resolution many times and the world tried to put pressure on Israel. Yet the Israelis ignored all these resolutions and instead they build more settlements, they bring more Jews, they pump out more Palestinians, they commit more massacres. They commit genocidal wars, to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian people. They use the following strategy: One, they committed genocide against the Palestinian people, genocidal war—then ethnocide, then memorycide, politicide, then sociocide, urbacide—every cide. These kinds of crimes committed by the Israelis were reported by Israeli historians and these actually are crimes against humanity, which must bring all Zionist warlords to the international criminal court to be tried for the massacres and the crimes that they have been committing against the Palestinian people ever since 1948.

When the Palestinian people, when we go towards our borders the Israelis are given orders to shoot to kill, shoot to maim and to use maximum violence, even against photographers, as in the case of Yaser Murtaja. This is a clear case. He was holding a camera with “Press” marked on his back, yet they killed him simply because they don’t want this image to be conveyed, to be transmitted to the whole world, in order to hide their crimes against the Palestinian people.

So the Palestinian people continue these marches on and on until the siege is lifted and until our right of repatriation is implemented, and until justice is done and we enjoy living in honor, security, equality, justice in our own homes and in the property from which we were driven in 1948.

Gaza: “Life and Death, Death and Life”

Michael Slate: What are the conditions that the Palestinian people are being forced to live under in Gaza?

Asaad Abu Sharkh: Well, the best description of what’s happening in Gaza is a T.S. Eliot description—life and death and death and life. Gaza is a wasteland now, a land of waste. It’s a life of misery and refugee camps. We are deprived of everything. We are dispossessed. There is not enough food. There are not enough drugs. We cannot move. We are denied to travel. At the coast Gaza now is totally sea. It suffers from hermetic, medieval, strangulating siege. Students, for example, cannot leave for their universities. Even university professors cannot go, for example, in any exchange program. Patients cannot find drugs and people die. Hundreds or thousands of people have died because of this siege. And we are talking about the rate of unemployment in the Gaza Strip is well over 70 percent. And electricity cuts, we have only three hours of electricity every day, only three hours—imagine to have three hours of electricity.

Gaza is overly crowded. We are in Gaza now around well over two million in an area, which is no more than 365 square kilometers [about 140 square miles]. This is the most crowded, overpopulated area in the world. There are social diseases. There are all sorts of diseases, from cancer onward and we live in such misery to the extent that one can say, this is a concentration camp, which is in total oblivion and nobody cares. Nobody comes over, for example, crossing points, which have been closed for years now. Nobody comes to help the Palestinian people regain their own rights. The situation in Gaza, which is overly crowded, is miserable and miserable and miserable. It is dehumanizing, denigrating. The distortion is miserable in the full sense of the word. It is, as I said, life and death and death and life.

Great March of Return

Michael Slate: What was the response from the people when they heard about the call for this Great March of Return and all the actions building up to that?

Asaad Abu Sharkh: The response of the Palestinian people, all of the Palestinian people, in refugee camps, in towns, in the countryside—wherever they might be, all of them, in thousands, hundreds of thousands, marched, participated in the march towards the truce line, taking their children, whether they are young people, university students, young children, children, old people, very old people, women, men—all sectors of the Palestinian people moved and there are pitched camps, white tents along the border from Rafa to Beit Hanoun, which is around 45 kilometers [about 28 miles]. This is a border and they go there, as I said, they dance Dabke, they eat, they listen to lectures, they demonstrate, they walk, they meet. They talk about their dreams because, as I said, every Palestinian has a dream. They cry now, “I have a dream!”—a dream of return, the return to the land from which I was driven out, the land usurped, stolen by Hitler-Zionists in 1948. And after that, for all the Palestinian people, inside Palestine, even the Palestinians outside Palestine, they pray for us, they look with their own eyes toward the border. They dream of the right of return, for all Palestinians.

And this is why I think this March of Return is going on and on and on. I think all refugee camps, wherever they might be, if they are allowed the chance, whether in Egypt, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Jordan, in the West Bank. If they are allowed by the regime, they will also organize marches and pitch tents around Palestine, in order to send their message to the whole world: We are fed up with this life of misery!

All we need, all we call for, is to see our rights of repatriation implemented. And this is in accordance with United Nations Resolution 194, and with United Nations Resolution 3236, which calls for our right of return, our right to self-determination without external interference, our right to statehood, our right to independence, our right to sovereignty—that is to say, to live as a human being. That this life of dehumanization, this life of animalization will not continue. We'll not accept it. This is why we hope our call will not fall on deaf ears, and the whole people of the world will rise up to their responsibilities, put pressure on Israel, force Israel to withdraw from our land, to lift its siege, and to give us our own rights. And then we call on the international community to bring those war criminals to accountability for crimes against humanity, which they have committed against the Palestinian people.

Israel’s Genocidal Strategy

Michael Slate: The Zionist regime says these protests are “terrorist gatherings hell-bent on violence.” They claim the Palestinians “have mounted a military attack against us, and so we're going to go all out with everything we have to attack them.” What do you say about this, and what has been the actual response from the Israeli military?

Asaad Abu Sharkh: The Israelis all the time, keep lying and lying and lying. These are heaps of lies, naked, against the Palestinian people. All we ask for is to implement UN resolutions. These resolutions were adopted by the international community. There are many resolutions taken that Israel has ignored, Israel of course being supported by the United States of America, protected by the United States of America, given the most important destructive weapons, from F-15s to F-16s, to whatever, in order to annihilate the Palestinian people. Israel has committed massacres against the Palestinian people. For example, there are many resolutions asking Israel to withdraw from our land. Israel so far rejects withdrawing. They build more settlements. They expand the border. They expand the settlements. They bring in more Jews, pump out more Palestinians, simply because the Zionist project is based on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

I just listed the strategy used by the Israelis against the Palestinian people, from genocidal wars to massacres, to killing by the day and every day. And I'd like to remind you that one of the Israeli generals said, “If we do not kill and over kill, we cannot remain to exist.” And [Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin once said, without the [1948] Massacre of Deir Yassin, there couldn't have been the state of Israel. This is the statement of Sharon, Netanyahu, [Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor] Lieberman, who gave orders, “Shoot to kill; shoot to maim.”

... Every day, every minute, the Israeli warplanes, Israeli drones, are watching everything, and they are even sending their spies. They use their psychological warfare. They use all means of psychological war, military weapons, in order to annihilate, wipe out the Palestinians, wipe them off the map. Because this is the strategy of Hitler-Zionism, Hitler-Colonization, which is based on ethnically cleansing the Palestinian people, not only from the Gaza Strip, but also from Jerusalem, from the areas occupied in 1948, from Mandate Palestine. Unfortunately, they have been supported by the various and many U.S. governments, from Truman to Trump, and Western governments. Now they are being supported by the Trump administration, which thinks of giving them what they call the package, or the deal of the century, in order to deny us all our rights, and to perpetuate our misery and the occupation of our land....

Michael Slate: These protests are set to culminate with a Great March of Return on May 15, which is, as you said, the anniversary of the theft of the Palestinian homeland, the Nakba, or the Catastrophe, and the establishment of the settler state of Israel as an outpost of U.S. imperialism. What can people expect to see?

Asaad Abu Sharkh: Remember the 15th of May, 1948. The 15th of May every year marks the Palestinian Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by the Zionist regime. And this is why the Palestinians, wherever they might be, and we are trying now, here, and are in contact with the Palestinians everywhere, whether in the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, around Palestine, in order to demonstrate, non-violently and peacefully toward the border of Palestine, all the Palestinians in unison, under the Palestinian flag, to tell the whole world that we will return.

Our right of return is individual, is collective, is legal, is legitimate, is inalienable as stated by the United Nations. Our right of return is our right of return, and we want to tell the whole world that the whole Palestinian people, wherever they might be, are dreaming of this right of return. We will tell the whole world there can never, ever be peace or stability in the Middle East as long as we remain refugees, homeless, displaced, in this wilderness living in miserable conditions while Israel brings in more Jews to take more land to enjoy life in our land and to dehumanize us and to make us live in such miserable dehumanizing concentration camps.

Now, this is going to be the climax. However, these marches will continue, and continue, and continue, until we obtain and attain our right of return, as stipulated by UN resolutions and human rights resolutions, and by the international humanitarian law, and supported by all peace-loving people, all freedom-loving people throughout the world. This is why we have a particular cry, and call on our American friends, American people, to put the pressure on Trump, on Congress, put pressure on the government, in order to do us justice.


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