Ghassan Khatib
June 13, 2011 - 12:00am

Several important dates have been observed in recent weeks. In one, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians became refugees when Israel was created, their lives and futures altered in a way that was catastrophic for the Palestinian nation. The second date that recently passed was the occasion of Israel's occupation of the rest of historic Palestine, comprised of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

These two occasions were commemorated in an extraordinary and dramatic way this year. There are several important dimensions to this, and controversial or contradicting explanations. While Palestinians in the occupied territories observe these dates every year, this year additional events made the anniversaries unusual.

First, preparations and planning for activities on these occasions was influenced by the "Arab spring" and the political use of social media. This led to the distribution of anniversary plans all over the region, through very popular Facebook pages or accounts and the great enthusiasm of Palestinian youth in and around Palestine, including in Palestinian refugee camps throughout the Arab world. Second, two neighboring Arab countries, Syria and Lebanon, gave the nod for Palestinians to demonstrate at the borders of both Syria and the Syrian-occupied Golan Heights, and between Lebanon and Israel. Finally, this year, the commemoration of these occasions was extremely bloody due to the brutal response of the Israeli army, which led to the killing of tens of Palestinians and their supporters.

While Israeli officials and analysts blamed Syria--and to a lesser extent Lebanon--of cynically using these occasions and exploiting Palestinians to divert attention away from unrest and upheaval taking place in Syria, Palestinians and most of the world had different readings of these developments.

The wide response to the calls to celebrate these two occasions, whether inside the Palestinian occupied territories or outside, shows that the Palestinian people are clearly still interested in achieving their inalienable right of return, guaranteed to them by international legality and United Nations General Assembly resolution 194, which has been renewed annually since its passage.

Second, the Palestinian people are also unified in their insistence on rejecting Israel's occupation of the occupied territories and are determined to continue resisting this occupation, mainly by peaceful and legitimate means, in accordance with international legality and the many United Nations resolutions that declare this occupation belligerent, illegal and needing to end.

The third conclusion is that the passage of time has not reduced the commitment and enthusiasm of the new Palestinian generation to their legitimate and legal rights to freedom, statehood, and return. Many analysts have even gone further to say that new generations might be more committed and more efficient in pursuing the same principled desire of achieving legitimate objectives. Whether there were attempts, either by Palestinians or non-Palestinians, to manipulate or exploit these demands is irrelevant to the fact that the Palestinian people all over the world used this occasion to renew their commitment and determination to their legitimate objectives, especially at the time when there is unprecedented international support for them.

Instead of responding to these legitimate and peaceful demands in blood or blaming other parties, Israel should draw the correct conclusions and realize that only by recognizing the existence of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights of self-determination, freedom and statehood in their homeland can there be a peaceful solution. Without this, there will be neither coexistence nor normalization.


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