Time magazine might want to take a second look at the name Palestinians have given to the recent demonstrations and clashes along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.
Organizers have dubbed the campaign the “March of Return.” So when Time, in an April 6 story, described it only as “a six-week protest against the long-standing blockade” on the Hamas-ruled territory, they missed the main point. As the “March of Return” moniker makes clear, the protests are primarily meant to promote the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” — the influx into Israel of thousands of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their millions of descendants.
The stated purpose of the campaign is no minor detail. The demand for “return” is widely understood as a call for the elimination of Israel by demographic means. “Implementing the ‘right of return’ means eradicating Israel,” explained Israeli author Amos Oz, a leader in the country’s peace movement. Or as Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti has approvingly acknowledged, “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.”
This — the “return” and the consequent “Palestine next to a Palestine” — is the primary goal of the March of Return. The Associated Press correctly reported at the start of the demonstrations that “the protest campaign is meant to spotlight Palestinian demands for a ‘right of return’ to what is now Israel.” And per Reuters, “The demonstrators are demanding that Palestinian refugees be allowed the right of return.”
Indeed, this reporting reflects repeated statements by Hamas leaders:
* Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum has said that “The large crowds … reflect the Palestinian people’s determination to achieve the right of return and break the siege and no force can stop this right.”
* Yahya Sinwar, who heads Hamas in Gaza, has insisted that “The March of Return … will not stop until we remove this transient border,” and that the protests “mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation and return.”
* Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has stated, “This march demonstrates that there are no alternatives to Palestine and the right of return.” It is “the beginning of a return to the entirety of the land of Palestine.”
“Our people went out today to make it clear that we will not give up Jerusalem and that there is no alternative to Palestine and the right of return,” he added.
* Later, Haniyeh told a crowd that “We will return to Palestine, our villages and Jerusalem.” We will “break the walls of the blockade, remove the occupation entity and return to all of Palestine,” he continued.
* The New York Times has reported, “Ahmed Abu Artema, a Gazan social-media activist who initiated the protest, said by telephone on Sunday that the idea of returning to the lands lost in 1948 was a ‘strategic goal’ that would ‘not necessarily be achieved within a month or a year’ but that the protesters along the borders would determine the timing.”
* Abu Artema has also stated about the demonstrations, “Our will in achieving the actual return to our lands is more powerful than jet fighters and a gun.”
A mission statement put out by the International Coordination Committee of the Great March of Return, in fact, says nothing about a blockade. It does describe the demonstrations as a “continuation of the struggle of the Palestinian people for their right of return”; it says the organizers’ purpose is to “achieve the return of the refugees”; it insists the march will “only end with the actual return of Palestinian refugees”; it repeats that the demonstrations call “for the human right of the return of refugees” and that “failure to achieve that right is a justification to continue the march regardless of how long it takes”; and maintains that he campaign is based a U.N. resolution that they believe “explicitly calls for the return of Palestinian refugees as soon as possible to their villages.”
To be sure, Hamas leaders have also called for an end to the blockade in speeches to Palestinian demonstrators. For example, Haniyeh said on April 9 that “We will break the walls of the blockade, remove the occupation entity and return to all of Palestine.”
But it is clearly incorrect to describe the march merely a “protest against the blockade,” as Time does in its article, without noting that the central purpose of the campaign is to promote the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” that would replace Israel with a Palestinian state.
CAMERA has urged Time editors to correct the story so that it forthrightly informs readers of this stated purpose.