Police have refused to grant a permit for this year’s annual March of Return on Israel’s Independence Day, organized by Arab-Palestinians in Israel to commemorate the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” referring to the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and villages during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that established the state.
Police claimed that the permit to hold the event was refused due to their inability to provide police presence necessary for a march expected to be attended by 25,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel and their supporters. A police spokesperson is quoted as saying that “it’s unfortunate that the organizers decided to conduct the march exactly on the day of Independence Day, when there are hundreds of approved events throughout the country.”
The march, which has been held for 18 consecutive years, is aimed at highlighting the internationally recognized right of Palestinians who remain refugees or internally displaced to return to their homes and villages in Israel, a right which is upheld in United Nations Resolution 194.
Each year, the march is launched from a site of a Palestinian village destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948. Muhammad Bassam, an attorney from the Israeli rights group Adalah, reportedly said that if the permit for the march was not granted by Israeli police, the group would appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court. “The police decision is very strange and raises concerns that the refusal to approve the event is politically motivated,” he said.
Others pointed out to Haaretz that the organizers had already discussed the march with local police in the Israeli coastal city of Nahariya in order to launch the march from the destroyed Palestinian village of al-Kabri near kibbutz Kabri in the northern Galilee. The Nahariya police had toured the planned route of the march two weeks earlier, Haaretz reported, and they already set their requirements for the march, leading some to suspect that indeed the permit rejection was politically motivated.