Marking the 71st anniversary of Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day, Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Wednesday vowed to foil US President Donald Trump’s upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “deal of the century,” pledging never to give up the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes in Israel.
Defiant Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders said that the Palestinian struggle against Israel will continue until the “liberation of all Palestine.”
Senior Hamas official Fathi Hammad said in a speech during a rally attended by thousands of Palestinians near the border with Israel, that he was confident that the Palestinians were headed toward “victory and uprooting the Zionist enemy from our land.”
Addressing Israeli leaders, Hammad said: “Go away, the day of your slaughter and elimination is nearing. You have no place in Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa.”
Hammad said that the Palestinian protesters came to the border to voice their rejection of Trump’s peace plan and support for the Palestinian “resistance” groups.
Khalil al-Haya, another Hamas official who participated in the protests, said that Wednesday’s message to the world was that all schemes to eliminate the Palestinian cause are doomed to failure.
Referring to Trump’s unseen plan, al-Haya said: “We say to all those who are trying to eliminate our cause, that Palestine will remain forever as long as there’s a child or woman on this land. Trump’s plan won’t pass, and we will work to thwart this failed scheme.”
He also stressed the “right of return” for all refugees, urging Arabs and Muslims to avoid making peace with Israel.
Senior Hamas official Ahmed Bahr also arrived at the scene of the protests near the border with Israel with similar messages. The weekly protests there, he said, “become a strategy on the road to liberate Palestine.” Noting that the protests – which Palestinians call the “Great March of Return” – will continue, Bahr also appealed to Arabs and Muslims to refrain from normalizing their relations with Israel.
Islamic Jihad said in a statement on the occasion of Nakba Day that it remains committed to the “liberation of all Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River.” The group called on all Palestinians to rally behind “the option of jihad [holy war] and resistance” and to continue the weekly protests along the Gaza-Israel border.
IN THE West Bank, Palestinian Authority officials also seized the opportunity to reaffirm their rejection of Trump’s “deal of the century” and emphasize the right of refugees to return to their former homes in Israel.
PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said during a rally in Ramallah that the Palestinians will not accept any US proposal that does not call for “ending the occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as the right of return.”
Shtayyeh accused Israel of working to change history in Jerusalem by “Judaizing” the city. “The Palestinians will continue to stick to the right of return and their national rights,” he added.
At the rally, Palestinians carried placards that read: “The children will not forget” and “We will thwart all conspiracies.”
MK Ahmad Tibi (Hadash-Ta’al) spoke at the same rally. He used the platform to speak out against the Trump administration’s peace plan, which is slated to be released in June.
“The Palestinians’ strongest weapon against the Trump plan is a two-letter word,” said Tibi (Hadash-Ta’al). “No. The same ‘no’ that every Palestinian child says, the same ‘no’ that the Palestinian president says, and the same ‘no’ that the Palestinian people say – because they are without Jerusalem, without a state, without sovereignty and without the right of return.”
He added that “neither international law nor Trump’s peace plan can invalidate the narrative and struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination.”
Other Arab MKs, such as Ayman Odeh (Hadash-Ta’al) and Mtanes Shehadeh (Balad) attended a Nakba ceremony at Entin Gate, just outside the premises of Tel Aviv University.
Shehadeh reminded the crowd that on Nakba Day, “we remember the expulsion of more than 700,000 people from their lands, the destruction of more than 530 Palestinian towns and the murder of many others.
“Israel has been trying for 71 years to erase the Palestinians’ identity and collective memory by any possible colonial means, from the Nation-State Law to the ‘deal of the century’; to squelching freedom of expression, demolishing homes, political persecution and continual occupation and violation of international law,” Shehadeh said.
Jewish MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash-Ta’al) also spoke at the Tel Aviv event. He said that recognition of the Palestinian narrative is not only morally critical, it is practical.
“Anyone who does not want to live under the threat of the sword, who dreams of peace and partnership, must recognize the injustice that was caused to hundreds of thousands of people at the time of the establishment of the State,” Cassif said.
But MK Uzi Dayan (Likud) disagreed. He condemned the statements made by the Arab MKs and Nakba Day in general.
“Seventy-one years have passed – and for you, nothing has changed,” Dayan said. “You are stuck in 1948, while we march toward 2048. We send a spaceship to the moon and you fly incendiary balloons over the Gaza border.
“Your thoughts and behaviors are your Nakba.”