Palestine: The Great Return March, marking 70 years since the Nakba.

Gaza ‘Return March’ has begun – the refugees won’t stop until their voices are heard

Despite at least 15 deaths and hundreds injured by live fire, many in Gaza believe the only way to resolve the conflict is to return to the root cause

by Sarah Helm, The Independent
Date: 30 March 2018
Ref: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/gaza-palestine-land-day-return-march-border-israel-a8281671.html
By first light yesterday Palestinian preparations for the Gaza “Return March” seemed well underway: tents were being pitched all along the Gaza buffer zone and old men were arriving with banners proclaiming the names of their villages, from which they were expelled as children 70 years ago, never to return.

Palestinian factions in Gaza, including the ruling Hamas, had ordered that the demonstration be peaceful, insisting marchers to keep well back from Israel’s barrier wall.

With 100 snipers positioned on the barrier, however, Israel’s preparations were a show of brute force and soon after dawn an Israeli tank shell had killed Omar Samour, a Palestinian farmer with land near the buffer zone – the first Return March martyr but certainly not the last.

Israel’s ruthless response to the Gaza’s peaceful Return March should come as no surprise. The Israeli military justified the show of force on the grounds that Hamas might exploit the event in some way with acts of violence. But Israel’s real fear of the “return marchers” runs far deeper. Nothing has ever frightened Israel more than the demands of Palestinian refugees for a right to return to their pre-1948 homes. And no group of refugees has a stronger case than those of Gaza who live within a few miles of their former villages.

The Arab-Israeli 1948 war, which brought the Jewish state into being, also brought about the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from lands they had lived on for hundreds of years. The Palestinians call this loss of land their “Nakba” or catastrophe. Of those expelled more than 200,000 fled to Gaza.

These refugees came from villages in the Gaza area, close to what is now the Gaza barrier wall.

In 1948 the United Nations passed Resolution 194 agreeing that the refugees should have a right to return to their villages, but Israel always refused. From the first days any who tried to get back – to harvest their lands or to bring belongings – were shot as infiltrators or locked up as terrorists. As the years passed the refugees’ claims were set aside as unresolvable and David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, expressed the hope that “the old would die and the young would forget”.

The refugees, however, have never forgotten, as the Return March protest demonstrates.

In view of Gaza’s daily struggles, living under siege, it might seem surprising that they have time to think of the past. Since Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, the two million people here have lived under economic blockade, imprisoned by a barrier wall. The Palestinians here have also lived through three wars. The last in 2014 killed more than 2,500, destroyed many thousands of homes and crippled infrastructure. But it is precisely because of the recent wars that memories of 1948 have been revived. Such was the destruction of 2014 that Gazans spoke of “’a second Nakba”. And the deprivations of living under siege have only reminded the people here of what they had as self-sufficient farmers in the villages they inhabited before 1948.

Whether the Return March explodes in more bloodshed, or plays out peacefully as the participants hope, is hard to predict.

As Hamas arranged for buses to take people from the mosques after Friday prayers, the numbers swelled. The intention is to maintain the protest until 15 May – Nakba Day, when the 70th anniversary commemoration will reach a pitch. If Hamas can keep the peace on its side of the buffer zone, the case for the right of return will be heard, perhaps louder and clearer than it has for many years.

The refugees’ despair is also fuelled by Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. This has driven many in Gaza to the belief they now have nothing to lose but rise up and join the march. With no realistic peace deal now on the table, many in Gaza believe the only way to resolve the conflict is to return to the root cause – and that means to address their right of return.
[end]

See also:

Israel army opens fire as tens of thousands march in Gaza

Israel deploys hundreds of snipers to Gaza border ahead of expected protests on Palestinian Land Day

Steward Community Woodland: part of Dartmoor’s soul killed by an overbearing authority

Why are all forms of alternative living, including canal and gypsies/travellers being actively suppressed by the UK’s Tory government? Sound familiar?

The treatment of an alternative green community saddens Tom Greeves

Sonia "Sonny" Parsons with daughter Asha, and Daniel Thompson-Mills at Steward Community Woodland
Sonia “Sonny” Parsons with daughter Asha, and Daniel Thompson-Mills at Steward Community Woodland

The announcement by Steward Community Woodland, near Moretonhampstead, that most of the 21 residents have now left, and that their homes and other structures are being dismantled, should send a shudder through all of us.

It is the consequence of an enforcement notice issued by Dartmoor National Park Authority following the loss (in August 2016) of an appeal against refusal of planning permission for permanent residency, combined with the refusal of the park authority to countenance a new application for low-impact dwellings in the 32-acre woodland (which is owned by the community).

This is one of the worst environmental outcomes that I am aware of, having studied Dartmoor for more than 50 years. Future generations will be astonished that this has happened in one of our national parks, which are often hailed as leaders in environmental protection.

Sonia "Sonny" Parsons and daughter Asha at Steward Community Woodland
Sonia “Sonny” Parsons and daughter Asha at Steward Community Woodland

After 67 years of existence it is surely not too much to expect Dartmoor National Park to be a beacon of environmental and social awareness, with well thought-out policies on how the resources of Dartmoor can best be used for the communities that live there, as exemplars of what could happen elsewhere? But it seems we are still light years from that happy state.

There was once a call to ban all cars from Dartmoor

The community had lived quietly and gently in Steward Wood since 2000. Their homes had not been built by means of large machines scouring the earth and replacing the habitats of thousands of living creatures with concrete and brick, but had grown organically, through the skill of their builders, in a symbiotic relationship with the other occupants (plants and animals) of the wood.

Despite making it their home since 2000, the Dartmoor National Park Authority refused them permanent planning permission and ordered them to leave
Despite making it their home since 2000, the Dartmoor National Park Authority refused them permanent planning permission and ordered them to leave

Some of us were encouraged by a policy (DMD30) in the Development Management and Delivery Development Plan Document adopted by Dartmoor National Park in July 2013, which specifically allowed low-impact residential development in the “open countryside”.

Anxious to comply with the criteria in this policy, and to address the concerns of the Planning Inspector who refused their Appeal in 2016, in the autumn of 2017 the members of Steward Community Woodland submitted a detailed proposal to the national park for an imaginative new scheme of roundhouses and an “innovation centre”, which would be a base for the study of low-impact living.

‘Anger, grief and sadness’ as ‘off the grid’ community is cleared from Dartmoor

Extraordinarily, the response of Dartmoor National Park Authority has been negative to an extreme (as it has been for the past 17 years).

Sonia "Sonny" Parsons and Daniel Thompson-Mills at Steward Community Woodland
Sonia “Sonny” Parsons and Daniel Thompson-Mills at Steward Community Woodland

Rather than allowing the application to take its course, with opportunity for public comment and debate, they would not even validate it.

They claimed that the roundhouse built by two members of the community from their own wood, straw bales, cob and turf, was not of appropriate design or scale for any other structures, and would not fit policy DMD30, which, on their interpretation, was meant to apply only to tents and yurts.

This is despite Pembrokeshire Coast National Park having given permission for many roundhouses of similar type. No sensitive person could say that the roundhouse in question was not a thing of beauty, to be marvelled at for the skills, craftsmanship and sound environmental criteria used for its construction.

The Steward Woodland Community - made up of 23 people, including nine children and teenagers - live in hand-built huts on a beauty spot in rural Dartmoor with no connection to mains, electricity or water
The Steward Woodland Community – made up of 23 people, including nine children and teenagers – live in hand-built huts on a beauty spot in rural Dartmoor with no connection to mains, electricity or water

This story is, sadly, one of overbearing authority unable to grasp intellectually or practically the benefits to be gained by Dartmoor as a whole from the Steward Wood settlement.

How can a planning authority allow controversial new housing developments on greenfield sites in Chagford and elsewhere, and yet not embrace low-impact dwellings by an established and respected community in their own woodland, hidden from public gaze?

Many people on and beyond Dartmoor have for years recognised and celebrated these contemporary woodland dwellers, for the new and hopeful messages they brought all of us.

Part of Steward Community Woodland on Dartmoor, which was home to 21 people. The site is being cleared after a failed planning appeal
Part of Steward Community Woodland on Dartmoor, which was home to 21 people. The site is being cleared after a failed planning appeal

They are inheritors of a marvellously rich cultural history, millennia old, contained within our Dartmoor woods. Those who know Steward Community Woodland, and what it aspired to, should seek out David Spero’s wonderful book Settlements (2017), which documents photographically Steward Wood and other low-impact communities in Britain.

If Dartmoor National Park Authority had adopted a similar approach, they would now be extolling the virtues of Steward Wood, which would have brought them deserved plaudits.

Their alternative lifestyle includes foraging for food, using solar powered electricity and alternative medicines - and they claim to be virtually self-sufficient
Their alternative lifestyle includes foraging for food, using solar powered electricity and alternative medicines – and they claim to be virtually self-sufficient

Unfortunately the present situation indicates that Dartmoor National Park Authority actually has no deep understanding of the environmental crisis affecting our planet, and no flexible will to allow serious practitioners the opportunity to demonstrate alternative lifestyles.

This is not the sort of cultural behaviour to expect from a national park, which should be open to all new environmental approaches, and it is deeply concerning. We are all diminished, and Dartmoor’s soul has lost a spark of hopefulness for our future relationship with the land.

Dr Tom Greeves is chairman of The Dartmoor Society.

Building in central London occupied for homeless shelter

A building in Central London was squatted today in order to provide shelter for homeless people. The group who took this action writes:

Since temperatures are so low and homelessness is still a big issue, some people came to an idea of opening a safe space shelter available to everyone!

So the building is at 204 Great Portland Street, entrance from 56 Bolsover Road ( Sophia House). At the moment there’s some issues with electricity, however there is possibility to brew hot drinks and despite lack of heating at the moment it is still warmer & dryer than out on the street

So if you know or see any people sleeping rough or struggling with this chill: feel free to spread the word & address.

If the place will get attention of few people in need & we will deal with the electricity problems there may be some screenings & hot food servings in upcoming days.

Any donations of heaters/sleeping bags/duvets warmly welcome. Same applies to anyone who would like to volunteer some of their time for couple of shifts in here if it would come as necessary.

Spread the word & share the post if you feel like.

This is a much welcome news considering that Streets of London: a charity providing support for people who are homeless in London and raises awareness about homelessness, report that there are 8,000 people sleeping rough on London’s streets each year. Homelessness and housing crisis are one of major issues experienced by Londoners. What’s more, those on the streets are subject to official harassment with measures taken to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible. Their situation is even worse when the weather gets as cold as it is now. Anyone who can, should go and help the good people from Great Portland Street.

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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