Once again, Gaza reaffirmed its historic role as a place that embraces the Palestinian national cause. On Jan. 3 — a day that marks the 48th anniversary of the founding of the Fatah Movement and the launch of the revolution — many Palestinians and non-Palestinians harbored misconceptions about the role of the Gaza Strip in the Palestinian national arena. Many based their political theories on the belief that the situation in the strip would continue to experience division and that Hamas would maintain its dominance over Gaza’s political landscape. They also believed that the other Palestinian factions would not be able to influence the situation in Gaza.
Before the celebrations, many people thought that Gazans were crushed with despair, discouraged from political activity and ready to settle into the current situation — except for when they are at war against Israeli aggression, which continuously targets the strip and causes its residents heavy losses. The latter misconceptions should be abandoned, especially following the overwhelming national participation from the four corners of the strip. The massive majority of residents took to the streets and gathered at Yasser Arafat Square, which was previously called Al-Saraya, situated in downtown Gaza.
Some media outlets, along with political forces both inside and outside of Palestine, were interested in determining the approximate number of people who gathered at the square. We cannot underestimate the importance of figures. However, what is more important is that Gaza went against all odds and forced everyone to reevaluate their calculations, whether for partisan or non-partisan interests.
The images captured by the media mainly show the celebrations in the main square. However, the crowds that were gathered in the main and side streets leading to the square add up to the same numbers as those present in and near the square. Furthermore, many chose to stay at home and watch the celebrations on TV, which is a form of indirect participation. That was meant either to minimize the significance of direct participation or to avoid possible problems similar to those on the third anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat in Dec. 2007, an event that witnessed the death of eight persons and the wounding of others.
We cannot claim that the mass participation was a result of organized calls, for the Fatah Movement was unable to accommodate the crowds and organize the celebration before or while it happened on Jan. 4. The organizers of the event were forced to cut short the celebration part of the event and focused instead on the president’s speech. It would have been better if they had only included his speech, so as to avoid any incident affecting the spectacular event.
To those who claim that the crowds who celebrated the anniversary of the establishment of the Fatah Movement and the launch of the Palestinian revolution were Fatah members and supporters, it is necessary to stress that such claims are not objective and lead to wrong assumptions that in turn produce wrong decisions.
The hundreds of thousands who took to the streets, whether they amount to less or more than a million, undeniably include both Fatah supporters and members, for we cannot underestimate the popularity of the movement. However, the crowds also include citizens who are committed to the Palestinian national plan and to the history of the revolution. The latter reject divisions and its outcomes and are firmly holding on to the unity of the people, the Palestinian cause and the national goals. They took to the streets to honor the martyrs, the sufferings of the detainees and the wounded, and to announce that they will forever fight for the occupied territories with Jerusalem as the capital.
The people took to the streets in such a grand manner to renew their pledge to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and to confirm that the national current is still present and is a dominant feature in the Palestinian situation.
If we were to point to a few additional key messages conveyed by the masses in the Gaza Strip, through the million-man scene that resembled those held in Tahrir Square in Egypt — except for the big difference in the population number — we note the following:
First, Israel — which is betting on deepening the state of division by separating the Gaza Strip from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories and separating its people from the Palestinian people politically, geographically, socially and culturally — must realize that this is a losing bet that is doomed to failure, and that the Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip are capable of creating the means to confirm their deep national affiliation to the people and the cause.
Israel wants to get rid of this hornet's nest, and is making considerable effort to transfer it to Egypt, to get rid of its responsibilities as an state occupying the Gaza Strip. But the hornet's nest would not accept this. It is not allowed to enjoy freedom except within the context of the freedom of the Palestinian homeland, and it is willing to pay for it.
Second, people have taken to the streets, and they would be willing to do the same over and over again to confirm their rejection of division and anyone — whether Arab or non-Arab – who compromises or plays on the divisions of the Palestinians, and to assert that the unity of the people and the Palestinian cause are above division and that the national program transcends factional partisan programs.
Third, outside parties — including the United States, Europe, and regional and Arab powers — must reconsider their positions, particularly with regard to dealing with the Palestinian people, their leaders, representative frameworks and legal bodies. They should also know that the policy of blackmail and pressure will lead to reactions that contradict what the forces besieging the Palestinian Authority, the PLO and the Palestinian people want. All these parties must know that national rights cannot be exchanged for money. The masses of Gaza have shown their willingness to remain even more steadfast and patient despite long siege and deep suffering.
Fourth, this grand scene places great historical burdens and responsibilities on the leaders of Fatah and Hamas regarding the national positions, the unity of the people, and the manner of dealing with the Palestinian citizen.
The resistance has accomplished a significant achievement, the price of which the Palestinian people and its factions paid. Another achievement was reached through politics in the United Nations. But neither is enough to achieve popularity, and justify the continuation of the status quo or the violation of rights and freedoms.
The equation of national liberation missions and democratic missions must be reconsidered, since a human robbed of freedom and rights cannot achieve national freedom. The Palestinian national memory will not forgive those who violated its rights and freedoms. Thus, it has become urgent that the manner of dealing with people change, and to move toward a genuine national reconciliation that would restore the unity of the people. This is a quick preliminary read that does not obviate the need for an in-depth reading. The event is huge and deserves to be given attention commensurate with its significance.
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