Gaza reminds us of our duty to fight for a free Palestine

Gaza reminds us that it is our duty to fight for a free Palestine
6 min read

Ryvka Barnard

10 May, 2023
Israel's most recent assault on Gaza is a sombre reminder that the Nakba is ongoing and an urgent call to stand in solidarity with Palestinians against the system of colonial violence, military occupation and apartheid, writes Ryvka Barnard.
Relatives of Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes mourn outside a hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza on 10 May 2023. [Getty]

This week, we are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, when over 500 Palestinian villages and towns were destroyed and depopulated, and over 750,000 Palestinians were made refugees by the newly established state of Israel.

Our main action at Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be to march, in our thousands, in central London this Saturday under the banner of ‘Free Palestine, End Apartheid’ to make sure that our support for Palestinian liberation is loud, broad-based, and strong. In addition, we have activities planned for the whole week connected to our longer term year-round campaigns for justice.

We have a dual duty when it comes to marking the Nakba. On the one hand, we must create space for Nakba survivors and their descendants to speak, as we did in our event this week: ‘Nakba 75—Exist, Resist, Return’. This is especially important since Israel and its supporters rely on this history to be erased or distorted in order to suppress Palestinian calls for justice.

On the other hand, there is a danger in treating the Nakba as a moment in history that ended; as Palestinians often say: al nakba mustamirra, the Nakba is ongoing and continues. Every home or school demolished, every olive tree uprooted, every political prisoner tortured, every family forced to mourn their loved ones killed by Israeli bombs over Gaza, every new generation of refugees born outside their homeland—these are crimes layered on decades of injustice.

These past few weeks have shown the horrible reality of what the ongoing Nakba means.

Yesterday, over 40 Israeli warplanes rained bombs over the already occupied and besieged Gaza Strip, killing 13 people, including 4 young children. Today brought more strikes. This is a repeated trauma for all 2.1 million residents of Gaza, who are already suffering under the deprivations caused by an illegal blockade, who are all at constant risk of displacement, injury, or death by Israeli military attacks.

The majority of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are refugees, either directly displaced from their homes in 1948, or descended from those who were. Many live in refugee camps only a few kilometres from their original villages, but unable to reach them because of Israel’s siege.

Last week, in another part of Palestine, the political prisoner Khader Adnan died after an 87- day hunger strike protesting Israel’s use of arbitrary detention as a political weapon. Israel’s use of administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, is a relic from British colonial rule in Palestine.

Israel currently holds 5,000 Palestinians as political prisoners, including 1,000 with no charge or trial, in a system designed to break the will of individuals and the collective power of the political prisoners who demand freedom against all odds. This is the highest number in two decades, a result of Israel’s far-right government’s intensified repression targeting the prisoners’ movement.

Khader Adnan was, by all accounts, a man known for his humble demeanour and fierce commitment to his people and their struggle. His hunger strike was not only focused on the policy of administrative detention. It was a broader cry for freedom, not only for himself, not only for the other political prisoners, but for all his people from the decades of oppression they have faced.


In his last letter, a written will, Adnan expressed this sentiment when he referred to the city in which he was imprisoned, calling it “the beloved, authentic Palestinian city of Al Ramle”. In these final words, he evoked the pre-Nakba history of that iconic city, proclaiming a future that will transcend the ugly confines of the colonial prison, and see his people finally living free on their own land, liberated from all the jails, walls, and torturers that currently enclose them.

The ongoing Nakba is the relentless bombing of Gaza; it is the slow-killing of political prisoners, the destruction of schools and homes, the military invasions of villages and refugee camps by soldiers armed to the teeth, with weapons approved for their use by the British government. The ongoing Nakba is more than a collection of events—it is a system of colonial violence, military occupation, and apartheid that no human should be subjected to.

Palestinians have not only endured this trauma for over seven decades, they have resisted it from day one. Amidst despair and anguish, the Palestinian people have not faltered in their liberation struggle.

Their demands for freedom and self-determination have not dimmed over the years, despite so many attempts to suppress them. They have not forgotten the villages from which they were expelled - those who can march to them in the thousands with flags held high.

The refugee camps they have been expelled to have become sites of community organising and creative resistance. And the call for return to the homeland still echoes as loud as ever before through every Palestinian community around the world, including here in Britain.

Our march this Saturday will feature contributions from multiple generations of Palestinians who have been diligently preparing to address British audiences from the stage this weekend.

Some people react to our large Nakba Day commemorations with indifference: ‘Why bother? What difference will it make?’ Indeed, one single march never changed the course of history.

However, in a time when Palestinians are under more attack than ever before, in a moment when our current British government and the opposition seems hell-bent on suppressing solidarity, our visible presence in the streets is not only important, it's a duty.

This is especially true here in Britain, a country which holds such a heavy burden of historic responsibility and ongoing complicity. Now is not the time to abandon Palestinians. Our Nakba Day commemoration is not the culmination of our work, it is our annual recommitment to the work we must do day in and day out to support the Palestinian struggle until liberation and return.

Ryvka Barnard is the Deputy Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK.

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