Fifty years have passed since the Israeli army occupied the West Bank, including Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Almost 70 years have passed since more than two thirds of the Palestinian people were displaced at the hands of Zionist gangs.
During all these harsh years, the Palestinian people didn't succumb and didn't concede their national rights. They resisted with all means, everywhere, sacrificing tens of thousands of martyrs, as well as those injured and about one million male and female captives detained in occupation prisons.
Despite repression and abuse, seizing lands and properties and the incursion of the settlement monster, despite the imposition of inadequate and tragic agreements such as Oslo, despite repeated barbaric Israeli invasions and aggressions in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinian people's cause not only remained alive but rather became the first issue of human conscience in our times.
Perhaps the greatest exploit made by our Palestinian people was during and after what the Arabs called Al-Naqsa or 'The Setback', what Israel named as the "Six-Day War" and what the Palestinians identified as the "Huzairan Aggression", that was the heroic steadfastness of the Palestinians on the territory of their homeland and refusal to leave or be displaced after what they learned from the bitter "Nakba" (the Catastrophe) experience in 1948.
Many of us remember their fathers’, uncles’ and mothers’ determination, in those black days, to stay in their homeland even if it cost them their lives. For death, as they say, was easier to tolerate than the humiliation of being displaced once again. This spontaneous and legendary steadfastness, based on bitter historical experience, actually was the best achievement made by the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Zionist movement. For it resulted in destroying the core of the Zionist project based on seizing the land and displacing its Palestinian inhabitants, then claiming that it is a land without a people.
Today, the result of this struggle is that the number of Palestinians living on Palestine's historical land once again returned to exceed that of Israeli Jews. If not for this human steadfastness, Israel would have succeeded in annexing all the occupied lands and liquidating the Palestinian cause. Thanks to the diverse kinds of resistance since the first days of occupation, culminating in the first Intifada, the Palestinian presence became an effective and influential presence, not just a passive human mass.
He who has lived in Palestine over the past 50 years knows that every facet of life was an issue of resistance. For education became resistance, praying turned into resistance, having treatment became resistance, building a house, a school, a clinic, a mosque or a church became a form of resistance.
Generations after generations were engaged in struggle activities from the hardest form to the simplest one, but all of which were a struggle for freedom, dignity and getting rid of the occupation, persecution and forced displacement.
As magic turns on the magician, the new occupation turned to be a reminder and a revival of the memory of the older occupation and the first Nakba that befell the Palestinian people. Today, the Palestinian people are not only facing the repercussions of the Nakba and the longest occupation in modern history, but what turned out to be the worst form of racial discrimination (apartheid) in human history.
The experiences of failed, bitter negotiations, Oslo's horrible mistakes and what resulted in preoccupation with an authority that is entirely under occupation, proved that there is no way for the Palestinians except steadfastness and an honourable and dignified struggle in order to gain their freedom. It has become clear that the occupation will not go away, the refugees will not return and that the captives will not be freed unless the balance of powers is changed through wide scale popular resistance, the adoption of a total boycott against the occupation, strengthening the steadfastness of Palestinians in their homeland, integrating their constituents at home and abroad, working on ending all internal divisions, achieving national unity and setting up a unified national leadership.
Israel's rulers realise the huge impact of the Palestinian demographic presence, whether in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, or in the 1948 lands. Consequently, their plots always focus on partitioning, dividing Palestinians and sowing discord among their ranks. Even partitioning became a mechanism in itself for implementing discrimination and racial apartheid as a United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) report recently pointed out.
Thus, Israel's government is keen to separate Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian territories and strives to isolate Jerusalem from its Palestinian milieu.
Most of its effort during the past 70 years has been directed to transform the Palestinian cause from a people's cause with all its constituents into problems of partitioned and divided human groups. It did not miss an opportunity to feed internal divisions.
Therefore, the road to victory and freedom passes first through having real faith in the Palestinian people's ability to resist and overcome injustice, and second through exerting sincere effort to unify Palestinian energies and constituents and their struggling, political and societal forces.
The writer is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative.