Thousands of Palestinians marked, on Tuesday evening, the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, and participated in a huge procession organized by the Badil Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees Rights, reaffirming the legitimate Palestinian Right of Return to their homeland, homes and towns.The procession was held at the Manger Square in Bethlehem, while scout troops and more than 5000 Palestinians marched carrying Palestinian flags and signs affirming the legitimate Palestinian rights, topped by their right to return to their homeland.

Najwa Darwish, head of the Badil Center, stated in an opening speech, that the Palestinian Nakba, dispossession and exile are ongoing due to Israel’s illegal actions and violations, and the resulting displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their cities and villages in 1948 before Israel was created in the historic land of Palestine.

“The Nakba happened, and its wounds are still open, more than %70 of the Palestinian people are refugees, living in refugee camps here, and in exile around the world”, Darwish said, “Israel is still stealing Palestinian lands, building its apartheid wall and settlements, and is ethnically cleansing the Palestinians in every part of occupied Palestine.”

She added that “the refugees were optimistic about the so-called Arab Spring, thinking that Arab states will grant them basic rights, and now we see the attacks, violations, murder and abuse they are facing in Syria”.

She demanded the international community and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to ensure that the needed protection is granted to the refugees, all internally and externally displaced Palestinians, and to conduct legal actions that would oblige Israel to abide by International Law, and to end its violations.

Several officials, ministers and legislators, in addition to representatives of civil society institutions and government facilities, participated in the procession.

Furthermore, secretary-general of the Palestinian People Party (PPP), Bassam Salhi, delivered a speech on behalf of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and said that the Nakba day is not just an event the Palestinians mark, but an ongoing suffering and crimes caused by Israel in direct collaboration with the United States.

Salhi called for a comprehensive national unity among all factions, to ensure a united front that would counter the ongoing Israeli occupation and crimes.
On his part, member of the Fateh Revolutionary Council, Mohammad Abu Alia, stated that the Right of Return is a sacred right that can never be abandoned or dropped, and added that the Palestinian people will always remain steadfast.

“Today, we stand here to respond to what David Ben Gurion, a former Israeli Prime Minister, said many years ago, he said elders die and younger generations forget”, Abu Alia said, “but we came here to tell him that our elders and younger generations will never forget, will never abandon their rights, we are struggling for our Right of Return, guaranteed by resolution 194”.

Archbishop Atallah Hanna of the Greek Orthodox Church said that thousands of Palestinians came here, to the Manger Square, Muslims and Christians, with one message and one struggle, “We are determined to achieve our rights, the Right of Return to our homeland, the land of our fathers and forefathers”.

“Today we affirm the sacred Right of Return, a right that is not less important to us than our right in Jerusalem”, he said, “the Nakba is ongoing, and will continue to happen as long as there is an occupation, as long as there are detainees held by Israel, as long as Jerusalem is surrounded and occupied”.

The Badil Center organized this procession in cooperation with the Peace center, the national factions in the Bethlehem District, the Land Defense initiative, Refugee Center, Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative, Child Education Center, Alrowwad Cultural & Theater, Society, the Alternative Information Center, the Youth Action Center for Social Development, Shorouq Foundation, Ibdaa Cultural Center, the Youth Progressive Union, the Palestinian Medical Relief, the National Campaign Against the Wall, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief, the Arab Orthodox Scouts in Beit Jala, The Phoenix Center, the Popular Committees in Bethlehem, the Right of Return Committee in Bethlehem, Al-Am’ary Refugee Camp Women Center, and the Aqbat Jabr Refugee Camp Youth Center in Jericho.