Returning to Jerusalem

Source: google images

Izzat Aziz Maswadeh was among the thousands of Palestinians who on Nakba commemoration day, 15.05.2011, continued the collective march of return to Palestine and to Palestinian homes and villages. Izzat was one of the thousands of Palestinian refugees who continued the march that is as old as the Nakba itself, the march of return that started as early as the first days of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, when many Palestinians were murdered by Zionist terror gangs while trying to return to the homes from which they were expelled. Since then, thousands of Palestinians have been killed or held captive while trying to return to their homeland, to their homes and villages… thousands were killed on the way to Haifa or Beisan, Jerusalem or Ar-Ramleh… killed while trying to cross the borders to occupied Palestine from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. They were all part of the collective march of return to Palestine and they all had one aim, one wish, one dream: to return.

Izzat Maswadeh was part of this march. He dreamt of his home, his ancestral home, of his birthplace Jerusalem. He wanted to be reunited with his family, reunited with his birthright…
Izzat Maswadeh tried to return to Jerusalem… he failed the first time but succeeded the second.

Izzat was born in Jerusalem in 1977, moved to Jordan then to Syria, after which Israeli occupation authorities revoked his residency right, denied him his birthplace and separated him from his family. He was father to a 5-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. His father, who lives in Izariyyeh, occupied Jerusalem, said that Izzat dreamt of returning to Palestine and to his hometown Jerusalem all his life.

Izzat’s first attempt to return to Jerusalem was on 15.05.2011, Nakba commemoration day. He was among a small group that was able to cross the so-called cease-fire line and enter the occupied Golan Heights. On his way to Jerusalem, he managed to reach as far as the Huwwarah military checkpoint near Nablus, before he was stopped and detained for a number of days and expelled to Syria.

On that day, at least 4 Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured when Israeli occupation soldiers opened fire at the unarmed marchers. In an interview conducted after his successful return to Palestine, Izzat said that the idea of entering Majdal Shams in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights was born out of the heat of the moment. He described how he and another 7 of his fellow marchers were standing in front of the barbed wire that divided the Golan Heights, and how one of the marchers had the idea of cutting the barbed wire and crossing over to Majdal Shams. But the often told tales of the electrified wire that divides the Golan Heights put fear into the hearts of the marchers and prevented this.

As they stood discussing whether to take a risk with the barbed wire or not, they were interrupted by a 17 year old boy who just ran towards the barbed wire, obviously not caring what would happen to him, and hit it with his shoulder causing it to fall down. When the other marchers saw that nothing happened to the youth, they started jumping over the barbed wire, removed it and moved to the second barbed wire and removed it as well. Izzat recalled how while removing the second barbed wire, residents of Majdal Shams were coming towards them and helping them.

Men and women would leave their children at the platform and come to greet the marchers. They told the marchers they were their guests, that they would protect them with their souls but that the Israelis are occupiers and are able to “annihilate” them for what happened. So it was agreed that the marchers stay for 2 hours under the protection of the villagers and that the village elders organize their leave back to Syria through the Red Cross.
When it was time to go back to Syria, Izzat thanked the people of Majdal Shams saying that with this action, the marchers wanted to convey a message and they did. Until that moment, according to Izzat, the idea of returning to Palestine hadn’t crossed his mind. But then, a 14 year old refused to go back to Syria and around 200 people came to take the body of martyr Qais and chaos erupted until one of the elders intervened and said that the martyr should be taken to his family. Izzat recalled: “then I pondered over how that young man came to die for Palestine and not for the Golan, although ultimately we are one nation.”[1] And as the marchers went back to Syria, with the elders walking in front of them to protect them from the Israeli occupation soldiers, Izzat decided that it was time to return to Palestine: “I heard someone talking on the phone and saying “it’s incredible, there are 180 wounded”, here I couldn’t bare it anymore and I had the idea about returning to Palestine through means of transportation in Majdal Shams. I couldn’t take a bus because they had signs in Hebrew, so I took a taxi since it was the fastest and safest solution…. the idea I had in mind at the time was not only to enter Palestine but also to go to Jerusalem and pray in Al-Aqsa, then to bring the media, introduce myself and announce the return of 150 people to Jerusalem, in order to cause panic and destabilize the Zionist entity. The image of the Israeli army confused and its forces deployed everywhere started forming in my mind, and the preoccupation of the public opinion with this issue, causing a revolt of the Israeli people on their government… This is the goal for my return to Palestine.”[2]

On 15.05.2011, while Palestinians in occupied Palestine and in the Diaspora commemorated the 63 anniversary of the Nakba, Izzat and a couple of other Palestinians succeeded in returning to Palestine. They returned to their homeland, the homeland from which their fathers and grandfathers were expelled 63 years earlier. Unarmed young Palestinians, born in the Diaspora, away from their ancestral homes and lands, denied their homeland, decided it was time to return. They walked through mine fields, they crossed barbed wires, they defied fully-armed Israeli occupation soldiers with one wish: to return to Palestine.

Izzat returned to Palestine, touched her soil, smelled her air and embraced the land he’s so often heard of, so often dreamt of. When the Israeli military started house-to-house searches for the returnees in Majdal Shams, Izzat pretended to be a reported and headed towards Palestine. “I was stopped at the entrance of the village and was asked in a language I didn’t understand, but surely he was asking about IDs so I said I am a reporter and was allowed to pass…. Here the features of my homeland started to become clearer… it is the most beautiful feeling that I ever had in my life, for I am seeing my homeland of which I have always dreamt, and no words in the world are sufficient to express this feeling, and I can only say that it is “my homeland” that summarizes all the meanings of love, longing and beauty and magnificence.”[3]

Checkpoints were erected everywhere, and two other marchers, Majd and Rasha, were detained on their way to their hometowns. Izzat was stopped at the Huwwara checkpoints and “there was no possibility of getting off the taxi or returning, or even telling the taxi driver, and that point was the end of my journey to Palestine, and the end of the dream and the goal I had.”[4] This wasn’t the end of the dream, but the beginning… he was determined to return to his home, reach his birthplace… his march to Jerusalem has begun and there was no turning back, nothing was going to stand in his way to his home.

From the moment he was detained on 15.05.2011, Izzat was subjected to physical and psychological torture on the hands of Israeli occupation soldiers. After the interrogation, which depended mostly on psychological pressure, he was taken in a car, handcuffed and blindfolded towards the occupied Golan Heights. In a number of interviews before his martyrdom, Izzat spoke of his detention by Israeli occupation forces: “After being detained, the most beautiful journey began, which is playing with the nerves of the Zionist entity. And this victory is more beautiful and stronger than military victory. When they took me to the interrogation room, I waited half an hour for the arrival of interrogators from Tel Aviv. Then 12 interrogators entered and I was cuffed and stripped off all my belongings and clothes”… “for me, I spend the interrogation days laughing at them, because I considered myself inevitably dead, and they were taking turns interrogating me. 3 days without food or water or sleep. For me, an unarmed young man facing the Zionist entity that frightened us military and politically for 63 years, and if I made a small move, weapons would be pointed towards me, although I am unarmed and was searched thoroughly more than 20 times, here I realized that the fear a Palestinian causes them is not his weapon but in his belief that grows within him[5]

On 05.06.2011, while millions of Palestinians commemorated the 44th anniversary of the Naksa, Izzat had a date with destiny, he had a date with Jerusalem… he had planned to return to Palestine for a second time… he tried a second time to reach Jerusalem … and this time Izzat succeeded.

Israeli occupation forces were waiting for the marchers. After what had happened on Nabka day, the Israeli occupation army was determined not to allow unarmed Palestinian refugees to make a laughingstock of the “invincible army” a second time. They prepared for a massacre, similar to the ones they committed on the Palestinian borders with Lebanon and Syria. And a massacre it was; at least 24 unarmed marchers were killed on that day while trying to return to their homeland when Israeli occupation snipers aimed to kill. Izzat was one of the first Palestinians to try and return to Palestine … and as he attempted to enter Majdal Shams, he was shot dead…

To many, Izzat’s attempt ended at that point… Izzat’s attempt was a failure, for he failed to reach his destination; Jerusalem…. But to Palestinians, Izzat’s attempt to return to Palestine and to Jerusalem was successful…

The Zionist entity definitely saw it as a failed attempt, and thought that by killing Izzat and his comrades, others wouldn’t dare repeat the attempt. But they failed to see that Izzat did in fact reach Jerusalem, for his attempt removed another hurdle from the road towards Jerusalem, and that despite the massacres committed on 15.05.2011 and despite the numerous Israeli threats, thousands of Palestinians had marched to Palestine on 05.06.2011 and thousands, tens of thousands, millions will continue the march until total liberation.

To many, Izzat’s attempt ended when he fell at the border, when his heart stopped beating at the barbed wire… But to Palestinians, Izzat continued the march to his beloved Jerusalem, to his home…he is here, in Jerusalem, he has returned… and with his soul, he lights up the path, like thousands before him, for those who will continue the march …. and with his blood, he paves the way, like thousands before him, for those who will continue the march…

Izzat succeeded, because he managed to frighten the fully-armed occupation soldiers. He was a young man, armed only with the belief in his just cause, he was armed only with the love and yearning to a home that is his, he was only a Palestinian, marching towards his home, his legacy, and unarmed in the face of the killing machine that is the Zionist entity ….

Izzat succeeded, because he exposed, yet again, the true face of the “peace loving only democracy in the Middle East”, he exposed the murderous Zionist entity which claims “self defense” when killing unarmed marchers.

Izzat succeeded, because he exposed, yet again, the lies of Zionists and Co who keep claiming that if Palestinians resorted to unarmed resistance, the Zionist entity wouldn’t “feel threatened and forced to defend itself”, he exposed all those who defend a terrorist army that kills unnamed civilians seeking freedom.

Izzat succeeded, because he exposed, yet again, the hypocrisy of the world that claims to support human rights, justice and non-violent resistance everywhere, but continues to act blind, deaf and mute when it comes to Palestinian rights and the crimes of the Zionist entity.

Izzat succeeded, because he rose up, held his soul in the palm of his hand and marched, and marched, and allowed no barbed wire to stop him, allowed no Israeli occupation soldiers to stop him, allowed no collaborators, no concession-lovers, no negotiation-worshippers to stop him, allowed no bullet to stop him … and marched and marched till he reached Jerusalem.

Izzat was determined to return to Jerusalem and pray in Al-Aqsa, and his message to fellow Palestinians was clear:”What I experienced in a few days on Palestine’s soil assured me that Palestine is closer to us than we think, and that the enemy they have been frightening us with for over 63 years is a coward and can’t stand in the face of our will.“[6]

Izzat and his comrades who managed to return to Palestine, and the thousands of Palestinians who marched on Nakba and Naksa days in occupied Palestine and in the Diaspora, the millions of Palestinians around the world who commemorated the Nakba and the Naksa, sent a clear message to the Zionist entity, to the whole world, to Arab dictators and to Palestinians who want to give up the Right of Return and who want to accept a prison on less than 20% of Palestine and call it a “state”. Their message is: the young have not forgotten and never will…. the right of return is sacred, inalienable and non-negotiable and all Palestinian refugees will return to their demolished villages and rebuild them, will return to their usurped lands and replant them, will return to every single village and town and liberate them, from the River to the Sea.

This video, posted on You Tube, shows the march of return that took place on 05.06.2011. At the beginning one can see Izzat Maswadeh minutes before his martyrdom. He is saying: “We are returning… returning, returning, to our country we are returning, this is our country and we won’t relinquish it and won’t leave it, the blood of the martyrs won’t go in vain, the blood of the martyrs is precious…. “

Interview with Izzat and his funeral

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

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