The Return March near Shefa-amr, May 2024 (Photo: Ahmed Al-Baz)

Our future is between two opposing horizons

While thousands of Palestinians, accompanied by some Jews, marched on 14 May in a March of Return demanding justice for all, thousands of Jews marched in Sderot demanding to “return” to Gaza celebrating the tragedy of the Palestinians. Two marches in two opposite directions

The Palestine Project


By Orly Noy • Translated by Sol Salbe

The March of Return, which took place on May 14th near Shefa-amr, was very short. Its route amounted to only a few hundred metres, and it did not end up where the emptied-out villages themselves stood, as is customary at the end of the march every year.

But even these hundreds of metres, and the large gathering at the end, were enough for a powerful display of a proud, present and very much not forgetting their Palestinian identity that continues to demand justice in a state for which the concept is fundamentally alien. Justice for the displaced, justice for Gaza, justice for the political prisoners. Justice, and the fight against forgetfulness. One can only imagine the impact of the intensity of this sovereign display on the small children, who were carried on their parents’ shoulders yesterday.

I also saw small children in videos from the right-wing march, which was taking place at the very same time in Sderot, under the title of Sovereignty Marching on Way to Gaza. Children and babies in strollers alongside their families, celebrating independence with smoke billowing over Gaza in the background. Those families were displaying their schadenfreude at the Gaza Strip going up in flames, and plotting how to build their own future upon its destruction.

Did the parents at the right-wing march tell their children how Jewish youths vandalised food deliveries designed to save other children dying children such a short distance away from them, and how they violently attacked noble activists who tried to save this food from being ruined?

While Palestinian children wandered among book stalls at the gathering at the end of the march in Shefa-amr and learnt about their heritage, culture and history, what did the children who celebrated with their families at a picnic against the backdrop of the bombings in Gaza learn? While the Palestinian children saw dozens of Jewish activists who came to take a stand with them in solidarity and were received with respect and appreciation, what did the Jewish children learn about the Palestinians, whose tragedy they had come to celebrate?

In a generation or two, the children — Jewish and Palestinian — will be the adults who will shape the shared civic space in the country. A space that is steadily disappearing. The concept of citizenship has almost no meaning in Israel. Nationalism has always overshadowed citizenship in Israel, and fascism, which is spreading at breakneck speed, threatens to nullify it completely.

The Jewish community in Israel has never dwelt seriously on the full meaning of its citizenship, because its rights have been protected by virtue of its national affiliation, but what has been happening since October 7 proves how dangerous the whittling down of our status as citizens is for us Jews as well.

The abandonment of abductees is a particularly miserable expression of this danger. When nationalist interests are at risk, the state’s obligations towards its citizens are shoved aside and lose their meaning. This is the case with the abductees, and the tens of thousands people displaced from their homes in the north and south. In the face of “total victory” for the sake of the nation, citizens — with their needs and rights — become meaningless, not to mention a nuisance. If they stand up for their rights, then they get turned into enemies.

It is enough to see how the police “handle” the families of abductees when they demand the release of their loved ones in a less polite manner, and call on the state to fulfill its responsibility for the lives of its citizens it has abandoned and continues to abandon to their deaths. As soon as they placed their own civil status and that of their abducted relatives above nationalist dictates, they became enemies.

Our citizenship is also steadily being eroded by the deepening of fascism, the executive arm of nationalism. When the limitation applied only to Palestinian citizens, it was easy for the Jewish public to ignore it. But it too no longer skips over Jewish citizens. Look at the rampant campaign of persecution against teacher Meir Baruchin, which, despite the court’s ruling, has not yet come to an end.

It seems as if everyone has become regime informers here, rummaging through posts, articles, and lectures by Arabs and Leftists in order to sift out “incriminating evidence” in the form of stances against the people and the nation, and rushing to place them at the community’s focus, blatantly trampling on their civil and democratic rights, and with the frightening cooperation on the part of establishment forces.

The frightening effectiveness of these practices can be seen from the decision to suspend a Palestinian teacher who participated in the return march yesterday. On Israel’s 76th Independence Day, the dog whistle of the regime’s informants has replaced Hatikvah as the official anthem of the State of Israel, and everyone stands to attention to it. And who will check how many teachers participated yesterday in the celebrations of hate and joy in Sderot, opposite the cloud of smoke over Gaza?

The two marches, which took place simultaneously, symbolise Israel’s two possible horizons: one based on hatred, blazing racism and militant nationalism, which educates its children to despise the life of the other if it does not belong to the supreme nationality and tramples on the civil rights of its own nationalities in order to establish that supremacy; Or one based on mutual recognition and firm and equal citizenship, in which Jews stand with Palestinians in demanding that this space be established for the benefit of all of our children. Yesterday, during the return march near the displaced villages, to which we were not allowed to enter, this future seemed almost tangible for a moment, surely possible, if only we understood our interests and power as citizens.