March 28, 2011 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 679

Calls on Facebook for Palestinian Millions to Return to Their Homes in Israel on May 15, 2011

March 28, 2011 | By L. Barkan*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 679


Over the past weeks, a number of Facebook pages have been launched calling on the Palestinians in Israel and abroad to hold mass demonstrations on May 15, 2011, the 63rd anniversary of Nakba Day (the establishment of the State of Israel). The plan is for millions of Palestinian refugees to march en masse in return to the original homes of their families in Israel. The campaign is being referred to as "The 2011 March of Return," "The Palestinian Refugees' Revolution," "The Advance of the Millions," and even "The Third Palestinian Intifada." Some of the Facebook pages stress that the activities are meant to be peaceful and unarmed, while others hint at violence and armed resistance. As of this writing, the Facebook pages promoting the initiative have more than 350,000 "likes" and members, though it is unclear how many of these are Palestinians and where they are from. Additionally, following a period of silence on the part of Palestinian officials, the initiative has gained the support of the PLO Department of Expatriate Affairs, which has called on Palestinians living abroad to participate in the march and to publicize it among the Palestinian communities and organizations worldwide.[1] The administrators of the Facebook pages have posted timetables to coordinate the event and called for the information to be circulated among Palestinians and their supporters everywhere, while stressing the moral and legal right of the refugees to return to their homes. Calls were also made for demonstrations and sit-down strikes in the Palestinian territories along the borders with Israel, and in Jerusalem.

The Campaign Organizers: The Refugees Have an Absolute Right to Return to Palestine

The administrators of the Facebook pages promoting the May 15 initiative explained that the Palestinian refugees had a moral and legal right to return to their homes in Palestine, and that the current situation in the region – the ferment throughout the Arab world and the internal problems in Israel – would facilitate the success of the event. The page titled "The 2011 March of Return," which currently has more than 4,800 "likes," said: "The goal of [our Facebook] group... is to organize a march of millions, who, on May 15, 2011, will realize the Right of Return to Palestine in deed as well as in word. [The marchers] will set out from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, penetrate the borders of Palestine, and return to [their] land... The Right of Return is a legal, political, human, moral, and religious right that is irrevocable and unlimited in time, and all must work toward realizing it. We call for the realization of this right through the mass return of millions of Palestinians to historical Palestine, such that every refugee and displaced person will return to his land and to the home from which he was expelled. This will be the first step toward implementing [U.N.] Resolution 194, which will be followed by further steps, such as awarding reparations to the returned refugees and recognizing their rights."[2]

Facebook page titled "The 2011 March of Return"

The page titled "The Palestinian Refugees' Revolution (The Advance of the Millions),"[3] which currently has over 1,300 members, stated: "The time has come to realize our historical dream to return to Palestine. The nation is undergoing an unprecedented noble [awakening] that enables such an historic leap. The Zionist entity is in a state of weakness, collapse, and loss of vision, which entices us to aim focused blows at it, in order to topple its racist enterprise, which contradicts the values of religion and morality."[4]

Facebook page titled "The Palestinian Refugees' Revolution (The Advance of the Millions)"

The page called "The Palestinian Refugees' Revolution,"[5] currently with more than 5,000 "likes," posted a message from the "Preparation Committee for the Revolution of the [Return] to the Homeland": "We will reach out our hand and build a bridge that will bring us to our green land, to our territorial waters, to the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, to our desert,... to the beautiful Galilee, to Jerusalem, our proud capital, to the neighborhoods of Nablus, Ramallah, and Jenin, to the hills of Lod and Ramla, and to all the [other] places... We will return, and soon. Long live our cause. May the state of the sons of Zion fall. We will die, but Palestine will live. Palestine is ours."[6]

Page titled "The Palestinian Refugees' Revolution"

The Facebook page "The Third Palestinian Intifada,"[7] which, within weeks of its launching, has almost 340,000 "likes," posted a message saying: "Palestine, how we have neglected you. Forgive us and forgive our sons for this. You have always inspired us to be steadfast in the struggle to keep you a free and Arab [land],... as you [always] were and always will be... After the Tunisian, Egyptian, and Libyan intifadas, the time has come for the Palestinian intifada. The first Palestinian intifada was in 1987 and the second in 2000, but the third Palestinian intifada [will commence] on May 15, 2011."[8]

It should be noted that, while urging the public to join the mass demonstrations on May 15, the page administrators also hinted at a coming war on the Jews and called on the readers to prepare for martyrdom. For example, they posted a well-known hadith, which states that the Day of Judgment will only come after the Muslims fight the Jews and vanquish them: "The hour [of Judgment] will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. All the trees and all the stones will say: 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him - except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews." The site administrators remark, "That is why the Jews have been planting a lot of Gharqad trees lately!". In another message, an administrator states: "Paradise calls you. I ask everyone to come out on May 15. Do not say 'I can't.' For once [in your life], at least, do something to help the Muslims... Martyrdom calls you."

"The Third Palestinian Intifada: Palestine Will Be Liberated and We Will Be Its Liberators"

A Public Opinion Campaign

In anticipation of the May 15 return of the refugees, the Facebook campaigners are making efforts to publicize the initiative, establish its legal basis, and coordinate it by setting up timetables, meeting points, and planned routes of advance. The pages' members called to publicize the march throughout the Arab and Islamic world and help it succeed. The info page of "The Palestinian Refugees' Revolution (The Advance of the Millions)" called on European Muslims to join the initiative: "The Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim brothers living in Europe have a special responsibility to immediately launch a [publicity] campaign by rallying [the people], and by informing world public opinion of the great historical oppression that the Palestinian people are suffering, and of the manner of the activity planned."

On the page "The Palestinian Refugees' Revolution", a communiqué from the "Preparation Committee for the Revolution of the Return of the Palestinian Refugees" detailed some of the legal and publicity measures that have been taken in preparation for the march: A committee of Palestinian experts and jurists has been formed to establish the legal basis of the Right of Return, as well as a publicity committee to spread word about the activity, and a committee of Hebrew speakers to inform the Israeli public of the Palestinians' right to return to their homes. It has also been decided to establish local committees wherever there are Palestinian refugees, to coordinate the efforts and rally the public. Also, an English-language Facebook page has been launched to promote the campaign in the West.[9]

The administrators of the "Third Palestinian Intifada" page called to spread word of the campaign by writing "Arab Intifada for the Liberation of Palestine, May 15, 2011" on cash.[10]

Egyptian money bearing a message about the planned initiative[11]

This page's administrators also made considerable efforts to promote the page itself: They urged its supporters to publicize it throughout the Internet and persuade their friends to join it, in order to reach one million "likes" as quickly as possible, and declared that other popular Arab Facebook pages had agreed to help publicize their page. The administrators also threatened Facebook, saying that if it closed down their page, "all Muslims will boycott Facebook forever."[12] Shortly afterwards, they reported that the company was indeed trying to shut the page down, to impede its functioning, and even to erase names of supporters. They appealed to the Al-Jazeera channel, which aired an item about this. The administrators claimed that the "Free Palestine" page, with 216,000 "likes," had been closed down by Facebook.

The Plan of Action

The page administrators have suggested detailed plans of action to be implemented before and during the May 15 march, stressing that all activity is to be non-violent. The info page of the "Palestinian Refugees' Revolution (The Advance of the Millions)" said: "We can recruit millions to march in eight fronts, in order to confuse the enemy and [force it to] divide its forces. The [fronts will be:] the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Inside Palestinians [i.e., Israeli Arabs], the refugees in Lebanon from the Lebanese border, the refugees in Syria from the Syrian border, the refugees in Jordan from the Jordanian border, the refugees of Europe via the sea in hundreds of ships, and international activists, [who] can demonstrate their solidarity from the Sinai front. Our Egyptian brothers... can support us by [organizing] a march of five million Egyptians, which will advance toward the Palestinian border from Sinai, under the slogan of peaceful solidarity with the rights of the Palestinian people... It would be best for the marches to be lead by old men and women who witnessed the Nakba. They do not lack enthusiasm to participate in and realize the dream of their lives – to be buried in the soil of their homeland. We must [also] recruit as many foreigners [i.e., non-Arabs] as possible from across the world to lead the marches, in order to create difficulty for the Zionists..."

Regarding the manner in which the march was to be conducted, the page said: "We must keep this activity free of all ideological and factional [conflict]. We must hold up the Palestinian flag only, so that the presence of [various] factions will not be used [against us] by the Zionists and the West. We must make sure that the [march] proceeds peacefully, without arms, with slogans in all the languages [emphasizing the] human [aspect of the struggle], such as 'I Want to Return to My Home,' and while holding aloft the keys of the homes from which our families were exiled... We must completely avoid slogans like 'Destroying the Zionist Entity' or 'Throw [the Zionists] into the Sea,' so as not to turn the world against us, and in order to rally [everyone around] the goal, namely to return to the homes from which we were expelled, nothing more. That is a human and moral slogan that can rally all the people of the world to our assistance."

The page administrator expressed a hope that the latest developments in the Arab world would contribute to the success of the initiative: "The situation in the region may convince the leaders of the countries surrounding [Israel] to refrain from opposing the advance of the millions, out of awareness that [such opposition] could cause the struggle to spill over [to their own countries] and bring about their downfall. [In fact,] they might allow the millions [to march] and ride the wave [of our protest] in order to stay in power... And even if they do not allow this, there is no force on the face of the earth that can withstand the determination of the people, and [the leaders] will end up the losers..."[13]

The "Third Palestinian Intifada" page posted a detailed plan of action for May 13-15, 2011, as follows. After the March 13 Friday prayers, the Palestinians and their supporters will gather in mosques and squares throughout Israel, in the Palestinian territories, and across the world, waving the Palestinian flag and burning the Israeli flag. On the following day, the Palestinians and their supporters will gather at the starting points of the march: In the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, they will gather in the mosques and squares of the cities; in "the 1948 territories," they will meet at the main mosques; in the countries bordering Israel, the starting points will be in various locations near the border; and in other Arab lands, protesters will gather at the Palestinian consulates. In Turkey, activists will gather in hundreds of ships, ready to set sail toward Israel; and in the rest of the world, including Europe and the US, demonstrators will rally in front of the Israeli embassies.

On Sunday, May 15, after the noon prayers, "the holy advance will start and the Intifada will be ignited... On this day, all the returning [refugees] will set forth, and the Third Palestinian Intifada will commence, with the support of all the free people in the world." The page lists the destinations of the march: In the West Bank, participants will march on the checkpoints and settlements; in Gaza, on the checkpoints and border crossings; within "the 1948 territories," toward cities and villages destroyed in the 1948 war; in Lebanon, toward Palestine by land and by sea; in Jordan, toward three areas on the border; in Syria, towards the Golan border; in Egypt, toward the Rafah border and toward the coast of Palestine by ship. Ships will also set sail for Palestine from Turkey and Europe, and demonstrations will be held in front of Israeli embassies worldwide.[14]

Timetable for activities on March 13-15, 2011

Call on "Jewish Settlers" in Israel to Return to Their Countries of Origin

A post on the "March of Return 2011" page by Allord Alis (who, it should be noted, is not the page administrator) ordered all Jews to evacuate Palestine: "All the families of Jewish settlers in the Galilee area, including in the areas of Safed, Tiberias, and all the way down to Acre, must proceed to the port of Haifa and board ships back to their countries of origin in Europe, before March 13, 2011. The Jewish families that have settled in the villages and cities of the Palestinian coast, all the way down to the border with the Gaza Strip, must go to the port of Tel Aviv, and take ships back to their European countries of origin, before March 13, 2011... The droves of [Jewish] settlers in the capital of Jerusalem and in the central area, up to the border with Jordan, must proceed immediately to the ports of Haifa or Tel Aviv... and the families of Jewish settlers in the south must proceed immediately to the port of Eilat." The message also warned that anyone trying to take "archeological artifacts [or anything belonging] to the Palestinian heritage, even a single ball of falafel, will be pursued and arrested by Interpol in his new place of residence."[15] It is important to note that this post went all but ignored and that none of the other pages included calls for the Jewish citizens of Israel to leave the country.

Call on Israeli Jews to leave the country

Images from the Facebook Campaign

From the "2011 March of Return" Page:

"We Will Return, 63 [Years] after the Nakba; May 15 – The Day of Return to [Our] Homes"

"The March of Return"

"We Shall Return"

"We Are Coming, Oh Al-Aqsa"

From the "Palestinian Refugees' Revolution" Page:

"It Is My Right to Return to My Home"

Other Activities:

In addition to Facebook pages launched in support of the May 15 initiative, others were recently launched calling for a range of additional activities against the Israeli occupation:

Marches and Demonstrations on Land Day

One page called to stage a "march of millions" on Land Day (March 30, 2011): Muslim and Christian Palestinians will set out from Ramallah and Bethlehem to pray at Al-Asqa and at the Tomb of the Sepulcher in Jerusalem.[16] The "Third Palestinian Intifada" page posted a plan for the Friday following Land Day (April 1, 2011), calling on all the Palestinian residents of the West Bank to march on the settlements and stage a day-long protest there, and on all the Israeli Arabs to march on Jerusalem and stage a day-long demonstration in front of the "Jewish settlements" in the city.[17]

"End the Occupation" Sit-In Demonstrations

The administrators of the popular Facebook page "Let's End the Occupation"[18] suggested staging a long-term sit-in demonstration in front of Beit El (a large Jewish settlement in the West Bank) and in front of the Erez crossing, until the occupation ended. No specific time was set for commencing this activity. The page stated: "This is an initiative by a group of young people who do not represent any political stream. What inspired us to take this step was the resounding success of the Arab youth in the Arab homeland, who managed to fight their oppressors with real determination and real restraint, using methods of peaceful struggle that resonated with people and moved them to support [their cause]. The idea is to emulate the Tahrir Square [protests] in two main areas – Beit El and the Erez [crossing] – and to rally everyone to participate in a long-term sit-down demonstration until the end of the occupation."

The message added: "We will start with a popular sit-down demonstration. We will put up tents in front of Beit El and the Beit Hanoun [Erez] crossing, and over time, the protest will spread to other areas. We do not want to use weapons of any kind. We want no flag or sign, except for our [Palestinian] flag. We will have a single slogan: 'End the Occupation.' We will put up our tents everywhere, and operate a radio station of the sit-down demonstration, broadcasting national songs not associated with any political faction. We will use pots and spoons to make a racket at night, and when we grow tired, we will blow whistles. We will not leave until the occupation leaves. We will draw [the attention of] the international and local media."

The page listed the equipment that will be needed by participants in this protest: a cloth and some vinegar and lemon as protection from tear gas; an aluminum pot and goggles to protect from tear-gas bombs and rubber bullets; an olive branch to signify the peaceful character of the protest; cans of spray paint for spraying on the faceguards of the soldiers' helmets in case of a confrontation; a sleeping bag and a first aid kit; water and soap for pouring on the tires of military jeeps to make them skid.

The administrators set out their demands: "An immediate and complete end to the occupation; unity among the Palestinians; a Palestinian state with complete sovereignty within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital; the right of return and reparations for the refugees and the right to self-determination [for the Palestinians as a whole]; the release of all Palestinian prisoners from the occupation's jails; and reparations for the Palestinians for the years of occupation [they endured]." They added that, following the end of the occupation, they expected "free and fair elections to be held [among the Palestinians]; a free and independent economy that ensures a dignified existence to all, and [a government that rules] according to principles of transparency and accountability."

A page titled "The Palestinian Revolution for Ending the Occupation 10-15-20" proposes to stage sit-down demonstrations on three dates: April 20, 2011 (the anniversary of the 1936 Arab Revolt in Palestine), May 15, 2011 (Nakba Day), and June 10, 2011 (the anniversary of the 1916 Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire). The protests are to take place "near checkpoints and at all points of contact with the occupation [in the occupied territories]; within the 1948 territories; in our sister Arab countries; in all the [countries] of the Palestinian diaspora across the world; and in front of American and Israeli embassies, wherever they exist. We will carry kitchen utensils and drum with them. Perhaps, for once, the world will hear our voices, and the Zionists will realize that their presence on our soil is unwelcome, and that this time it is we who are doing the talking."[19]

Activity to End the Inter-Palestinian Schism

In recent weeks, there has also been much activity among young people on Facebook aimed at ending the schism between Fatah and Hamas, under the slogan "The People Want an End to the Schism."[20] The online campaign was quickly translated into activity on the ground. On March 15, 2011, mass demonstrations took place in Gaza and the West Bank in demand for inter-Palestinian reconciliation, and smaller protests and sit-ins are still taking place.

The campaign and demonstrations were endorsed by officials from both Hamas and Fatah, and encouraged some of them to launch initiatives of their own: PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas's initiative to visit Gaza in order to establish a national unity government that will prepare the ground for presidential, parliamentary, and PNC elections;[21] PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's campaign for a national unity government, based on retaining the existing security and administrative infrastructures and arrangements until reconciliation is achieved;[22] and the initiative of Hamas Political Bureau Head Khaled Mash'al for a reconciliation based on opposition and jihad.[23]

It should be noted that while the call for reconciliation was endorsed by Palestinian officials, the initiatives for the refugees' return were largely ignored by the officials (until their endorsement by the PLO Department of Expatriate Affairs, which may stimulate further official interest), and also received little attention from the Palestinian media.

*L. Barkan is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[14] In addition to appearing on the Facebook page, the timetable appears in a YouTube clip:

[21] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), March 17, 2011.

[22] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), February 22, 2011;, February 21, 2011.

[23], March 6, 2011.

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