‘There is no going back on our right of return’: Interview with Palestinian freedom fighter Raja Eghbarieh

Founding member of the Abna’ al-Balad movement and frequent political prisoner, Raja Eghbarieh

Louis Brehony writes in The Palestine Chronicle:

The unity of the Palestinian people in resistance since the May 2021 uprising has continued to rattle the crisis-ridden corridors of power in Tel Aviv. Protests in the supposed heartlands of the Zionist state have taken on a new sense of defiance, while young women on the frontlines against colonization in the Naqab have symbolized a collective will to resist.
Internally displaced Palestinians and those who remained on ‘Israeli’ land after the ethnic cleansing operations of 1948 and 1967 have been seen as a fait accompli by politicians, academics, liberals and Palestine’s supposed leaders. But now new generations are developing a rejectionist politics echoing the pioneering resistance movement, Abna’ al-Balad.

Founding member and frequent political prisoner, Raja Eghbarieh has faced continuing attacks from the Zionist state, but takes huge encouragement from the renewed Palestinian resistance across lands occupied since 1948:

The power of this movement caught the attention of the world, including those allied to Israel, threatening to imbalance existing relationships and bring a new reality, including for the ‘48 Palestinians, whom Israel and the UN consider to be part of the state of Israel. We are a people united historically, presently and by our future destiny, with ‘48 Palestinians the most threatening section towards Israel’s existence as a state.

This interview with comrade Raja took place on the anniversary of the 2021 uprising and it is with regret that shortly after, the Palestinian movement lost Ahmad Eghbarieh (Abu Yasar), brother of Raja, and a veteran struggler in his own right. We send deep sympathies to his friends and comrades, and particularly to Raja Eghbarieh, who holds the lantern of Abu Yasar’s commitment to a new future.

Abna’ al-Balad was forged through the 1976 Land Day movement and its massacre by Zionist forces. Dedicated to land and liberation, the group battled under the revolutionary banner of al-Hadaf (‘the target’), the socialist newspaper established by Ghassan Kanafani. Raja summarizes the role he and the organization have played in the struggle for a new Palestinian movement as being “in the vanguard since the inception of the Palestinian struggle on the inside.”

This task has meant constantly trying to “fuse” the fightback in ‘48 lands with the uprisings of Palestinians, with the battle over Jerusalem and al-Aqsa “constituting one of the biggest fronts of activity for ‘48 Palestinians.

From the outset, Abna’ al-Balad opposed collaboration with the supposed democratic processes of the Zionist state:
“We were the first organization to raise the Palestinian flag in ‘48 lands after Land Day in 1976 and the first organization to call for a boycott of elections and the Knesset (Israeli parliament). This is still our position.”

In 2018, Raja was imprisoned for writing pro-Palestine social media posts and endured over two years under house arrest. Though this process has seen Raja expelled from his work in the education sector and the organization’s newspapers shut down, he and other activists continue to fight these “entirely political” charges. There is a deeper history to these most recent attacks and Raja spent four years imprisoned under ‘administrative detention’ between 1980 and 1986:

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