Land Day: Why It Matters
by Stephen Lendman
In 1948, Israel stole 78% of Palestine. In 1967, they took the rest. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict remains the longest unresolved one of our time.
Long denied justice awaits. Western complicity with Israel prevents Palestinians from living free. So did Arafat’s Oslo surrender. Abbas and PA cronies continue working against their own people for whatever benefits they derive.
Palestine’s an isolated prison. State terror is official Israeli policy. So is attacking nonviolent Palestinian protesters. Edward Said once said, “Jonathan Swift, thou shouldst be living at this hour.”
He’d blanche at how bad things are now. We all should and do something about it. Change depends on it.
Occupied Palestine is the region’s epicenter. Israeli police state terror suffocates Palestinians for not being Jews. An inexorable quest for dominance and corrupted self-interest deny justice.
Nonetheless, Palestinians persist. Living free on their own land drives them. Every March 30 they commemorate what’s important to remember every day.
Since 1976, Palestinians worldwide observe Land Day and why it matters. Nationwide protests and general strike action erupted. At issue was Israel’s land confiscation policy and brutal occupation harshness.
Israel declared demonstrations illegal. Palestinians ignored the threat and rallied. Thousands of Israeli security forces confronted them violently. Six Palestinians died. Dozens more were injured. Hundreds were arrested.
That’s how police states operate. Nothing changed to this day. Professors Baruch Kimmerling and Joel Migdal said Land Day 1976 was special. Palestinians showed “daring confidence and political awareness” lacking earlier.
This time they weren’t “passive or submissive.” They “initiated and coordinated” nationwide political activity. Security force violence confronted them. Nonetheless, Palestinians showed they’d no longer be ignored.
Thirty-six years ago, Israel announced a plan to confiscate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for “security and settlement purposes.” Palestinians had enough and resisted. They vowed to defend their land and rights.
They’re important. So are Arab identity and heritage. Occupied Palestinians and Israeli ones united. They protested against Israel’s plan to replace them with Jews.
In early 1975, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin announced a project to Judaize the Galilee. “Developing the Galilee,” he called it. The idea was to transform it into a majority Jewish region, construct eight industrial estates, and develop its economy overall.
On March 1, 1976, General Yisrael Koenig, in charge of Israel’s northern region, prepared a secret report. It planned removing Arabs from the area, confiscating their land, and Judaizing it.
It warned about Arabs becoming the majority population. He called it a serious threat to Israel’s character. Israelis today warn of a “demographic bomb.” It’s when Palestinians will outnumber Jews. Longstanding Israeli policy aims to prevent it. “De-Arabization,” it’s called.
Key is displacing Palestinians from their land, stealing all valued parts, expelling as many non-Jews as possible, consigning those remaining to worthless, isolated bantustans, and erasing an Arab heritage.
In 1976, Koening recommended encouraging Jewish immigrants to populate the Galilee and Negev regions. At the same time, he wanted Arabs removed to accommodate them.
Rabin issued an order to confiscate about 21,000 dunams in Deir Hanna, Sakhnin and Arabeh. Land Day protests resulted. It was a milestone, a turning point in Israeli/Palestinian relations. For the first time, masses across Palestine and Israel challenged what no one should tolerate.
It was also a catalyzing event. It united them to resist occupation and repression. The price of freedom involves resistance. One day alone isn’t enough, but Land Day is important.
Dozens of cities worldwide commemorate it. Diaspora Palestinians participate. So do supporters. On Land Day 2012, Haaretz said clashes erupted in Jerusalem, at checkpoints, and at the border crossing near Rachel’s Tomb.
Other rallies occurred across the West Bank and Gaza. Thousands rallied in Deir Hanna. Defense Minister Ehud Barak deployed security forces to confront them. Border crossings were closed. Palestinians and supporters participated in a “Global March to Jerusalem.”
Clashes erupted. Dozens of Palestinians were injured. At least one death occurred. Maan News reported on how the day unfolded. Thousands participated but less than expected.
Nonetheless, unity won the day. “Not just in the occupied territory but in Arab states and elsewhere, all for this goal.” Activist Abir Kopty said “(u)nity is so important for us, for Palestinians.”
Commenting on how PA security forces worked jointly with Israeli ones, she added: “It’s a shame. What else can I say? Just a shame.”
According to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, 34 protesters were arrested. Amnesty International‘s Ann Harrison said:
“News that Israeli forces are firing live ammunition on Land Day demonstrators near the Erez Crossing in Gaza, and that scores have been injured in protests in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem is extremely worrying, particularly in the light of frequent and persistent use of excessive force against Palestinian protesters.”
“We are also concerned at reports that Palestinian Authority security forces have tried to prevent protests in areas under their control, while Hamas security forces have beaten protesters in Gaza. All those involved in policing demonstrations should respect freedom of assembly and must adhere to international policing standards.”
Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nabil Kauk said:
“The nation’s right to the whole of Palestine is not dead. Palestine is not waiting for the Arab summit or international decisions. The Palestinian nation relies on the guns of fighters in Gaza, in Ramallah and in Bint Jbeil.”
Gaza protests continued all day. Israel border guards confronted them with live fire. Over two dozen were wounded, several seriously. Israel claimed warning shots only were fired.
Witnessing clashes firsthand, Ebaa Rezeq said Israeli forces opened fire after protesters managed to remove part of a border area metal fence. “People are falling here like flies,” he said. “Blood everywhere.”
Mondoweiss contributor Leehee Rothschild said ambulance sirens “combine(d) with the screams to create a horrible cacophony.”
“Once again, I’m struggling to find the words to describe eyes which are blinded by clouds of tear-gas, and the foul smell of the skunk water that creeps through the nose. All senses are consumed, and the rubber coated bullets are buzzing around, they’re shooting them from canons now, ten at once.”
Bloody Friday won’t easily be forgotten. Nor will other days marked by Israeli state terror. Hardly any pass without it. Why else do Palestinians resist to be free?
One day they will be because courage that resolute pays off. Remembering the six Land Day victims provides inspiration. A Sakhnin cemetery monument bears their names and inscription saying:
“They sacrificed themselves for us to live.” Two sculptors created the monument, one Jewish, the other Arab. Perhaps it’s a good omen.
A Final Comment
On April 25, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) headlined, “Occupied Lives: Marking Land Day, marking lives,” saying:
Peaceful Palestinian demonstrations faced Israeli violence. One death was reported. Dozens more were injured, including 18 children. Commenting on the day, Mahmoud Khaled Mahmoud Abed Nabi said:
He “was shot in the chest. The bullet entered on the left of my chest and exited from my right side. It was fired from a watchtower in the fence.”
The incident occurred at Beit Hanoun checkpoint near Israel’s border with Gaza.
“I had been to demonstrations before, marking different events,” said Mahmoud. “Land Day is a very important day because we have to defend our lands, which continue to be occupied by Israel. We have to sacrifice to protect them.”
“All the young people were going to the area to protest, because it is such a well-known day, even internationally. I marched with others and went beyond where the Gazan authorities were stopping people, and we headed towards the border.”
Mahmoud said soldiers shot tear gas, shouted threats through loudspeakers, and “started firing bullets directly at us. There were no warning shots.” They shot a few at a time. Those injured were taken out by motorbike.
He said his wounds were serious. He’s in pain and not improving. The bullet passed near his heart. He explained his family can’t afford costly antibiotics he needs to take. Infections are developing. He has difficulties breathing and sometimes throws up blood.
He was severely wounded earlier when Israeli soldiers shot him and a friend gathering wood during Cast Lead. Neither one fully recovered. Now this. If he survives, he worries about his future. “I cannot work in this condition,” he said. The pain’s too much to bear.
Israeli violence destroys many lives. Many survivors aren’t the same. International law mandated right to life didn’t help them.
State terror is official Israeli policy. Palestinian resistance won’t quit until it ends. One day it will. Bet on it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.