Land Day Protests Around the World

Every year Palestinians and solidarity activists commemorate the Land Day events of 1976. This year the demonstrations seem as relevant as ever, while Israel pushes to confiscate additional Bedouin land and to expand colonies

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SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: March 30 marks the commemoration of Land Day, an annual protest of Palestinians against land confiscation by the Israeli authorities.

In 1976, the Israeli government published a plan to confiscate approximately 20,000 dunams of land in the northern part of Israel, the Galilee, which belonged to Palestinian citizens of Israel. The plan was to confiscate the land for the purpose of populating it with Jews, thereby shifting the demographic balance in that area. The Israeli government called this policy the ?Judaification? of the Galilee.

In response, thousands of Palestinians organized protests, demanding the cancellation of the plan. Israel imposed a curfew on the Palestinian towns and villages in the area. The Palestinians, in response, organized a general strike.

In March 30, 1976, Israeli soldiers who were deployed in the Palestinian villages have shot and killed six Israeli Palestinian citizens. About 100 more were wounded, and hundreds were arrested.

Among the dead were Khadiga Shawahne, a 23-year-old who left her home during the curfew to look for her eight-year-old brother, who did not come home in time from the curfew. She spotted soldiers and tried to run back to her home, but was shot in her back by the soldiers and died. Another one was Khader Khlaila, a 24-year-old farmer who rushed to the aid of his wounded teacher, who lay bleeding on the road. He was shot in the head by the soldiers who shot his teacher and died. No charges were pressed against the soldiers.

Although officially military government on Palestinian citizens of Israel was lifted in 1966, the deployment of troops to enforce curfew on Israeli citizens proved in the eyes of many that Palestinian citizens are still a long way from achieving equal rights to Jewish citizens.

The day became a symbol for the stubborn struggle of Palestinians to preserve their land from confiscation. Every year on March 30, demonstrations were organized all around Israel by Palestinians and by Jewish supporters to commemorates the events of 1976 and to continue the struggle against dispossession.

Because of the overwhelming military advantage of Israel and the ample resources used by organizations such as the Jewish National Fund (the JNF), the struggle over land distribution has taken the shape of a fighting retreat.

JAMAL JUMAA, PALESTINIAN ACTIVIST: In spite what we see now, that the demonstrations and the reaction is not really as big as we want, but it’s accumulated. People has been waiting and waiting and waiting. But we are waiting, and now we have been lost any hope in a Palestinian state. So why there’s not going to be another explosion?

HEVER: Palestinians know that once their land has been taken over by the Israeli Authorities or the JNF, they have very little chance to reclaim it. Therefore, the struggle focuses on preventing further confiscations. The Arabic word Soumoud? is frequently evoked by activists. It means to stick to your land, to hold on.

A more recent interpretation of this concept is ?Existence is Resistance.? An organization by that name was established in 2009 in an effort to utilize culture as a means to preserve Palestinian existence in Palestine and human rights in general.

Israel had confiscated 5.6 million dunams from Palestinian refugees who were deported in 1948. It confiscated an additional 1 million dunams from Palestinian citizens between 1948 and 1972. Even after the protests of 1976, the confiscations continue. New cities, villages and farms were founded for Jews, but not a single Palestinian community was created in the 65 years of Israel?’s existence.

This year, the Land Day demonstrations seemed relevant as ever. The Israeli government approved in March 27 the ?Begin Plan? for enforcing a reallocation of land in the southern part of Israel, the Naqab. The plan was approved without negotiation with the Bedouin who live in these areas and is expected to cause thousands of families to be expelled from their homes. The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel declared that this year’s Land Day demonstrations will focus on protesting the Begin Plan.

Land Day demonstrations also took place across the occupied Palestinian territory, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where land confiscation by the Israeli Authorities and the JNF are well known.

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad planted an olive tree in the E1 area, which Israel plans to turn into another colony which will bisect the West Bank’s northern and southern parts.

Israel’s chief of staff toured the West Bank himself to supervise the suppression of the protest.

During the clashes, dozens of Palestinians were injured and arrested. Six Israeli soldiers and an Israeli child were injured as well. In one case, an Israeli military jeep overturned as it was charging into a Palestinian village.

Solidarity Land Day demonstrations were held in various cities around the world, especially in Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, U.K. and the U.S. Activists in the U.K. have appealed to the U.K. Charities Commission to remove the charity status of the JNF.

In the World Social Forum in Tunisia, Land Day has been designated ?Palestine Day.?

This is Shir Hever for The Real News.

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