Sunday, March 30, 2014

Palestinian Land Day: resisting Israel's ethnic cleansing.

2014 Palestinian Land Day march @ Arraba/Shakhnin. Photo by Uri Weltmann.

Dear friends,
Sunday, March 30 marks the 36th anniversary of Palestinian Land Day (Youm al-Ard’) In 1976, the Israeli government's announcement of a plan to expropriate more than 60,000 of dunams of Palestinian-Arab-owned land in the Galilee for "security" and settlement purposes. 
Palestinian citizens of Israel called a general strike and marches were organised.  This was the first significant act of civil disobedience by Palestinians inside 1948.  Between 1948 and 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel had been forced to live under military rule and curfew (something which had not applied to Jewish citizens of the Zionist state).  During this period, Palestinians freedom of movement, political activity, free speech, freedom of association and civil rights were severely restricted.   Palestinians were prevented from engaging in any type of political activity and were restricted in what jobs they could hold and what education they could pursue. Villages were regularly placed under curfew and Palestinians had to obtain permits to travel from one village to another.   

While Martial Law formally ended in 1966, Israel has continued its apartheid practices, both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside the Zionist state (for more on this see my article: Israel's Apartheid)

The 1976 protests against the announced land grab was the first mass act of resistance after years of military rule.  Systematic expropriation, inside the Zionist state since 1948, had reduced Palestinian land ownership from approximately 94% prior to the Nakba to less than 3% in 1976.

Determined to crack down on the protests, the Israeli state imposed curfews on Palestinian villages in the Galilee and the north of Israel where the largest demonstrations were to take place. The peaceful demonstration of thousands of Palestinians and supporters was attacked by 4000 Israeli police and military, resulting in the death of six unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and hundreds wounded and hundreds more arrested. Today across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside 48 (Israel), Palestinians will commemorate Land Day with marches and demonstrations.

The Palestinian martyrs of Land Day, March 30, 1976 were:  Raja Hussein Abu Rayya (30) from Sakhnin; Muhsin Hasan Said Taha (15) from Kufr Kanna; Khader Eid Mahmoud Khalaila (24) from Sakhnin; Khayr Mohammad Salim Yasin (23) from Arraba; Khadija Qasem Shawahneh (23) from Sakhnin and; Rafat Ali Az-Zheiri (21) from Nur Shams refugee camp.

Israel, today, still continues its land grab and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside the Zionist state. 
Since 1967, when Israel seized control of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, the Zionist state has continued its expansion of illegal colonies. Today, more than half a million Israeli settlers reside illegally in the Occupied West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, doubling the figure of 241,500 that existed prior to the Oslo agreement in early 1990s.

Israel's expansion and construction of illegal settlements has resulted in both more and more Palestinian land being confiscated, as well as Palestinian resources, including water resources.
In January 2014, Friends of the Earth International noted that:
"Many communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) suffer from a lack of access to adequate, safe, and clean water, due to Israeli water policies and practices which discriminate against the Palestinian population of the OPT, and the encroachment by Israeli settlers on Palestinian water resources. (For the full text of their statement, click here)

Inside the Zionist state, Israel is currently seeking to ethnically cleanse between 40,000 and 70,000 Palestinian Bedouin from their homes and land in the Naqab (Negev) desert.  Under the Prawer Plan approximately 40 villages will be uprooted and more than 850,000 dunums of land will be confiscated by the Israeli state.

Palestinians both inside the Zionist state and in the Occupied Territories have been protesting against the Prawer Plan and what will be Israel's biggest mass expulsion and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian since 1948 and 1967.  Several national and international days of actions have taken place to protests Israel's latest land grab. (for more information on the Prawer Plan and the protest against it, see my earlier posts here, here, here, here, here , here and here)

I have included below a translation of an account by an Israeli policeman on the unprovoked attack by Israeli forces on the peaceful demonstration.  The article has been translated from Hebrew by my friend, Ofer Neiman, who is an Israeli activist with the "Boycott from Within" campaign - the campaign by Israeli citizens in support of the Palestinian BDS campaign (click here for more information on the Boycott from Within campaign).

I have also embedded the French documentary, The Land Speaks Arabic which looks at the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and includes interviews with Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed from their lands and homes.

in solidarity,


The Land Speaks Arabic - 60 minutes

An Israeli policeman's account of Land Day, 1976

On March 30, 1976, Israeli police repressed protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel against the confiscation of Arab land in the Galilee for use by Jewish citizens. Six protesters were killed, some 100 wounded and hundreds were arrested. Ever since, Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora mark Land Day on March 30. ‘Ha’olam Hazeh,’ a magazine published by Uri Avnery, was the only Israeli media outlet to challenge the state’s narrative of the events at the time. The following, a testimony from an Israeli police officer who was present that day, is short item ‘Ha’olam Hazeh’ published following the Land Day events.

(Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

I was unfortunate (the swelling on my forehead will attest to that) to be a part of the police forces which were supposed to pacify the riots which had broken out amongst the Arabs of the Galilee on the day they called “Land Day.”

Reading the reports by journalists who were present on the ground, I cannot but throw down the yoke of silence imposed on me as a police officer, and set the record straight regarding a number of issues.

I am not a man of the left, but aspects of my view of what happened in the Galilee on March 30 [1976] will surely have me annexed to the left-wing bloc, for this bloc, in my opinion, is, to my dismay, the bloc holding the objective view.

On March 30 at 12:30 in the morning, my unit was called to a briefing, which was engulfed in hatred towards Arabs, and in which expressions mandating violence for the sake of violence against those who have violated our sleep, the Arabs, were voiced. When we reached the place, no stones awaited us, and therefore our ‘forces’ invaded the village in armored vehicles – associations with my parents’ stories about the British Mandate [come to mind].

In the face of the villagers’ practical discontent, the officers began to fight back with their submachine guns. These officers were very pleased with themselves, since after all, it is not every day that one can be a hero with such ease. And more than all others, a first sergeant and a logistics officer found relief from their abhorrence of the bureaucratic apparatus by shooting at the panicked villagers (the latter even hit two, one of them, it turned out, died due to this).

After the villagers fled, the forces entered some of the homes and began to take their rage out on their entire contents. I witnessed one such incident, in which glassware, the television set, the record player, pictures and other objects were smashed to pieces. Such images cannot but remind me of the poems by Bialik and Tchernichovsky about the pogroms waged against the Jews [in Russia] at the end of the last century and the beginning of this century.

The thing which terrified me most of all was the immense hatred of Arabs running through the veins of most of my fellow policemen, a hatred which was relieved only in the slightest on March 30.

We must shake off our hatred of the sons of Ishmael, for the sake of justifying our legitimate right to reside on this land.

Originally published by Ha’Olam Hazeh, 1976. Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman.


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