Saturday March 30th was the 37th commemoration of Palestinian Land Day. Palestinians walked the streets of every major Palestinian town denouncing the Israeli occupation, the confiscation of Palestinian land, the building of illegal Israeli colonies, the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes and demanding freedom, liberation of all occupied Palestine and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Since the 1948 Zionist Israeli occupation of Palestine the Israeli leaders adopted aggressive policies of evicting Palestinians, razing their towns, confiscating their land, and building Israeli colonies. Close to one million Palestinians were forcefully ethnically cleansed and evicted from their towns and pushed into the neighboring countries of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. The Zionist occupier could not, though, cleanse all the Palestinians, and close to 156 thousands of them stayed in their homes to become Israel’s Palestinian problem. Israel granted them Israeli citizenship of the third class, imposed military rule on their towns, oppressed them and used them as cheap labor. Israel then adopted a policy of gradual land confiscation and the building of Jewish colonies.
Palestinian Land Day started on March 30th of 1976 when Palestinians on both sides of 1948 occupied area and the 1967 occupied West Bank declared a general strike and took to the streets of their towns demonstrating against the Israeli confiscation of 21 thousand acres of Palestinian land in northern parts of Palestine especially in the Galilee towns of Araba, Sukhneen, and Deir Hanna. The strike and the demonstrations came as reactions to the, then, declared Israeli plans to empty the Galilee area from its Palestinian citizens as a first step to build Jewish only colonies.
Still living in occupied Palestine at the time, I still remember the Israeli military tanks and armored vehicles entering the towns shooting stun grenades, tear gas and even live bullets at the demonstrators, and breaking windows and doors of closed shops. Six Palestinian youths were murdered in cold blood and many others were wounded. The Histadrut, Israeli General Federation of Laborers, an Israeli national labor union, fired every Palestinian worker, who joined the demonstrations and threatened to fire every Palestinian worker who would participate in the general strike. The Israeli ministry of education threatened to permanently close every Palestinian school that participates in the strike.
Since 1976 Palestinians throughout all occupied Palestine commemorate Palestinian Land Day on 30th of March of every year. The commemoration include group visitation to the graves of those who were murdered that day, putting flower wreaths on their monument, planting fruit and olive trees in confiscation-threatened land, peaceful marches in the streets, and various other activist actions.
The significance of the Palestinian Land Day is that it was the first Palestinian intifada, where the 1948 Palestinians, thought by Israelis to be totally oppressed and broken, had joined the West Bank Palestinians in a general strike and popular demonstrations. It expressed Palestinian solidarity in rejecting and resisting the Israeli occupation and confiscation of their land.
This Land Day indicates the opposition and the struggle of people against the occupation of their country, the confiscation of their land, the establishment of illegal colonies for foreign occupiers, the construction of the ugliest apartheid wall, the eviction of Palestinian Jerusalemites from the old city, the Judaization of the holy city of Jerusalem, the ethnic cleansing of indigenous people, the assassinations and imprisonment of Palestinian activists, the demolishing and theft of Palestinian homes, and the rejection of the Israeli occupier’s rule and laws, such as the Knesset’s Nakba Law criminalizing the commemoration of the Nakba (Zionist occupation of Palestine), whose major goal is to wipe off all the Palestinian history and memory.
Commemorating the Land Day signifies the people’s adoption of resistance in all its forms, rather than futile long negotiations, as their strategic choice for liberating their homeland and their holy places, for gaining independence to establish their state, for the refugees’ right of return to their homes, for reparations rights, and for taking the Zionist Israeli criminal leaders to International Criminal Courts to be sentenced for all their war crimes and their violations of hundreds of international laws and of human rights.
The Land Day signifies the core of the Palestinian/Israeli struggle exposing Zionism as a pure racist occupying movement, whose leaders are determined to use every available, legal and illegal, means to empty Palestine from its indigenous Palestinian citizens including forceful ethnic cleansing, terrorism, genocide, and war crimes. Their ultimate goal is to establish what they claim their god given greater Israel.
For this goal successive Israeli governments reverted to the outdated laws of the Ottoman Empire, laws of the Mandate Britain, laws of the Jordanian rule, and their own civil laws and the imposed 1800 military laws to confiscate land, to build colonies, to open Jewish-only highways, to erect apartheid wall, and to impose a total of 625 military checkpoints within the Western Bank. In a violation of international laws the Israeli governments use these outdated laws whenever and wherever they suit them. Many times they legislate new laws on the spot to achieve their expansionist goals.
According to the Israeli Haaretz statistic published by the Israeli civil administration shows that since 1967 until the present the Israeli government had allotted less than 1% the state land in the West Bank for the Palestinians, while 37% of the land was allotted for Zionist occupying colonies, and the present illegal Israeli colonies (settlement) occupy 30% of the land. It is worth mentioning, here, that according to the 1993 Oslo Accord the Palestinian Authority had accepted, as a peaceful final solution, to let Israel keep 78% of Palestine proper in the hope to establish a Palestinian state on the remaining 22% by the year 1998. Although pretending to accept the deal and the Two State Solution, successive Israeli governments continue their expansion policies that deemed this solution un-attainable and unviable.
Successive Israeli governments have been conducting in the West Bank, and especially in Jerusalem, the same policies of ethnic cleansing, land confiscation, and colonial expansion they had followed adopted after the 1948 occupation. They are Judaizing Jerusalem the same way they did to Jaffa and Haifa. West Bank cities such as Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Hebron and others have been turned into virtual open prisons for Palestinians similar to 1948 Palestinian towns of Acre, Lud, Ramleh, and many other Galilee towns. The major Palestinian city of Ramallah is surrounded by extremist militant occupying colonies similar to 1948 occupied major city of Nazareth.
Commemorating Palestinian Land Day is only one way Palestinian express their eternal connection to their homeland, their rejection to all ethnic cleansing, collective transfer, and repatriation into any foreign land even within the Arab World. Their deep belief in their just cause give them the courage and the power to face and to oppose the harshest and most militarized Israeli soldiers, who are sent in large numbers and in full gear to suppress Palestinian peaceful marches in this occasion.
During this weekend large numbers of Israeli soldiers patrolled every street of Jerusalem and blocked all entrances to the old city. Muslim Palestinians younger than 50 years old are routinely denied entrance to pray in their Al-Aqsa Mosque. Christian Palestinians, too, were denied entrance to their churches during Good Friday and Easter. Demonstrators at Qualandia checkpoint were met with tear gas grenades and rubber coated bullets. Demonstrators from Bethlehem marched to the apartheid wall and symbolically knocked on the steel gate separating them from Jerusalem. In Nablus Palestinians planted olive trees in threatened land and were attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers.
In Hebron Palestinians planted olive trees in threatened rural areas where clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers and settlers routinely erupt. They were also met with tear gas and rubber bullets.
In Ramallah many foreign activists including foreign politicians from those countries that supported Palestine to become a non-member observer in the UN had joined Palestinians in planting olive trees next to the illegal colony of Bet-El.
For Palestinians Land Day is not exclusive to 30th of March. Every day is also their land day in their daily struggle against Israel’s confiscation of their homes, land and their lives.
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|Allen L. Jasson|
|William John Cox|