Land Day

Every year on March 30, Palestinians demonstrate their commitment to resisting Israeli occupation. But this year's commemoration coincided with Trump's ominous  declaration to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem.  The  Palestinians are planning a massive demonstration beginning on March 30 and extending through May 15, the anniversary of the Nakba - "the catastrophe", when more than 750,000 people were driven from their homes to make way for the creation of Israel.

The action comes amid heightened tensions after the US government first announced it would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy from Tel Aviv, with an opening planned for May 14.

Today's commemoration of Land Day is an emblematic reminder of the countless human rights violations that have characterized half a century of Palestinian land confiscation and dispossession.

During the first Land Day in 1976 Palestinian citizens of Israel protested against the Israeli government's expropriation of 2,000 hectares of land surrounding Palestinian villages in the Galilee. Six Palestinians were killed and more than 100 were injured when Israeli forces crushed the protests.

Every year since, Palestinian communities all over the world have gathered on March 30 to commemorate these events to highlight Israel's ongoing seizure of Palestinian land, and to reaffirm their connection to the Palestinian land. In the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, concerts, marches and olive tree planting events are planned in acts of protest against Israel’s continuous occupation and aggressive land-grab policies. The first few months of 2017 alone have seen an alarming surge in illegal settlement activity and home demolitions in the occupied West Bank.

Since January the Israeli government, emboldened by President Donald Trump's inauguration, has authorized the construction of more than 6,219 illegal settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, including 719 in East Jerusalem.

In recent weeks a number of Israeli Knesset members have proposed a law to annex the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem, along with other settlements in close proximity to the city.

 

As long as the world continues to turn a blind eye to Israel's relentless land grab and settlement expansion, both serious violations of international humanitarian law, the human rights of Palestinians will continue to be trampled on with impunity.

In another push to consolidate their land confiscation, on February 6, the Israeli Knesset also passed a law that retroactively legalizes the seizure of private Palestinian land on which settlements have already been established. The law prevents Palestinian landowners from laying claim to their land if Israeli settlers are living on it, despite the fact that the settlers' presence in occupied territory is illegal under international law.  The recent acceleration in home demolitions, combined with the push to expand settlements and moves to legalese prior land grabs, gives a damning indication of the Israeli government's intention to continue and accelerate its land-grab policies 50 years on from its initial capture and occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Fifty years of indifference from the international community has only served to spur on the Israeli government in its expropriation of Palestinian land and expansion of illegal settlements.  

One of the superstitions fabricated by leaders of the Zionist movement was Palestine is a land without people to be given to people without land. In implementation of this superstition, successive Israeli governments have been pursuing a policy of land confiscation with the aim of changing the demographic and geographic status of the occupied Palestinian territories and building settlement units to meet the accelerated influx of hundreds of thousands of incoming Jews.   The land confiscation is not simply part of an official systemic policy to evict Palestinians and replace them with Jewish residents, but part of an endorsed Zionist strategy. Following the Zionist tenets, Israel has systematically and callously followed an intricate and continuous process of Arab land expropriation through the promulgation of new laws, the circumvention of existing laws, harassment and duplicity. Recognizing the naked truth, Y. Ben-Porat, a known ‘hawk’ wrote "One truth is that there is no Zionism, no settlement, no Jewish state without evacuation of the Arabs and confiscation and enclosure of their land."

The Palestinian "Land Day" marked the first act of collective protest against the racist colonisation and dispossession of the Palestinians of their lands and rights since the creation of Israel in 1948. It also signalled the failure of Israel to subjugate Palestinians who remained in their towns and villages, after around 800,000 of them were either expelled or forced to flee battles or massacres committed by Zionist armed groups in 1948.

Most importantly, on that day in 1976, Palestinians in the occupied Arab territories declared that they were an inseparable part of the Palestinian people and their struggle - a point again and again reiterated by successive protests and uprisings in support of Palestinian national rights.

 

The Land Day strike practically backfired against the political goals, inspiring one of the most powerful poems written by Tawfiq Zayyad that continues to resonate across the Palestinian generations:

"In Lidda, in Ramla, in the Galilee,

we shall remain

like a wall upon your chest,

Here we shall stay.

The Land Day marked a turning point as the first mass mobilization by Palestinians within Israel against internal colonialism and land theft. Its commemoration is a reaffirmation that the Palestinians who remained in the areas on which Israel was created in 1948 are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people and their struggle.

The Land Day continues to resonate with Palestinians everywhere because it does not just mark a past historical event, but draws attention to Israel’s ongoing violent, settler-colonial process of Judaization.

This year's commemoration of Land Day will send a message to Trump that his decision concerning Jerusalem  will not change the truth that occupied Jerusalem is an Arab Palestinian city and it is one of the inalienable rights of the Arab Palestinian People which couldn’t be tampered with by any state, whatever the military power it possesses, as it is the case with regard to every inch of the Palestinian lands. The US administration should be aware that the rights, which the peoples have acquired through their cultural eligibility, couldn’t be dropped by improvisational decisions which do not realize the truth of the conflict taking place in the region.

K.Q.

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