Land Day

Date: 2019/04/01
On the forty-third anniversary of Land Day, Palestinians in both Gaza and the Galilee continue to struggle against Israeli forces’ violent repression of dissent.

On March 30th, Palestinians around the world marked the forty-third anniversary of Land Day and the first anniversary of Gaza’s Great March of Return, with thousands gathering Sakhnin, a Palestinian city in the Galilee, to commemorate the deaths of six Palestinians of Israel who were killed while protesting the State’s expropriation of their lands in 1976.

In March, 1976, the Israeli government announced plans to expropriate 21,000 dunams (over 5,000 acres) of private land in the Galilee to create eight Jewish cities. This announcement came after decades of land confiscation. Between 1948 and 1972, the State of Israel expropriated over a million dunams of Arab land in the Galilee and the Triangle, not including the millions of dunams of Palestinian land confiscated during the establishment of the state.

The 1976 decision, which was part of a larger program to “Judaize” the Galilee by replacing Arab villages with Jewish ones, was met with overwhelming opposition on the part of Palestinians across the country, marking the largest act of resistance on the part of the Palestinian community in Israel since the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced to make way for the establishment of  Jewish state. Although the decision would only directly impact those living in Northern Israel in and around Sakhnin, Arabeh, Taibeh, Kfr Kanna, and Deer Hanna, Arabs across Israel staged rallies, protests, general strikes, and walkouts in order to protest the decision and the principles behind it.

During a day of protests against the decision, demonstrators found themselves face to face with an aggressive police and military presence. Authorities opened fire on the crowds, killing Kheir Yassin, Khadih Shawahneh, Raja Abu Raya, Khader Khalaileh, Muhsin Taha, and Ra’fat Zheiri. Israeli forces have continuously employed live ammunition against protesters since then, particularly in the occupied territories, but also within Israel. In October 2000, during the Second Intifada, Israeli police opened fire on Palestinian citizens of Israel protesting increasing violence against Palestinians in the occupied territories, resulting in the deaths of thirteen. Since 2000, Israeli state authorities have killed at least fifty Arab citizens of Israel.

As yesterday’s events in Gaza suggest, the rate of aggression against Palestinians in the occupied territory is even greater. According to the United Nations, 195 Gazans have been killed since the Great March of Return started on March 30th, 2018. Of those killed, forty-one were children, two were journalists, and three were medics. Yesterday, four more were killed. Thus, Land Day the violence of land day constitutes far more than a distant memory for Palestinians.

On the anniversaries of Land Day and the Great March of Return, the Mossawa Center condemns the State of Israel’s disproportionate response to Gazan protesters, as well as the ongoing blockade and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza that provided the impetus for such collective action in the first place. Moreover, the Mossawa Center calls on the international community to stand by the right of Palestinians, whether they are in Gaza or in the Galilee, to nonviolently resist the State of Israel’s aggression in the occupied territories and discrimination against the Palestinian Arab minority.

The realities of Land Day also persist in the State’s continuous discrimination in land administration. Since the establishment of the state of Israel, when hundreds of Palestinian villages were razed, the State has not established a single locality for the Arab community, with the exception of those that were meant to concentrate the Bedouin community in the Negev Desert in the South. Plans were recently announced to establish an Arab locality in Israel’s Northern District, however, they have been rejected by much of the Arab community because the new village would impinge on the nearby Arab locality and its ability to expand.  

The right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to the land has also been limited in recent years through legislation, most notably through the passage of the Kaminitz Law and the Jewish Nation-State Law. The former increases the rate of home demolitions and the scope of punishments for building without permits, a practice that many Arab families cannot avoid in overcrowded towns and cities. The latter renders constitutional the rampant practice of segregation in building and planning, legalizing “Jewish only” communities.

Maintaining a sense of community, let alone adequate living standards, constitutes a challenge for Arab localities across Israel. Palestinian civil society has proven crucial in addressing the problems resulting from State discrimination. In order to strengthen such efforts, the Mossawa Center launched the first ever National Day of Giving this past week. Through the National Day of Giving, local authorities and civil society organizations in twenty-five localities across Israel are taking steps to fill the holes left by the State of Israel’s discriminatory policies.

Although a sad day in the history of our community, Land Day is a reminder of the resilience of the Palestinian community which, through initiatives like the National Day of Giving and the marches that took place yesterday in Gaza and in Sakhnin, continue to fight for their rights .

For more information on Land Day, please contact [email protected].


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