On March 30, 1976, six young Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in mass demonstrations that took place in many towns and villages. Twenty-eight years before, Palestinians lost 78% of their land to the Zionists during the months before and after Israel declared itself a State in 1948. Not until 1966 did Palestinians, who remained in what became Israel, receive citizenship, living under military rule in the 20 year interim, much like Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza live today. These years were marked by continued land theft and the activation of Israel’s policy of “Judeazation” of the Galilee, and other areas where indigenous Palestinians remained on their lands.
The State of Israel continues its policies of land theft. But on this day, March 30th 1976, Palestinians took to the streets to protest Israel’s land confiscations orders. They were met by police and soldiers who opened fire on protesters, killing six of them and injuring many others.
The brave young men who were killed, and the many others who continue to protest Israel’s policies of land confiscation, have done more than fight for their rights and the rights of all Palestinians. They have revealed the true face of Israel; a racist state whose aim, carried out through its policies of land confiscation, is to ethnically cleanse the land of all Palestinians, including Palestinians who are now citizens of Israel.
Palestinians everywhere commemorate Land Day, March 30th. Not only to remember those who were killed in struggle but to unite in their message: Our land is the cornerstone of our struggle, it is the land on which we can exercise our rights and self determination.
In the West Bank, Israel’s goal of theft and control plays out through the building of more illegal Jewish-only settlements and “security” infrastructure to support them, including bypass roads and, of course, the monstrous Apartheid Wall. The effect on Palestinian life is crushing. This is the real aim of the occupation. As Palestinians continue standing on their land and resisting against the occupation, they are resisting Israel’s policy of “silent deportation.”
In 2009, the commemoration of the Land Day is particularly poignant Suffering Gazans are still being kept under siege as the world continues to watch. 1,400 Gazans were killed during Israel’s 23 day massive assault and another 5,000 were injured. It is estimated that 30% of dead and wounded are children. Tens of thousands have been made homeless. There are reports of Israel having used white phosphorus weapons against the civilians.
This year’s land day comes at a time when massive deportation is taking place in east Jerusalem through the demolition of houses.
Of course, when we talk about settlers and settlement projects we are talking about a struggle for land. The usurpation and confiscation of Palestinian land involves more constraints and difficulties at all levels. Politically, it is an attempt to create an argument “facts on the ground” used to prevent Palestinians from implementing their rights in a state. It means Palestinians losing the revenues from their own land. Since 2000, one million trees where uprooted to expand settlements and to build the Apartheid wall.
Since the Oslo Accords, the supposed peace process signed in 1993, the number of settlers increased from 150,000 to 500,000 and the number of houses in the settlements increased five times. In some Palestinian cities or towns, like Hebron downtown, the number of settlers increased from 150 in 1993 to 500 in 2009.
Dozens of villages and towns have become virtual prisons, as they are completely surrounded by settlements. This is the case of Nahhaleen, in the west of Bethlehem.
The occupation displacement policy is daily implemented in the West Bank, according to district reports.
In south hills of Hebron, thousands of citizens were deported from their villages. In the north valleys, more than 6 villages like Aqaba, Madam and Bardallah are facing a displacement policy that includes demolition of their homes or confiscation of their land; such policies are to facilitate the development and expansion of the illegal settlements. Many villages close to the Jerusalem Municipality border were illegally annexed to the city during the eighties. However, the residents still hold West Bank identity cards. This is the case of Al-Walaja, Alkas, and Alon’man, in the Bethlehem district. These towns are now closed off by barrier fences. Their residents are absolutely prevented from building new houses because, as West Bank residents, they cannot request the Jerusalem Municipality for building permits.
Land Day 2009, Global day
The Land Day as a symbol of the struggle in Palestine has become a day of solidarity with Palestinian people in their struggle for their rights. At the World Social Forum, held in Brazil this past January, an initiative was launched calling for March 30 to be a Global Day of Action for Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign to end the Israeli occupation and apartheid.
This is a very important step forward towards real solidarity for Palestine. It is provides a way to put real pressure on the International Community to seriously and clearly address creating a real and fair peace in Palestine. The Land Day, and actually the land of Palestinians, has become not only a Palestinian symbol of struggle but also a symbol of solidarity movements and of all powers who work for peace in Palestine. Demonstrations, meetings, exhibitions, conferences, etc. have been prepared around the world to commemorate the Day of Land.
From all indications, Land Day 2009 will again focus on the so-called peace process of the Oslo Accords, on the fight of Palestinian people for their rights on their land, and on the creation of real solidarity at an international level. Last year, we wrote an article for the occasion called: "Land Day 2008: Eyewitness on the failure of Oslo Agreement". In 2009, everybody knows well what happened: War Against Gaza, Settlements Expansion, Displacement Policy, Home Demolishing, Land Confiscation, Assassination policy, Detentions, etc. All of these point to the same conclusion: while the occupation continues its policy of ethnic cleansing, Palestinians will continue to struggle for their land and their rights.