Land Day: Marches Reported in Galilee and Negev, Knesset Members Decry Occupation

30.03.11 – 16:12- PNN – Palestine News Network

Fadi Ya’coub – Bethlehem – PNN/Exclusive – Today Palestinians inside Israel marked the 35th anniversary of Land Day, which commemorates the effort to defend Palestinian land through wide public participation in non-violent marches, strikes, and demonstrations.

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A Land Day rally in Bethlehem (photo by Circarre Parrhesia).

According to the High Monitoring Committee for Arab Affairs, strikes commenced in “all organizations and fields” inside Israel, including schools, local governments, stores, and “social organizations.”

Hanin Zoabi, the Israeli Knesset Member from Nazareth, called for political resistance to Israeli land confiscations which have continued, she said, “from 60 years ago until today.” She condemned Israeli colonial policies against the indigenous population of Palestine, especially illegal settlements.

In an exclusive interview with PNN on Wednesday, Zoabi said that many of Israel’s colonial projects had already been completed—82% of Arab land in Palestine was already taken before Netanyahu came to power. But Netanyahu’s policies, which Zoabi described as “fascist,” continued to steal Arab land and implant settler populations in Arab areas as a means of controlling them.

“We celebrate this anniversary with the traditional march from Arraba, which we began yesterday, to Lod,” explained Zoabi. “We protested the building of seven settlement units in the Abu Ayed and Dahamsh neighborhoods in Lod.” She said there were still Israeli confiscation plans underway in the Galilee, the Negev, and Wadi Ara near Haifa, and that 600 new Jewish cities and villages had been built on Arab land since 1948, as opposed to zero new Palestinian villages. She said the Zionist project depended on the theft of land from Palestinians.

Jamal Zalahka, another Israeli Knesset member and colleague of Zoabi, said that more than 75% of land inside Israel had already been confiscated from Arabs and that next to go was Palestinian national identity. He said that Land Day functioned to remind all Palestinians, in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Israel, and abroad, that the land was “the heart of the matter.”

In an exclusive interview with PNN, Zahalka said that Land Day 2011 would witness marches and general strikes in “the Triangle” (an area of predominantly Arab population inside Israel), the Galilee, the Negev, and mixed Arab-Israeli cities like Acre, al-Ramle, and Haifa.

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(Photo by Circarre Parrhesia)

Zahalka said that social equality was “outside the Israeli dictionary,” alluding to recently passed bills in the Israeli Knesset forbidding the celebration of Nakba Day on May 15, the same date of Israel’s independence day.

According to local sources in the Galilee, NGOs, civil society and Arab political factions in Israel arranged the protests on Wednesday. The main rally happened in Arraba and was joined by villagers from Deir Hanna and Sakhnin. Local sources, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of Israeli reprisals, said the protesters only carried Palestinian flags and demanded their rights, saying they were connected to the Palestinian cause.

Marches were also reported in the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev, which Israel has demolished 21 times and refuses to recognize. Yesterday in Lod, Arab youths gathered holding Palestinian flags and chanted slogans in support of the Arab revolutions, demanding their rights as Palestinian Arabs in the state of Israel and against increased racism in Israeli politics.

The Jewish residents of Lod called the police and protested that they were carrying Palestinian flags—which the Israeli police considers illegal.

Rallies were also reported in major West Bank cities, including Bethlehem and Ramallah, where protesters connected their efforts with the call to “end the divisions” between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas and forge national unity in the face of the Israeli occupation. Ramallah protesters were stopped by Palestinian security forces from reaching the illegal Beit Eil settlement. Rallies in Gaza were suppressed by the Hamas government, which drew condemnation from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The first Land Day was held in 1976, when Palestinians inside Israel organized massive popular and non-violent protests in response to an Israeli government plan to appropriate large tracts of Arab land in the Galilee for “security” and settlement.

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