Land Day: What it Means and Why it’s Important

By Yousef

Today, March 30th, marks Land Day or Youm Al Ard in Arabic. Perhaps more than May 15th, when the Nakba is often marked, or June 5th, when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is marked, Land Day is symbolic of the totality of the Palestinian struggle. It’s a day that refugees, who dwell in dismal camps dreaming of return, internally displaced or marginalized Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza are bound together in commemoration of what the Palestinian struggle is all about: a people’s desire to live free on their native land.

So what precisely is Land Day? An info brief here, which is worth reading in its entirety, explains:

On 29 February 1976, the Israeli government announced that it planned to confiscate 21,000 dunum (5,500 acres) of Arab-owned land in order to create eight Jewish industrial centers. While government officials claimed that this expropriation was necessary in order to develop the region of Galilee, Israel’s Palestinian citizenry perceived it as another attempt by Israel to geographically marginalize the state’s Arab community and strip it of its agricultural livelihood. Their fears were later confirmed when Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture declared the plan’s primary purpose to be the creation of a Jewish majority in the Arab Galilee.

Having experienced institutionalized discrimination since the Jewish state’s inception, the Palestinians of Israel decided to challenge this latest measure. Almost immediately after the announcement of land expropriation was made, community leaders met in an attempt to organize and communicate a unified message of objection. To deliver this message, a public demonstration was planned at the Knesset. Rather than risk a violent encounter with Israeli police, community leaders decided to cancel the protest and, instead, encourage members of their community to remain indoors making their objections known through a general strike.

Anticipating Palestinian repudiation of the measure, Israeli authorities imposed a curfew on the lower Galilee on the evening of 29 March 1976. The following morning, Israeli police and military forces entered the striking Arab villages, a move which provoked some Arab youth into a stone-throwing demonstration. To the protestors’ dismay, Israeli forces responded with live ammunition, indiscriminately opening fire upon the unarmed protestors. By the day’s end, six residents of Sakhnin, Arabeh, Kufr Kana and Taibeh were killed, 96 others were injured and 300 arrested.

Israeli authorities eventually confiscated the land in question under the guise of ‘security.’ The territory was later converted to Jewish settlements and an Israeli military training camp. The events of 30 March 1976 have not been forgotten in the minds and hearts of the Palestinian people. To this day, Palestinians, whether Israeli citizens or not, annually mark March 30 as ‘Land Day’ to demonstrate their connection to the land and to honor the memory of those who died defending Palestinian rights to the land.

Things haven’t gotten much easier for Palestinian citizens of Israel and we are holding an event on the challenges they face in particular next week which you can attend in DC or watch live from anywhere in the world.

But it’s not only Palestinians who are marking Land Day this year. Palestine solidarity activists in the United States and around the world are working to bring attention to the BDS movement on this day. The YouTube video below shows how one such group in New York decided to do just that by breaking out into a flashmob dance, reworking the lyrics to a popular Journey song, in the middle of Grand Central Station last night.

Oh yeah, the Israeli military marked Land Day as well.

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