Palestinian Land Day—3/30/2022—Resisting and Remembering and Praying for a New Day for Palestine
By John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
Land Day has been celebrated by Palestinians for several decades, serving as an expression of protest of Israel’s expropriation of their land since at least the time of Israel’s founding. The first moment of Palestinian open resistance to the state’s land practices was on March 30, 1976, including an organized confrontation. This article describes how this day is not only about past events but is a stimulus to find new ways to resist Israel’s continuing land grab.
March 30, 1976—the first moment of protesting Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian lands
Following the 1967 war some years later, in 1976, Palestinians responded to the Israeli government’s declaration of its intention to take thousands of acres of Palestinian lands for its own state purposes. They responded actively and directly through a general strike launched against the state, including marches in Arab towns across the occupied area, north to south, from the Galilee to the Negev.
Called Land Day (يوم الأرض, Yawm al-ʾArḍ), this is a day to commemorate that date in 1976, March 30, when the malevolent intentions of Israel were announced to the Palestinian residents who had been living on their lands for hundreds of years. This day is consecrated as a critical moment in Palestinian’s struggle over land. It defines in essential terms the subsequent relationship between the Israeli state and the Palestinian citizens it has occupied over more than five decades.
Significantly, Palestinian resistance in 1976 was the first moment of active, organized confrontation of Israel since 1948, when that state was formed. Since that moment in 1976, Palestinians have gathered annually to commemorate disastrous Israeli policies to appropriate their land. Now, this Day is an important day on the Palestinian national calendar, noted not only by those directly affected by the appropriation but by Palestinians from all over the world.
Particularly important in this moment of Palestinian protest of Israel’s expropriation of their land was the fact that 75% of them worked the land for their living. Following the Palestinian exodus in response to the Arab-Israel war and the 1948 founding of Israel, land in the conquered territory became a critical part of the lives of the remaining Palestinians.
Israel’s policy of the “right of return” of Jewish refugees to the state and, subsequently, to the establishment of settlements in the occupied territories, was the beginning of the end of Palestinian rights to their own lands. One estimate of land expropriation from Palestinians by Israel is an area of 390 square miles. Mind you, in this land of the founding of three of the world’s major religions, this is in absolute terms a large amount of land.
Realities of Palestine Land Day—a painful history but a stimulus to right the wrong
On March 30, 1976, “Israeli police shot and killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel as they were protesting the Israeli government’s expropriation of thousands of dunums of Palestinian land.” Referring to this critical day, Al-Jazeera reported that since that date, it has been known as Land Day, “a major commemorative date in the Palestinian political calendar and an important event in the Palestinian collective narrative – one that emphasizes Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonization and steadfastness.”
This year’s commemoration of Land Day remains critical to the Palestinian national story. As Al-Jazeera’s Yara Hawari noted, “This year, the commemoration of Land Day remains as important as ever because, in addition to remembering Palestinian resistance, it reminds us how the domination of space is an integral aspect of the Zionist settler-colonial project. Indeed, settler-colonial states the world over are in a constant process of colonizing more and more indigenous land while squeezing indigenous peoples into as little space as possible.”
Hawari reports that Israel’s colonization and expropriation of Palestinian land began with the establishment of the state of Israel and continues to this day. Indeed, she declares that this process has only accelerated “at an astonishing speed.” She avers that this day for Palestinians not only denotes past events but serves as a stimulus to “think about creative and resilient ways to further resist Israeli land theft.”
“Land Day – commemorating March 30, 1976, when Israel announced its occupation of Israeli lands,” Wikipedia
“Palestine Land Day: A day to resist and remember—On Land Day, Palestinians demand once and for all that the international community pick the right side of history,” Yara Hawari, Al-Jazeera, 3/30/2018
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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