MIFTAH
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Sunday, 19 September. 2021
 
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy
 
 
 

Today marks yet another black day in Palestinian history, known to all Palestinians as Land Day. On March 30, 1976, six Palestinians from Arab villages inside the Green Line were shot and killed by Israeli forces while protesting the order to confiscate 5,500 acres of land from the Galilee. Since then, Land Day has been commemorated by Palestinians inside Israel as well as Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.

Land Day is significant to the Palestinians on a number of levels. For the Palestinians who remained in their homes after the horrors of the 1948 War, it is a reminder of their existence, of the right to their own land and their own identity. The protests of March, 1976 marked the first major protest against Israeli rule by the indigenous population since the establishment of the Jewish state almost 30 years earlier. Still reeling from the atrocities Israel carried out during the war, the creation of the refugee problem, the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages, the horrific massacres and the Palestinians' demotion to second-class citizens virtually overnight was perhaps the slow churning wheel that led up to the eventful day.

Hence, the threat of additional confiscation of land could not be tolerated and the people rose up, for the first time in unison and as one national body. People refused to go to work and the strike and protests took Israel by surprise. At the time, Israel revoked its decision and despite the six deaths and several injuries, the action was considered a success.

As it should be. Since then, Israel has whittled down Palestinian-owned land in historical Palestine from 94 percent pre-1948 to less than three percent today. However, Land Day has effectively kept the issue of Palestinian land on the agenda and in the collective minds of all Palestinians. It is also a reminder that our people inside the Green Line share a similar fate with all Palestinians whether they live inside what is now Israel, in the occupied Palestinian territories or in the refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. For the Palestinians, it has and always will be about land. Land, which they rightfully owned and which was illegally taken from them, either in Israel's wars on the Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 or through their more insidious measures ever since.

Israel understands just as well as the Palestinians that the conflict is about land. That is why illegal settlements continue to sprout up on occupied Palestinian land complete with their infrastructure and bypass roads that swallow up even more area. There is the separation wall, snaking through West Bank territory, cutting off Palestinians from one another and from their land off of which they live. The wall, when completed will directly affect 50 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank through its isolation or land expropriation. Then of course, there are the outright confiscations Israel declares are necessary for "Jewish communities" [i.e. settlements], checkpoints and roads, all land owned and passed down for generations by Palestinians.

For Israel, creating more facts on the ground in terms of usurping Palestinian land better serves their long-term goal of preventing any sustainable, viable and contiguous Palestinian entity in the future. Their rush to devour as much land as possible in the occupied Palestinian territories is for this very reason. The repeated impasses in the peace process are not coincidental nor are they a result of any "lack of a Palestinian partner." They are a systematic and well-thought out policy by Israel's Zionist establishment that aims to encroach on as much Palestinian territory as possible before any permanent settlement is finally imposed. This way, when the world grows tired of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and insists on a solution, Israel will already have completed its sinister workings and there will hardly be anything remaining over which to settle. One only has to look at the situation today vis-à-vis Palestinian land, to see how this policy has become fact. One only has to travel to Bilin and Niln each Friday to see the determination of the people not to let Israel take even more land than already gone.

In Palestinian communities inside the Green Line, it is much the same principle. In 1976, Palestinians found the strength to unite and remind Israel that their existence is not to be taken for granted. Every year since then, Palestinians everywhere hold rallies, activities and demonstrations to commemorate this day and stand witness to the ongoing struggle to retain land that is rightfully theirs.

It is not a choice. For every Palestinian, it is an obligation to hold the memory of those six who offered their lives for a greater cause close to our hearts and minds along with the tens of thousands of other Palestinians who did the same. It is a duty to fight this battle for our land to the bitter end because if not about land and existence, what are we really fighting for?

 
 
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