Palestinian Land Day - Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does Land Day commemorate?
Land Day, known as ‘Youm al-Ard’ in Arabic, commemorates the bloody killing of six Palestinians in the Galilee on March 30, 1976 by Israeli troops during peaceful protests over the confiscation of Palestinian lands.
It has since become a painful reminder of Israeli injustice and oppression against the Palestinian people, and a day for demonstration linking all Palestinians in their struggle against occupation, self-determination and national liberation.
2. What happened on Land Day?
Israeli authorities announced the confiscation of a total of 5,500 acres of land from Palestinian villages in the Galilee, and classified them as "closed military zones." The expropriated lands later fell subject to heavy illegal settlement expansion.
The confiscation of land led Palestinians within the 1948 borders to hold a general strike of repudiation, protesting the expropriation and colonization of their land.
Israeli army and police responded to the demonstrations with violence, killing 6 Palestinians, in addition to injuring 96 others and arresting over 300.
Arab villages and towns were declared as closed military zones by the Israeli authorities and a curfew imposed on a number of them.
3. How will Land Day be commemorated this year?
This year's commemoration will take place in the shadow of Israeli hostilities that has seen the murder of Palestinians escalating unchecked, continued land confiscation, closures, mass curfews and an Israeli separation wall fragmenting Palestinian territories, rendering them unviable.
The National Committee to Resist the Wall calls for the following activities:
4. How Much Land has been confiscated by Israel since Land Day in 1976?
Since 1967 Israel has confiscated more than 750,000 acres of land from the 1.5 million acres comprising the West Bank and Gaza.
Most of the land has been confiscated to make space for illegal settlement expansions, and bypass roads that are limited exclusively to Israeli settlers.
In 1948 and the subsequent few years, Israel confiscated nearly 85 percent of the territory within the Green Line from Palestinians. Most of this land was taken from the 800,000 Palestinian refugees, who were evicted or fled for fear of massacres during the 1948 war.
5. Is land still being confiscated by Israel?
As we mark the 28th anniversary of Palestinian “Land Day,” Israel’s illegal settlement expansion and land confiscation continues unabated, even at a time in which the need for reconciliation, peace and justice is more pressing than ever before.
Furthermore, the ongoing construction of the Israeli separation wall, which has been described by a UN report as a “creeping annexation”, involves the confiscation of large amounts of fertile Palestinian land.
The separation wall will annex 45% of the West Bank territory, leaving all Palestinians to live in 12% of historical Palestine.
In the wall’s first phase alone some 2850 acres of agricultural land were damaged.
6. How does Israel confiscate Palestinian Land?
In the areas occupied in 1967, Israel suffices itself with military orders, of which over 1300 have been issued so far, and which can be contested only with great difficulty. No cases of significance are known to have succeeded in reversing Israeli expropriation orders.
For the end of confiscation of lands and properties falling within Israel the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed dozens of laws facilitating that end, such as the The Absentee Property law and the Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law.
7. What is the Absentee Property law?
The law, which in Arabic is called ‘Qanoon Elhader/Gayeb’, adopted in March 1950, classified anyone who was a citizen or resident of one of the Arab states or a Palestinian citizen on 29 November, 1947 but had left his place of residence, even to take refuge within Palestine, as an ‘absentee’. Absentee property was vested in the Custodian of Absentee Property who then ‘sold’ it to the Development Authority. This effectively authorized the theft of the property of a million Arabs, seized by Israel in 1948.
8. What is the Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law?
The law, adopted in July 1950, was devised as a legal ploy to shield Israel's government from the accusation that it has confiscated abandoned property. The Development Authority is an independent body empowered to sell, buy, lease, exchange, repair, build, develop and cultivate Palestinian property. None of these transactions could take place except with a Jew or a Jewish entity.
9. Are there any relevant UN resolutions?
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 clearly asserts that the "…occupying power cannot move segments of its own population to parts of the land it occupies," or make any demographic or territorial changes that are not in the interest of the occupied.
Furthermore, provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention have unquestionably condemned Israel’s settlement activities and demanded the ceasing of “all” settlement expansion by Israel.
UN Security Council Resolution 681 (1990) confirmed that the Forth Geneva Convention is applicable to the Occupied Territories and thus Israel’s compliance mandatory.
10. Has the Israeli government changed its policies regarding land confiscation and settlement activity with the emergence of a peace process in 1994?
The Israeli government has evidently not made any efforts, or expressed willingness, to alter its policies. Israel continued to expropriate Palestinian lands and build illegal settlements, while concurrently engaged in the U.S. mediated peace plan that required it to cease all settlement expansion.
In fact settlement activity during those years saw an increase of almost 50% from 96,158 in June 1992 to 145,000 in June 1996.
Israeli confiscation and settlement policies were addressed in a number of initiatives such as the Mitchell Plan and the Road Map which aimed to restore the peace process, but were unsuccessful in eliciting Israeli compliance.
11. What needs to be done / What can be done?
The international community needs to decisively and effectively compel Israel to abide by the UN Security Council Resolutions, stop all land theft and cease all settlement activities on occupied Palestinian land.