By HE Hanan Jarrar, Ambassador of the State of Palestine to South Africa
31 March 2021
Around the world, Palestinians have commemorated Land Day on 30 March each year since 1976. On that day, thousands of Palestinians from towns and villages in the Galilee region, northern Israel, marched in protest against an Israeli order to confiscate land belonging to indigenous communities in the area. The equivalent of 2000 hectares was ordered for appropriation.
Israel's attempt to seize land was viewed as a continuation of the policy to convert the territory at the expense of Palestinians. The vast majority had already been expelled by Israel and the land and property they left behind was seized by the Israeli government through dubious legal means. To protest against the new measures, the Palestinian population declared a general strike.
In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six unarmed Palestinians were killed in a cold blood, about one hundred were wounded, and hundreds of others were arrested.
Historians documenting the incident reported that Israeli forces broke into Palestinian villages and coordinated operations against protestors in a manner usually seen in combat, despite the fact that the protestors were citizens of Israel expressing their outrage against state oppression.
Over the years, Palestinians hold vigils and plant trees in solidarity with those who lost their lives resisting Israeli aggression on this day.
The Land Day protest is regarded as a major turning point as it was the first time that Palestinians within Israel, who had lived under martial law since Israel's founding, had mobilised to resist ongoing land theft.
Commemorative events are held by Palestinians across the world as further reaffirmation of the unity between Palestinians who remained and those who were expelled by Israel. The vigils also draw attention to the continuation of the policy of settler-colonialism that has been aggressively pursued by subsequent Israeli governments since the founding of the country to this day.
This day has become an important annual day of commemoration in the Palestinian national political calendar ever since, it is marked not only by Arab citizens of "Israel", but also by Palestinians all over the world.
The Land Day every year is an affirmation that the land is the core issue in ourstruggle against the Israeli occupation, and an expression of the Palestinian people's adherence to the land of their forefathers and grandparents and their rejection of the settler colonial policies and procedures that target their national and historical presence on their land.