Arab-Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians from the West Bank Commemorate 42nd Land Day

Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the West Bank commemorated Land Day on Thursday, March 30, in towns and villages across Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Land Day is held every year on March 30 to commemorate the 1976 deaths of six Arab youths from the north of the country at the hands of Israeli forces during mass demonstrations against a government decision to confiscate Arab lands as part of its ongoing effort to “Judaize” the Galilee.

The government decision to confiscate the land was accompanied by the declaration of a curfew to be imposed on the villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Turan and Kabul, effective from 5 pm on March 29, 1976.

Based on a decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel, Arab leaders such as the late Tawfiq Ziad, the first communist mayor of Nazareth, called for a daylong general strike and protests against the confiscation of lands to be held on March 30. The government declared all demonstrations illegal and threatened to fire government workers, such as schoolteachers, who encouraged their students to participate in the demonstrations.


Hadash MK Dov Khenin in the Arab-Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev Desert on this year’s Land Day, kneels by an olive tree planted next to the memorial built to commemorate Yacoub Abu al-Qee’an, shot dead by Israel police in the course of a home demolition operation conducted there on January 18, 2017.

Hadash MK Dov Khenin in the Arab-Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev Desert on this year’s Land Day, kneels by an olive tree planted next to the memorial built to commemorate Yacoub Abu al-Qee’an, shot dead by Israel police in the course of a home demolition operation conducted there on January 18, 2017. (Photo: Al Ittihad)

In Deir Hanna, in northern Israel, thousands gathered on Thursday at a large protest to commemorate the events of 1976. At around noon, hundreds marched from the northern city of Saknin to Deir Hanna, where the main rally was held to mark 41 years since the first Land Day. Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) told the crowd: “Land Day is the most important day in the history of the Arab public’s struggle for equality in Israel.” He continued: “This year in the shadow of government’s wild incitement against us, in the shadow of the home demolitions and the legislation whose only goal is to harm and incite against the Arab public — this day and this struggle are more important than ever. We stand united against the bulldozers and against the incitement of the prime minister and his ministers.” Odeh reflected how “After [the first] Land Day, our situation improved, we increased our resistance and held our heads higher than before. Therefore, the martyrdom of Raja Abu Rayya, Khader Khalaily, Khadija Shawarni, Khair Yassin and Muhsen Taha, Rafat al-Zheiri had a meaning,” referring to the six slain Arab-Palestinians.

In the Arab-Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev, residents and activists built a memorial for Yacoub Abu al-Qee’an, who was shot dead by police in last January. Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) who joined the event, explained why he chose to come to the village: “This place is the clearest symbol for the story of Land Day: in 1976 Arab citizens came out to struggle for their land, for justice and equality in this land, and six of them were shot dead by the police and the army.” “This past year saw another victim. This is the memorial for Yacoub Abu Al-Qi’an, who was shot dead here on the land of Umm al-Hiran — a small village that the government has decided to demolish,” Khenin said.

During this year’s Land Day, several Communist Party of Israel and Hadash local committees organized events in cities and villages, including planting olive trees and renovating old houses.

Land Day Protests in Occupied West Bank Met by Army Violence

Israeli forces suppressed multiple protests in the occupied West Bank, leading to the injury of dozens of peaceful Palestinian protesters. Fifty Palestinians were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets while dozens others suffered from severe tear-gas inhalation as Israeli forces suppressed a march in the village of Madama southwest of Nablus in the northern West Bank. The protest was held near the village’s land that had been seized by the Israeli government to construct the illegal Israeli Yitzhar settlement.

The Palestinian Red Crescent told Ma’an Palestinian news agency that among the injured were deputy governor of Nablus Anan al-Atiri and member of the communist People’s Party politburo Khalid Mansour. Protesters set off from the southern area of the village and walked towards the Yitzhar settlement with the intention of planting trees on their village’s confiscated lands.

Ihab Tahsin, a member of the Madama village council, told Ma’an: “We plant these lands so our children will grow up remembering their land and continue planting them so one day the lands will return to us.” The governor of Nablus, Akram al-Rjoub, told Ma’an that “today we need to be in our lands, to boost our resistance and existence in the area and to empower popular resistance against the Israeli occupation forces and settlers.”

Israeli forces also suppressed a march in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, as locals protested in commemoration of Land Day. Residents in the town of Beit Jala set off from the Arab Orthodox Club and headed towards the Israeli separation wall, which cuts through Palestinian lands in Beit Jala in order to separate the town from Israel’s illegal Gilo and Har Gilo settlements, both constructed on Palestinian lands in the area.

Israeli forces fired tear gas and sound bombs at lawyers, activists and members of the Palestinian education ministry who participated in the march. In the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, Israeli forces detained four Palestinian activists Thursday afternoon during a demonstration for Land Day in Hebron city near the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The detainees were activists from the Defending Hebron Committee, and were identified by locals as Anas Samir Daana, activist at Defenders of Human Rights Badie al-Dweik, Head of the Committee against the Wall and Settlements in the Southern West Bank Younes Arrar, and activist Ishaq al-Khatib.

The demonstration was organized by the National Campaign to End the Siege on Central Hebron. Head of the campaign Muhannad al-Jaabari said that the Land Day activity was centered on planting trees in the Wadi al-Hassin area near Kiryat Arba.