Thousands Commemorate Land Day in Sakhnin

Thousands of Arab-Palestinians citizens of Israel took part Thursday in a rally in the city of Sakhnin, commemorating the 47th anniversary of the Land Day. The participants waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans that affirmed their right to their land and condemned the racist policies of fascist Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Land Day rally in Sakhnin, March 30, 2023 (Photo Zo Haderech)

In his speech at the rally, the chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and leading Communist Party of Israel activist, Muhammad Barakeh, said that “our land is the core of our struggle” against racism. 

Moreover, the mayor of Sakhnin, Dr. Safwat Abu Raya (Hadash), said that the Palestinian people have been commemorating Land Day for decades to honor the sacrifices of the Palestinian martyrs who were killed in 1976. “This demonstration is happening under a fascist government and against the backdrop of growing racism, which has become mainstream in Israel,” Hadash-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi told AFP.

On March 11, 1976, Israel’s government, then headed by Yitzhak Rabin, published a plan to expropriate some 20,000 dunams (2,000 hectares or 4,942 acres) of land stretching between the neighboring Arab cities of Sakhnin and Arabeh in the Galilee, 6,300 dunams of which were privately owned by Arab residents of the area. In response to this plan, following a decision by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel, local Arab leaders called for a day of general strikes and mass protests against the confiscation of lands to be held on March 30. The mayor of Nazareth, the communist Tawfiq Ziad, was among the local Arab leaders who made such a call.

To frustrate the protest of the Arab community, the governmental declared a curfew to be imposed on the villages of Sakhnin, Arabeh, Deir Hanna, Tu’ran, Tamra and Kabul, effective from 17:00 on March 29, 1976, the day before the general strike. Rabin’s government declared all demonstrations illegal and threatened to dismiss from their jobs any “agitators,” such as schoolteachers, who encouraged their students to participate. However, the threats were not effective, and many teachers led their pupils out of the classrooms to join the general strike and marches that took place throughout the Arab towns in Israel and which were violently suppressed by the military and police.

On March 30, 1976, thousands of Arab-Palestinians in the northern Galilee region demonstrated against the seizure of Arab land, prompting Israeli troops to use lethal force, killing six Palestinians. In the wake of the first Land Day, a year later, in 1977, the Communist Party of Israel and other progressive forces founded the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash – Jabha).

For the last 47 years, Palestinians have been commemorating the deadly events by holding marches in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Arab villages in Israel.