Palestinian Land Day serves both to commemorate the historical events of March 30, 1976 and to draw attention to the struggles that Palestinians still face because of Israeli aggression and dispossession. 46 years ago marks the murder of six unarmed Palestinian protestors and the injuring of hundreds by Israeli gunfire in Nazareth during the first organized protests against Israeli land expropriation. Land day is now a major commemorative date in the Palestinian political calendar and an important event in the Palestinian collective narrative – one that emphasizes Palestinian resistance to on-going Israeli colonization.
The protests were a result of mass collective action across Palestine, which saw Palestinian communities resisting not only the theft of land but also overall settler colonial policies of erasure. After the catastrophic wars of 1948 and 1967 robbed Palestinians of both their sovereignty and much of their territory, in the spring of 1976 Israel declared its intention to “Judaise” the Galilee, a fertile northern region lined with ancient Palestinian villages. However, what this really was, was a declaration of war against the indigenous people of the Levant that would result in forced removal of Palestinians from their homes, loss of centuries of inhabited Palestinian land and a threat (turned successful) to push the Palestinian people into a state of permanent diaspora.
Facing this existential threat to the physical safety and cohesion of their people, Palestinian leaders decided to mobilize. Demonstrations in towns and villages from Galilee to the Negev were met with violent repression by the Israeli military and police, leaving hundreds of Palestinians arrested, wounded, and six Palestinian civilians dead.
Although it’s important to recognize days like Land Day, it’s more important for the global community to rally for the Palestinian cause and recognize the apartheid, land explusions and forceful colonization of the Israeli state. International players fail to implement the mechanisms that could prevent the colonization of the West Bank and destruction of Gaza - which is consistently backed by its ally: the US (who provides 3.8 Billion dollars in military aid). The West Bank is now merely pockets of non-sovereign Palestinian areas, with all Palestinians facing a system of apartheid.
As we mark Land Day 2022, it is important to note that in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan - two neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem - at least 200 Palestinian families are facing threats of mass expulsion from the homes their families have lived in for generations, to be replaced with Jewish Israeli settlers. That is around 1000 Palestinians total including children who are at risk of displacement.
Today, around Palestinian territories, and the diaspora, protests and initiatives are taking place to not only remember the events that took place, but also to mobilize for peace and future resistance.