RAMALLAH: Thousands of Palestinians on Wednesday marked the 46th anniversary of Land Day with protests and demonstrations reiterating their continuing determination to oppose Israeli occupation.
It commemorates the day on March 30, 1976, when Israeli police officers killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured 49 who were protesting against the Israeli government’s expropriation of 21,000 donums of Palestinian land. A donum is a local measure of land area equivalent to about 900 square meters.
Land Day has been established as a major commemorative date on the Palestinian political calendar and an important annual event in the collective narrative of the Palestinian people.
In the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, thousands of Palestinians attended a massive demonstration, including leaders of national and Islamic groups. Participants raised Palestinian flags and released balloons featuring images of Palestinian “martyrs,” including the perpetrators of recent attacks in Israel.
“The day is an important message to the (Israeli) occupation that emphasizes the importance of the struggle of our people. We continue their sacrifices with steadfastness,” said Maher Mezher, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
“We will continue to stand and support our people at home in facing the fascist policy of the occupation and are always ready to offer blood and sacrifices for our people. We warn the occupation against the continuation of its barbaric aggression against our people in the occupied lands.”
He called on all “patriots” to formulate a national program based on the elements of power, strengthen and expand it, begin a new stage of revival, leave behind stagnation and confront the normalization of the Israeli occupation, and enhance all forms of support and value for the Palestinian people, especially those in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
This year Land Day coincided with fears of renewed confrontation after three attacks in a week in Israel. It also came just a few days before the start of Ramadan, during which it is feared that the bloody events of last year will be repeated.
Palestinian citizens of Israel commemorated the anniversary of Land Day with a series of events, including the laying of wreaths on the tombs of “martyrs.” Activities were organized in Sakhnin and Arraba, and in Deir Hanna the day culminated in a march and a festival.
Muhammad Baraka, head of the High Follow-up Committee for Arabs in Israel, said the anniversary takes place this year amid a “fierce escalation on Arab lands” and that “the issue of land and housing tops the priorities of our problems, along with other urgent matters such as the escalation of crime and the continuation of racial-discrimination policies.”
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said that Israeli authorities continue their “policy of land robbery and efforts to displace the Palestinian and Arab population, displacing them from their lands and demolishing homes, whether within the Green Line or in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan.”
Palestinians view the commemoration of Land Day as not only a remembrance of historical events but as an element in its own right of the battle in a continuous war to restore Palestinian rights.
Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of political party the Palestinian National Initiative, told Arab News: “Land Day symbolizes the unity of the Palestinian struggle against the racist apartheid regime that poses a threat to all Palestinians.
“All attempts for normalization have collapsed due to the Palestinian resistance, which has proven that it is impossible to marginalize the Palestinian cause and that the Palestinian people will not give up their rights.”