A day to unite against Israel’s colonisation
On 30 March 1976, the Israeli government announced plans to expropriate 2,000 hectares of land in the Galilee region. Thousands of people from the Palestinian minority in Israel protested against the government plans. In the resulting confrontation with Israeli security forces, six Palestinians were killed, hundreds wounded, and hundreds jailed. Since then, Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and throughout the diaspora have been taking to the streets to commemorate the day’s loss of land and lives.
|Palestinians inside of Israel are a marginalized community.|
Land Day was the first time there were mass demonstrations by Palestinians inside Israel. The event thus symbolises and solidifies the unity of the fragmented Palestinian community across the world. The day has also come to symbolise the Palestinian struggle for their land. In doing so, it has helped raise awareness among the international community about Israel’s continuous land expropriation and flagrant human rights violations.
Palestinians in Israel
Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise 20 percent of the total population, totalling almost 1.2 million people. These are the Palestinians who remained in their homeland after the establishment of Israel in 1948, becoming an involuntary minority. Israel defines itself as a “the Jewish state” or “the State of the Jewish people”, definitions that make inequality a practical, political and ideological reality for its Palestinian citizens. Palestinians inside of Israel are a marginalized community and are discriminated against by the state on the basis of their national belonging and religious affiliation as non-Jews.
Discrimination against Palestinians in Israel takes place on a legal and political basis. There are more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel based solely on their ethnicity. Policies have been structured to institutionalise discrimination against the Palestinian minority in Israel, which has further entrenched inequalities between Palestinians and Jewish citizens.
Ninety-three percent of the land in Israel is owned by the government or by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF was founded in 1901 and serves to exclude and dispossess Palestinians from their land. Palestinian citizens of Israel therefore face many legal obstacles in gaining access to land for agriculture, residence or commercial development. These deep-rooted strategies to further marginalise Palestinian citizens of Israel highlights the prejudice of the Israeli state against its own Palestinian minority.
The importance of Land Day
Thirty-nine years later, Land Day does not only mark a historical event, but emphasises Israel’s on going violent, settler-colonial process. This has included daily house demolitions, the expansion of illegal settlements and the creation of new settlements in the West Bank. In addition to this, land grabs by the JNF have taken place in order to create national parks on Palestinian areas, wiping out Palestinian land and history. These all serve as ways that Israel is annexing and judaizing Palestinian land.
Israel continues to steal land from Palestinians on a daily basis, displacing them in every area, from Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank to the Negev in the south. Land Day therefore will continue for future generations to highlight and expose Israeli crimes against Palestinians.
The day is also an opportunity for the international community to speak up and to hold Israel accountable for its violations, and deliberate acts of aggression and violence against the Palestinian people. For Palestinians, it is a day to unite against Israel’s occupation and colonisation.