Today Palestinians commemorate the 30th anniversary of ‘Land Day’, a day in 1976 when thirteen Palestinians were killed by Israeli police during non-violent protests against Israeli land confiscation of Palestinian land.
Each year, on March 30th, Palestinians renew their rejection of the Israeli land confiscation policy, by which the Israeli government can confiscate Palestinian land and turn it over to new Israeli owners.
Ibrahim Adwan , Coordinator of the Children’s Society in Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza, stated, "Land Day is an important landmark in the Palestinian Israeli conflict. It reminds us of the force that Israel uses to implement their land confiscation. In Rafah, we have had a gathering of children to remember the martyrs killed in 1976."
2006 marks the 30th anniversary of the first Land Day, and this year is especially significant due to the fact that the Israeli leadership has, for the first time since the state’s creation in 1948 on Palestinian land, declared that it will establish its borders.
The anniversary comes just two days after Ehud Olmert won the Israeli elections, reiterating his intention to unilaterally take over 20% of the Palestinian West Bank and surround the rest in enclaves enclosed by a Wall.
Israeli officials have ruled out new talks unless the Palestinian Hamas party changes its ways, and US officials have cut ties with the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.
Marches and protests have been taking place all day, in various parts of the West Bank, Gaza and Israeli. In Lud, south of Tel Aviv in Israeli, Israeli-Arab residents marched from the main mosque in the town and end at a big rally at the town hall.
In Aboud (Ramallah district), a demonstration took place on the land destroyed by the Apartheid Wall.
Palestinians in Bethlehem, Budrus, and Hebron also protested today. In Jayyous (Qalqiliya district), women’s groups from the village marched to the ghetto gate north of the village, challenging the isolation of the village lands which lie behind the Apartheid Wall.
In Jenin and Zbabda, a demonstration marched from the city to the devastated lands and, in a symbolic action revealing determination to resist the dispossession, olive trees were planted on their lands.
In Rafah refugee camp, in southern Gaza, Palestinian children delivered speeches during a celebration on the occasion of the Land Day.
The Palestinian children called for the Arab and Islamic conscience to act responsibly and support Palestinian people and children in the face of the Israeli aggression.
After midday prayers, the students of the University of Jericho marched to lands under threat of confiscation. The organization Stop The Wall said in their press release about the event that "Strengthening the people’s resistance against the annexation of the Jordan Valley, the students will challenge the Zionist plans for settlement expansion throughout the area."
In Salfit, the Israeli military has recently erected gates at the entrances to
Kifl Hares and Marda villages, creating ghettos for the Palestinians inside. Demonstrations took place in both these villages.
In Qalqilia, villagers held a sit-in on their destroyed lands and re-cultivated some of their crops, and in Tulkarem, a demonstration began at noon from the municipality to the checkpoint of Jbara that strangles life in the city.
And in Jerusalem, a number of protestors were injured and four were arrested, incluing two reporters, when Israeli police attacked a Land Day rally that was held there.
On Friday, Israelis will join Palestinians in the West Bank to commemorate land day. The Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, (The Peace Bloc) announced a big demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil’in on Friday.
Uri Avnery, head of Gush Shalom, stated, "30 years later, land confiscation continues in an accelerated pace. Israeli peace activists and internationals call upon the new Israeli government: No to land-grab, No to illegality, No to settlement extension,"
Bil’in is a village that has been holding weekly non-violent protests for the last two years to protest the Israeli government’s ongoing confiscation of their village land.
If Ehud Olmert goes ahead with his announced plan, the Palestinian people will be left with just 17% of their original land. The ‘Palestinian state’ envisioned by the new Israeli leadership will consist of isolated enclaves, surrounded by massive walls with entry and exit controlled by Israel, and no foreign borders with any other state.