Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| File 14.6 MB || Time 16m 0s ||Lead: On 29 February 1976, the Israeli government announced that it planned to confiscate 21,000 dunum (5,500 acres) of Arab-owned land in order to create eight Jewish industrial centers. It was another attempt by Israel to geographically marginalize the stateâ€™s Arab community and strip it of its agricultural livelihood. This was made clear by the Israeli government itself when Israelâ€™s Ministry of Agriculture declared the planâ€™s primary purpose was the creation of a Jewish majority in the Arab Galilee.
Having experienced institutionalized discrimination since the Jewish stateâ€™s inception, the Palestinians in Israel decided to challenge the confiscations. Community organizers met and decided to organize a general strike. In response, Israeli authorities announced a curfew on the evening of 29 March 1976. The following morning, Israeli police and military forces entered the striking Arab villages, provoking Palestinian youth into a stone-throwing demonstration. Israeli forces responded with live ammunition, indiscriminately opening fire upon the unarmed protestors. By the end of that day, six residents of Sakhnin, Arabeh, Kufr Kana and Taibeh were killed, 96 others were injured and 300 arrested.
Israeli authorities eventually confiscated the land in question under the now-common guise of â€œsecurity.â€ The territory was later converted to Jewish settlements and an Israeli military training camp. The events of 30 March 1976 have not been forgotten in the minds and hearts of the Palestinian people, and that is why on this day, Palestinian citizens of Israel, together with Jewish Israeli supporters and Palestinians worldwide mark March 30 as â€œLand Dayâ€ to demonstrate their connection to the land and to honor the memory of those who died defending Palestinian rights to the land.
Lead: Fadi Shbaytah, one of the organizers of this year’s demonstration and an organizer with the Popular Committee to Defend Palestinian land and housing in Yaffa explains:
Lead: Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land has continued since the establishment of the Israeli state until the present day. Each year, Land Day demonstrations call attention to the ongoing campaigns to defend Palestinian land from Israeli theft. This year, the demonstration was organized in Yaffa.
Lead: Jaffa, often called the Arous ul-bahr, the Bride of the Sea, was the economic, intellectual, and cultural capital of Palestine before its destruction in 1948. Over 5000 Zionist troops besieged and invaded the city in May of 1948, occupying it on May 13th of that year. Out of the 70,000 Palestinians who used to call Jaffa home, only 3,650 were allowed to stay. Those who were expelled were mostly driven into the sea, forced into whatever boats they could find to escape the heavy gunfire and artillery attacks that destroyed their beloved city.
Those who were expelled now live as refugees all over the world, their properties confiscated by the Israeli state which was declared two days after their expulsion. To this day, they and their descendants demand the implementation of their right to return to their lands and homes in Palestine. These properties were transferred by the Israeli state to quasi state corporations as Fadi Shbaytah explains:
Yaffa was one of over 530 Palestinian cities, towns and villages destroyed by the Zionist forces in the 1948 war, remembered by Palestinians as the Nakba, the catastrophe. Some of the villagers who managed to stay in the new state of Israel, joined those who stayed in Yaffa, and together they make up Yaffa’s 12,000 Arab Palestinian inhabitants today. It is those Palestinians who still face the real threat of land confiscation and eviction today.
Lead: House demolitions, a tactic notoriously used by the Israeli authorities as part of land confiscation as well as collective punishment in the West Bank and Gaza is also used against Palestinian citizens of the Israeli state. Shbaytah explains:
Lead: One of the main issues that this year’s demonstration also called attention to is the confiscation of the historic Palestinian Tasso cemetery in Yaffa.
Lead: Palestinians, however, are unwilling to remain silent in the face of ongoing displacement and ethnic cleansing. Together with Jewish allies, they have organized actions to stop these confiscations.
Lead: The speakers at the demonstration expressed their contempt for the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine, often referring to the current policy as a continuation of the 1948 Nakba. Omar Siksik, a community leader among Palestinian citizens of Israel said:
‘What happened in 1948, displacement and massacre will not be repeated, and we as popular committees will defend each house and every brick and every grain of sand.’
Lead: Taking the point further, Jamal Zahalka of the National Democratic Assembly, a Palestinian political party in the Israeli Knesset declared:
’60 years ago, there was the ethnic cleansing of Yaffa’s people, Yaffa is in our heart, Yaffa is in our conscience, yaffa is in our minds, yaffa is the bride of the sea and yaffa is the bride of Palestine, this is how it was and this is how it will remain. If they think that after 60 years of Nakba, and after the great ethnic cleansing of 1948, they will do this again, we say to them with one voice, we will not allow you to expel us once again, there will not be another nakba in yaffa.’
Lead: One of the most powerful speeches at the demonstration was delivered by Sheikh Raid Salah, a well-respected leader of the Islamic movement among Palestinians in Israel recently released from prison.
‘I was asked several minutes ago by journalists who asked, Why did you come here . I said to them and I still say, we did not come, because we were here anyway, we are here to stay, in the face of the confiscation of our land we are here to stay, in the face of house demolitions we are here to stay, in the face of the hands that extend to steal the land of the Tasso cemetery we are here to stay and all of our holy sites,
And we will keep repeating, through the voices of our men, and women and youth and children, we are here to stay, we are here to stay.
From here in Yafa we say that Every grain of sand, every stone in yaffa, every mosque minaret, every church dome says we are the owners of the land, we are the present and the future of this land, and we will not leave’
Lead: The overwhelming demand that comes out of this year’s land day demonstration is the one for solidarity to confront ongoing Israeli colonial expansion, solidarity among Palestinians and between Palestinians and the people of the world.
Lead: This report has been prepared by Fuad Al-Zir and Ghassan Bannoura for KanYaMakan on CKLN 88.1fm Toronto, and the International Middle East Media Centre, www.imemc.org