Land Day: What it Means and Why it’s Important
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. While government officials claimed that this expropriation was necessary in order to develop the region of Galilee, Israel’s Palestinian citizenry perceived it as another attempt by Israel to geographically marginalize the state’s Arab community and strip it of its agricultural livelihood. Their fears were later confirmed when Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture declared the plan’s primary purpose to be the creation of a Jewish majority in the Arab Galilee.
Having experienced institutionalized discrimination since the Jewish state’s inception, the Palestinians of Israel decided to challenge this latest measure. Almost immediately after the announcement of land expropriation was made, community leaders met in an attempt to organize and communicate a unified message of objection. To deliver this message, a public demonstration was planned at the Knesset. Rather than risk a violent encounter with Israeli police, community leaders decided to cancel the protest and, instead, encourage members of their community to remain indoors making their objections known through a general strike.
Anticipating Palestinian repudiation of the measure, Israeli authorities imposed a curfew on the lower Galilee on the evening of 29 March 1976. The following morning, Israeli police and military forces entered the striking Arab villages, a move which provoked some Arab youth into a stone-throwing demonstration. To the protestors’ dismay, Israeli forces responded with live ammunition, indiscriminately opening fire upon the unarmed protestors. By the day’s end, 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 guise of ‘security.’ 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. To this day, Palestinians, whether Israeli citizens or not, annually mark March 30 as ‘Land Day’ to demonstrate their connection to the land and to honor the memory of those who died defending Palestinian rights to the land.