Land Day: What it Means and Why it’s Important

By Yousef


Today, March 30th, marks Land Day or Youm Al Ard in Arabic. Perhaps more than May 15th, when the Nakba is often marked, or June 5th, when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is marked, Land Day is symbolic of the totality of the Palestinian struggle. It’s a day that refugees, who dwell in dismal camps dreaming of return, internally displaced or marginalized Palestinians in Israel and Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza are bound together in commemoration of what the Palestinian struggle is all about: a people’s desire to live free on their native land.

So what precisely is Land Day? An info brief here, which is worth reading in its entirety, explains:

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.

Things haven’t gotten much easier for Palestinian citizens of Israel and we are holding an event on the challenges they face in particular next week which you can attend in DC or watch live from anywhere in the world.

But it’s not only Palestinians who are marking Land Day this year. Palestine solidarity activists in the United States and around the world are working to bring attention to the BDS movement on this day. The YouTube video below shows how one such group in New York decided to do just that by breaking out into a flashmob dance, reworking the lyrics to a popular Journey song, in the middle of Grand Central Station last night.

Oh yeah, the Israeli military marked Land Day as well.


  1. Redpossum said,

    March 31, 2011 at 16:24

    So, to cut right to the ugly core of the matter, how are we going to obtain justice for those displaced and robbed Palestinians without driving the Israelis off the land? If you eschew and condemn the use of force, by what means do you propose to obtain justice?

    If you say peaceful protest and brotherly love, I am going to snicker at you most disrespectfully, because the Israelis show no sign, and have never shown any sign, of responding to that.

    What is the one Arab nation that has ever gotten any land back from Israel? Egypt, which won back the Sinai. How did that occur? It occurred in the immediate aftermath of a convincing display of force, in which Egyptian forces inflicted heavy casualties upon the Israeli military.

    Granted, that occurred because of the surprise effect of the first battlefield use of wire-guided anti-tank missiles launched by infantry. And even then, those missiles were only so devastating because the Israelis had gotten sloppy about combined-arms doctrine and started using pure tank forces unsupported by infantry.

    Granted all that, and granted that such technological surprise is unlikely to occur again in the absence of a credible sponsor who can rival US technology. Yes, granted all the above, the fact still remains. The only time the Israelis have ever given up any land was when force had been successfully applied against them.

    This is a fact which even the most saintly of pacifists cannot credibly dispute.

  2. Occupied Palestine said,

    March 31, 2011 at 23:05

    @Redpossum Baby steps beginning with Israelis leaving Palestinian territory according to 1967 borders. Even though they still have control over Gaza, there were Israeli settlements which were abandoned although not as much as Sinai. So they’ve done this before and any Israeli who settled in the West Bank or East Jerusalem should have known there was no way it was permanent. From there though, I know in my lifetime that Israel as a state is bound to fall. Israel is hated internationally and thanks to the Internet most American citizens (our people, not our pro-Israel foreign policy makers) hate them too. You can’t go on forever when everybody around you (and not just the neighbors) don’t like you. You can’t pull the A-card either since it doesn’t mean anything these days. That’s my opinion at least.

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