Land Day: A Day of Reckoning, 39 Years Later

By Jamal Kanj

If you are like me, I am sure you are tired of reading about the results of the last Israeli election. Or on Benjamin Netanyahu’s Hebrew pledge running up to the election and his flip-flopped English version after winning the election.

I want instead to highlight the native Palestinian Israeli citizens who ran on a united list for the first time since they started to participate in the election. These Palestinians were the sons and daughters of approximately 150,000 who remained in their original homes, or became internal refugees when their villages were among the 500 that were destroyed by Israel in 1948.

Tomorrow, these Palestinians will mark the 39th anniversary of Land Day. It is an annual event commemorating the day when on March 30, 1976 they confronted Israeli government plans to expropriate approximately 20,000 dunams to build new Jewish-only colonies in the northern Galilee region.

Soon after it came into existence in 1948, Israel established two systems of government: one for Jews and another for the non-Jewish Israeli citizens. Jews enjoyed life under civilian law while Palestinians – supposedly equal under the law – lived under special military administration and were ruled by an appointed Jewish military governor.

This system of inequality which was in effect for 18 years was used to stop internal refugees from going back to their original villages. This is while Israel built new exclusive Jewish colonies for new immigrants, in many instances in the very homes and within eyesight of the non-Jewish “Israeli citizens” internal refugees.

In addition to official government and municipal policies to hinder the development of non-Jewish villages, Israel established physical barriers to curb the expansion of Palestinian towns by building highways at the villages’ boundaries or surrounded them with a ring of Jewish-only colonies.

On March 29, 1976 Israel issued orders to confiscate more land from the non-Jewish citizens and imposed curfew on several of their villages. After 28 years of suppressing their Palestinian identity, local leaders responded to the Israeli order by calling for a general strike and mass protests on March 30.

The general strike against Israel’s Jewish-centric policies was overwhelming from Galilee in the north to Negev in the south. Israeli army reinforced by more than 4,000 police officers attacked the civil demonstrators killing four, three were women, injuring more than 100 and arresting several hundreds.

At large, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and in refugee camps in Lebanon stood in unison in solidarity with their brothers who for 28 years remained in the forefront of the fight to unmask Israeli racism.

Today, as we observe Land Day 39 years later, Israeli policymakers have introduced the Prawer plan targeting thousands more non-Jewish Israeli citizens, but now in the Negev desert.

The new Israeli plan calls for demolishing 35 Bedouin villages and to remove their inhabitants from their ancestral homes. According to the UN human rights chief, the new Jewish Prawer plan will force thousands “… to give up their homes, denying them their rights to land ownership, and decimating their traditional cultural and social life…”

Last week, Israeli electorates chose again the proponents of the ethno-centric Jewish State (JS) who promised to undermine the US vision of two states for two people and ended all hopes for a negotiated peaceful settlement.

“Whoever is with us should get everything; but whoever is against us…We have to lift up an axe and remove his head.” This was not a quote from Al Baghdadi of the Islamic State (IS), but was what JS leader Avigdor Lieberman pledged at a campaign rally before his re-election.

On this Land Day, while world powers have recognized the danger of religion-centric IS, it is ironic that some of the same governments are urging Palestinians to accept Lieberman’s “axe” wielding Jewish version of the Islamic State.

- Jamal Kanj ( writes weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to (A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.)


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