Sunday, March 28, 2010

It is Their Land and it's all about The Land!

It is Their Land and it's all about The Land!

 “Land Day” commemorates the killing of six Palestinians, 96 wounded and 300 arrested on March 30, 1976, in the Galilee. The anticipated peaceful demonstration by Palestinians was a response to Israeli authorities that had announced the confiscation of 5,500 acres of their land which Israel classified as "closed military zones" for “security and settlement purposes.”


At a March 27, 2010, rally in the village of Izbet Al-Tabeeb, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad marked “Land Day” by calling on Palestinians to “hold on to their lands” instead of “a popular uprising in the West Bank” and that “every day in which the Palestinian people hold on to their land is ‘Land Day’.”


Fayyad responded to Hamas’ call for a third Intifada to protest Israeli policies, “This is our answer to those who call for a popular uprising in the West Bank…The Palestinian people constantly resist the occupation. The next phase is an uprising and an intifada. Those who call for an intifada now do not know what it means. This call stems from a lack of understanding of the word ‘intifada’ and a lack of understanding of the Palestinian nation and the character of its struggle. The steadfastness in our lands is our answer to those who call for a popular uprising in the West Bank.” [1]


Other speakers at the rally included Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi of the Palestinian National Initiative Party, Palestinian Parliament Members Mahmoud Al Aloul, top Fatah official Hatim Abdulqader, Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery and Arab Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh.


Avnery slammed Israel’s policies, saying they led to the events of 1976 and called for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation to advance peace. Barakeh urged the Palestinian political factions “to seek unity to face Israeli policies” and that “this day is a letter to the Israeli government that the Palestinians are unified against the Separation Wall and its policy against our brothers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” [Ibid]


 On “Land Day” in 2006, just after the break of dawn, a group of Israeli Jews and I traveled three hours north of Jerusalem to the lower Galilee municipality of Sakhnin, an Arab village whose land continues to be grabbed and colonized by Israel.


Ronnie, a Canadian who moved to Israel with the desire to help build a civil society, is a co-founder of Women in Black and active with Machsom Watch/women at the checkpoints who watch for and report on human rights abuse. She laughed as she told me, "A friend said that I am so Left that if I ever gets to heaven I will probably argue with God that those in hell just didn't get a fair deal."


Ronnie turned serious and continued, "Religion is used as a cover, but it's all about the land! It's convenient to claim one is doing something for God but the laws are made to take the land. We don't have settlers in Israel -the common name for illegal colonists in the West Bank-we just take it! First it is claimed to be for military reasons then it'll become a park or agricultural land that the state has confiscated.


"The Palestinians who did not leave in '48 but remained here still have lost their land. They can't get permits to build... I am opposed to the occupation and as an Israeli Jew I want to see justice for all...and I refuse to be enemies with anyone."


Over 100 Israeli's, Arab Christians, Muslims, atheists, communists and internationals attended a tour of Sakhnin and conference coordinated by Batshalom and The Women's Coalition for Peace and Justice.


I learned that not only had Israel confiscated acres of the most fertile of Palestinian land they had also placed land mines all over the land. Many farmers and other innocent ones lost their lives or legs, so people quit caring for their groves and the Israeli government declared the village of Sakhnin a military zone.


A few years prior, the President of Israel had declared that the people of Sakhnin, deserved to have their land back. But the Israeli county of Misgav, abetted by the Israeli Land Authority continued to collect taxes from the indigenous people but not return any land or issue permits for Palestinians to build upon their legally owned property.


An Israeli peace activist commented, "In 2000 during Land Day, hundred's of nonviolent protesters were arrested and we were hit with tear gas and rubber bullets. Name it and we have had it!"


Another told me, "I am an Israeli Jew and I am responsible to change something about this situation. We all need to do this together."


The speakers spoke in Arabic or Hebrew, and my interpreter was Aliyah [Hebrew for "Go Up"], who was born in St. Louis, grew up in Cleveland and moved to Israel in 1948.


She told me, "My Father was born in Jerusalem and I was a Zionist, but now I am not so sure. I still want the Jewish people to have a state but it must be honest and moral, I don't want a piranha state! Before 1967 I was euphoric! My husband and I began to learn that there were Israelis who you could call prophets, who said we must return the land and make peace. Then a fundamentalist Jewish group, The Gush Emunim began erecting the settlements in the newly possessed land.


"When Israel went into Lebanon I was infuriated! I demonstrated against the massacres at Shatila and Shabra. Eighteen years of Israel in Lebanon is what built up the Hezbollah! The Israelis supported the group at first because they hoped the Hezbollah would be against the Palestinian refugees in South Lebanon."


I inquired, "Isn't that what Israel did with Hamas? Didn't they originally support Hamas to be a wedge against the PLO?"


Aliyah replied, "Yes, stupidity repeats itself!"


In the Northern part of Israel 53% of the population are Jews who control 80% of the land. Palestinians are 47% of the population with only 20% of the land.


Sakhnin’s 25,000 people are allowed to access less than 10,000 dunums of their land but they only control half of that. In 1948 they owned and controlled 170,000 dunums.


A Defense Industry and Army base complex a few miles from where we stood had a most mysterious warehouse. Aliyah remarked, "No one knows what is going on inside, but it may be a nuclear reactor. The municipality asked the army to develop in another direction for there is a school over there too. The Israelis are allowed to expand anywhere, but the people of Sakhnin are not allowed permits to builds on their own land.


“I really became aware of what was going on in the '80's. I had been invited to a meeting of The Bridge for Peace and Coexistence, which is a group of Arab and Jewish activists. A man asked me where I was living and when I answered Bneitz-ion. He calmly and politely told me ‘That is my Uncle's land.’’


Since 1967 Israel has confiscated more than 750,000 acres of land from the 1.5 million acres that comprise the West Bank and Gaza. Most of the land has been confiscated to make space for settlement expansion and bypass roads that are for the exclusive use of Israeli colonists.


Since 1948, Israel has confiscated nearly 85 percent of the territory within the Green Line from Palestinians. Most of this land was taken from the 750,000 Palestinian’s who were made refugees when they were evicted or fled in fear during the 1948 war.


The Israeli Knesset (Israeli parliament) has passed dozens of laws in defiance of U.N. Resolutions and International Law, such as The Absentee Property law and the Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law.


This law, which in Arabic is called 'Qanoon Elhader/Gayeb', was adopted in March 1950. It classifies anyone who was a citizen or resident of one of the Arab states or a Palestinian citizen on November 29, 1947, but had left his place of residence-even to take refuge within Palestine- as an 'absentee'. Absentee property was vested in the Custodian of Absentee Property who then 'sold' it to the Development Authority. This effectively authorized the theft of the property of a million Arabs, seized by Israel in 1948.


Adopted in July 1950, this law was devised as a legal ploy to shield the Israeli government from the accusation that it had confiscated abandoned property. The Development Authority is an independent body empowered to sell, buy, lease, exchange, repair, build, develop and cultivate Palestinian property. None of these transactions could take place except with a Jew or a Jewish entity!


United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 clearly asserts that the "occupying power cannot move segments of its own population to parts of the land it occupies," or make any demographic or territorial changes that are not in the interest of the occupied. Furthermore, provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention have unquestionably condemned Israel's settlement activities and demanded the ceasing of "all" settlement expansion by Israel.


UN Security Council Resolution 681 (1990) confirmed that the Forth Geneva Convention is applicable to the Occupied Territories and thus Israel's compliance is mandatory.


Israel's illegal settlement expansion and land confiscation continues unabated. The Israeli separation wall, which has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice was described by a UN report as a “creeping annexation” and confiscation of the most fertile of Palestinian land and water sources.


In 2007, Hannah Mermelstein, a co-founder of Birthright Unplugged who lives in Boston, Philadelphia and Ramallah wrote regarding “Land Day” that, “On March 20, 1941, Yosef Weitz of the Jewish National Fund wrote: ‘The complete evacuation of the country from its other inhabitants and handing it over to the Jewish people is the answer.’


“Yosef Weitz's wish was granted. In my name, and in the name of Jewish people throughout the world, an indigenous population was almost completely expelled. Village names have been removed from the map, houses blown up, and new forests planted. In Arabic, this is called the Nakba, or catastrophe. In Israel, this is called ‘independence.’ 


“As we approach the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel, the 60th anniversary of the Nakba…Let us remember more than 6 million people whose basic human rights have been deprived for 60 years, and let us, as Jewish people with a history of oppression and a tradition of social justice, work for the right of indigenous people to return to their land. This is our only hope for true peace and security in the region.” [2]







Other Sources:


Only in Solidarity do "we have it in our power to begin the world again."-Tom Paine


Eileen Fleming,

Founder of

A Feature Correspondent for

Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"  

Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"

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