Direct actions, rallies and protests took place across Palestine and in numerous cities across the world on 30 March to commemorate the 35th annual Land Day, an important day of remembrance for six Palestinians with Israeli citizenship gunned down by Israeli forces in 1976 during a general strike in protest of expanded land confiscation inside the state.
In addition to the six killed, hundreds were arrested, imprisoned and injured during the general strike and protests after the Israeli government announced plans to expropriate more land for Jewish-only settlements. Since then, annual events have been held to honor those killed while highlighting the struggle for Palestinian land rights inside Israel, the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, and across the global refugee diaspora.
Many events incorporated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) strategies and direct actions, as the ongoing Palestinian-led call for BDS grows in worldwide response to Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing practices. According to the BDS movement website, more than 60 cities across the globe commemorated Land Day by engaging in BDS actions.
Correspondents with The Electronic Intifada attended Land Day events in the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Naqab (Negev) desert, which has been demolished 20 times since July 2010 by the Israeli government in collaboration with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael in Hebrew). After dispossessing the people of al-Araqib, the JNF plans to plant a forest on the village’s land.
Approximately 1,000 persons attended the rally in al-Araqib, which featured speeches by Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) including Ahmed Tibi, Taleb al-Saneh, and Jamal Zahalka, as well as leading figures of the Palestinian community in Israel such as Sheikh Raed Salah. Salah said that Palestinian citizens of the state will continue to resist Israeli policies of dispossession.
Sheikh Siyah al-Toury, head of the Popular Committee to Defend al-Araqib, thanked the lawmakers and Knesset members in attendance “despite being battled at the Knesset by members of one of the most racist parliaments in the history of Israel,” the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) reported (“Thousands Mark Land Day In The Negev,” 30 March 2011).
Several women leaders spoke as well, addressing the role of women in the ongoing struggle for Palestinian land rights across the region.
Arrabe and Sakhnin
Thousands marched in the northern Galilee cities of Arabbe and nearby Sakhnin, commemorating Land Day and denouncing Israeli governmental policies of racism and discrimination.
Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Mohammed Zeidan, chair of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said during the protest that “Israel is regressing into dangerous directions in its treatment of its Arab citizens” (“Israeli Arabs decry state ‘regression’ as thousands march on Land Day,” 30 March 2011).
A massive Land Day protest was held in Lydd, on Tuesday, 29 March, as approximately 1,500 Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrated against repression and discrimination in the city.
Protesters “raised Palestinian flags, carried signs reading ‘Enough with the Ethnic Cleansing’ and burned pictures of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman,” Haaretz reported (“Some 1,500 Israeli Arabs take part in Land Day protest in Lod,” 29 March 2011).
Protests have been held every Tuesday evening since the December 2010 demolition of seven Palestinian homes by Israeli forces.
Land Day events took place across cities, towns and villages in the occupied West Bank, including Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarem. Ma’an news reported that teachers across the West Bank including East Jerusalem “devoted their first class Wednesday to the history of Land Day, and the Palestinian struggle to prevent land confiscations” (“Palestinians commemorate Land Day,” 30 March 2011).
Palestinians and international solidarity activists planted trees in the village of Husan, near Bethlehem. More than 50 people gathered to plant trees on village land that abuts the illegal Bittar Illit settlement, and were immediately surrounded by the Israeli military, according to the Alternative Information Center (AIC) (“Palestinians Commemorate the 35th anniversary of Land Day,” 31 March 2011).
University students marking Land Day marched in Gaza City, but the protest was “broken up” by Hamas security forces, according to a report by Agence France Presse (“Israeli Arabs, Bedouins protest discrimination,” 30 March 2011).
In the US, Land Day commemorations occurred in the form of direct actions in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions while activists challenged the land confiscation policies of the JNF.
Activists with the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) and American Muslims for Palestine in the San Francisco Bay Area held a protest outside the offices of the Internal Revenue Service in downtown San Francisco, demanding that the IRS withdraw charitable status of the JNF.
Protesters delivered a letter to the IRS that stated in part, “The JNF is neither a charitable nor an environmental organization and therefore does not qualify for tax-exempt status … This mandate alone warrants the revocation of the JNF’s tax-exempt status because it forms the basis for the JNF’s discriminatory and racially motivated land-use restrictions that undermine the human and civil rights of indigenous Palestinians” (“Report Back: Jewish Activists Deliver Letter of Protest to IRS addressing racially motivated actions by non-profit Jewish National Fund,” 30 March 2011).
New York City
Land Day commemorative events took place in several areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn, where solidarity activists staged protests in support of the boycott of Israeli products.
Activists with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel and Code Pink held a rally outside a Ricky’s department store in Brooklyn, where Israeli settlement-made Ahava cosmetics are sold (“Report Back: New York City Ahava Action,” 1 April 2011).
On 26 March, activists led a “flash-mob” dancing routine at Grand Central Station in lower Manhattan, where participants sang “Don’t stop boycottin’ ” to the tune of Journey’s “Don’t stop believin’ ” (“BDS Flash Mob in Grand Central Station, NYC,” 26 March 2011).
Activists in Seattle, Washington, staged a protest outside a Trader Joe’s supermarket and urged the company to de-shelve Israeli-made Sabra and Tribe hummus brands, as well as other Israeli products. A photo montage was posted of the protest.
Dancing and singing in front of “The Bean” sculpture, social justice activists held a “flash-mob” action in downtown Chicago on 30 March. Participants sang “BDS” to the tune of “ABC” by the Jackson 5 as part of the global BDS day of action on Land Day.
Joy Ellison, an activist with Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago (PSG) stated in a press release that “[i]n the lyrics to our song, we sing ‘apartheid and ethnic cleansing go on in Palestine every day, but without the help of you and your money, the occupation will go away.’ While the struggle to end Israel’s apartheid policies is not an easy one, it’s true that we in the United States can support justice and peace by refusing to support companies and institutions that support Israel and its occupation of Palestine” (“Chicago Activists Mark Palestinian Land Day with Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Flash-Mob,” 31 March 2011).
The flash-mob was also held earlier in the day, outside of the Chicago Cultural Center, home of the Chicago Sister Cities International office. PSG stated that for the last two years, activists “have pressured the city of Chicago to end its relationship with its Israeli sister city, Petach Tikva.”
“Petach Tikva, an officially segregated city, is the first Jewish-only settlement in historic Palestine and the site of the primary detention center where Israeli forces abuse and torture Palestinian political prisoners. Human Rights group Amnesty International dubbed Petach Tikva ‘Israel’s Guantanamo,’” the press release added.
A video of the flash-mob action at The Bean can be viewed on YouTube.
A group of young Palestinians in Rome, Italy, protested outside the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission office on Land Day with a list of demands directed at the Palestinian Authority (PA).
As part of the global call to action issued by the Palestinian Youth Network (PYN) on Land Day, the youth in Rome demanded that the PLO be restructured to include all sectors of Palestinian society, including diasporic communities, and that democratic elections be held guaranteeing one person-one vote representation of all members.
The PYN statement added: “All of these demands are not our end goals but rather first steps to strengthen the Palestinian popular movement against occupation, apartheid and the Zionist colonization of our homeland” (“Land Day: March 30, 2011”).
Meanwhile, activists with the Rome Palestine Solidarity Network planted olive trees in various locations in the city in commemoration of Land Day. The March 30th BDS Day of Action website reported that four olive trees were planted “on the very land where some years ago the JNF, together with the Municipality of Rome, had planted trees” (“Report Back: Rome,” 1 April 2011).
An olive tree was planted at the Colosseum, and another was planted next to a monument honoring American activist Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza strip in 2003.
Solidarity activists held a civil disobedience protest inside the head office of the Veolia corporation in London on Land Day, demanding that the company stop providing services to illegal settlement colonies in the occupied West Bank.
Veolia is a French-owned transportation and urban planning corporation that has several contracts with the Israeli government to provide services to West Bank settlements.
The UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) reported that activists “handed a letter to a Veolia spokesperson explaining and specifying why Veolia’s actions in aiding Israel’s occupation constitute grave breaches of humanitarian and international laws. At the same time a protestor gave the spokesperson an oral summary of the contents of the letter” (“Protestors Pay A Visit To Veolia’s London HQ On Palestine Land Day,” 30 March 2011).
A video of the action was posted to YouTube.
Other boycott actions took place in Norway and in France, where activists held a “flash-mob” action in support of boycotts in front of the Eiffel tower (“Report Back: Flashmob in Paris “PalMob”,” 1 April 2011).
BDS activists in Montreal, Canada, are holding a protest on 2 April to intensify their call for boycott and demand that Israel cease policies of apartheid against Palestinians (“Montreal (Quebec) action this Saturday,” 1 April 2011).
Global anti-Zionist activists challenge the JNF on Land Day
Meanwhile, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) launched a campaign on Land Day to stop JNF land confiscation and appropriation activities. In a press release, IJAN urged solidarity activists to incorporate strategic challenges to the JNF in their boycott and solidarity work (“Join the international campaign to Stop the Jewish National Fund,” 27 March 2011).
“Land Day 2011 will welcome the launch of internationally coordinated campaigns to challenge the JNF-KKL,” IJAN stated. “As part of the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, and until such time as the State of Israel respects and implements international law, the Palestinian BDS National Committee and many other organizations call on global civil society to join in a campaign to challenge the JNF.”
IJAN posted an international call to stop the JNF at: www.stopthejnf.org/callforaction.html.