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38 years later, Israel gives Palestinians new reasons to mark Land Day

Like other Palestinian national days, Land Day commemorations are less about the historical event as they are reminders of things happening today. Despite years of active struggles, Palestinians are finding themselves protesting the same threats to their land rights in 2014 as they were in 1976.

House demolition in Anata, Northern Jerusalem, April 14, 2008 (Photo: Meged Gozani/Activestills.org)

House demolition in Anata, Northern Jerusalem, April 14, 2008 (Photo: Meged Gozani/Activestills.org)

March 30 marks the 38th anniversary of Land Day, which commemorates the mass Palestinian demonstrations against Israel’s sweeping confiscation of Arab lands in the Galilee in 1976. But like other Palestinian national days, the commemorations are less about the historical event as they are reminders of things that are happening today. Despite years of active struggles as second-class Israeli citizens, an occupied population or exiled refugees, Palestinians are finding themselves protesting the same threats to their land rights in 2014 as they were in 1976.

This is neither a nationalist nor ideological statement. Since 1948, the state has aggressively expropriated and minimized Palestinian lands and properties and transferred them to exclusive Jewish ownership. But rather than correcting its policies to realize the historical, human and civil rights of Palestinians to the land, the discriminatory practices have intensified. An alarming rise in forced displacement, unequal distribution and racist laws that target the land rights of Palestinians both in Israel and the Occupied Territories show that the state’s priorities continue to lie more with its ethno-nationalist ambitions than with the rights of non-Jews inside its borders, let alone the viability of peace with the Palestinians.

The last year alone demonstrates the severity of this vision. In 2013, at least 572 homes and structures belonging to Arab Bedouin citizens in the Negev were demolished, many of them destroyed by residents themselves due to threats of financial charges by state authorities. The number of demolitions in the occupied Jordan Valley doubled in 2013, with 390 structures destroyed compared to 172 in 2012. Dozens of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem also face the same threats to their homes. This means that hundreds of Palestinians every year, half of whom are children, are being forcibly displaced on both sides of the Green Line regardless of their citizenship or basic rights.

The home of the Palestinian Adgluni family is demolished by Israeli authorities, East Jerusalem, January 27, 2014. Israeli authorities claimed the house was built on lands that do not belong to the family. (photo: Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

The home of the Palestinian Adgluni family is demolished by Israeli authorities, East Jerusalem, January 27, 2014. Israeli authorities claimed the house was built on lands that do not belong to the family. (photo: Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

The demolitions of these homes have little to do with security or the rule of law and more to do with the state’s belief that a person’s race defines their rights. For example, according to a new data analysis by Adalah, in 2013 the state offered more land tenders for housing, industrial and commercial zones to Jewish settlements in the West Bank than it did to all Arab towns inside Israel, despite the Arab citizenry constituting two to three times the population of Jewish settlers and despite the global demand to halt Israeli construction in the Occupied Territories. Other examples of discriminatory resource allocation include the support for rural Jewish but not Arab villages in the Negev, the explicit policy to increase the Jewish demographic presence in the Galilee, and the selling of Palestinian refugee property even in occupied East Jerusalem.

The same racially based objectives have persisted through all of Israel’s successive governments, and ironically, have worsened since the peace process began. In recent years, the Israeli Knesset has drafted new laws and bills to support communal segregation, legalize racial discrimination in housing and add obstacles to any Israeli withdrawals from occupied territories. These include the Admissions Committees Law, the Contributors to the State Bill, the Land Concessions Law and the Prawer Plan Bill. These laws are aimed at entrenching the state’s vision in the face of growing local and international challenges to its increasingly racist actions. The peace talks may have returned, but the state’s plans have not changed.

These discriminatory policies, which far exceed the few examples mentioned here, are rooted in the ideology that the land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River must be prioritized for Jewish control, at the deliberate expense of other inhabitants. It is the reason why Arab villages like Umm el-Hieran will be destroyed to build Jewish towns over their ruins. It is the reason why Palestinians in neighborhoods in Sheikh Jarrah, Akka and Hebron are being pressured by right-wing settlers, corporations and police. It is the reason why Palestinian towns both in Israel and the Occupied Territories cannot expand to meet their residents’ growing needs for new homes, schools, roads and other basic infrastructure. And it is the reason why 38 years after the first Land Day protests, Palestinians are finding new reasons to mark March 30th. Until the state accepts that non-Jews have an equal – and not inferior – right to be on the land, Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line will continue to commemorate Land Day for years to come.

Amjad Iraqi is a Projects & Advocacy Coordinator at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not represent the views of Adalah.

Related:
Why Land Day still matters
An Israeli policeman’s account of Land Day, 1976
Resource: Israel’s persistent policy of land discrimination

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    COMMENTS

    1. Bar

      The tone and arguments of this piece are beneath contempt.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        I consider victim blaming, to absolve one’s own “clan” of responsibility for visiting hardship and humiliation upon others, to be beneath contempt.

        How about stowing your false indignity, and actually contending with the arguments?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          I consider dressing up a demand to destroy a country in appeals to human rights ascribed only to one’s clan to be beneath contempt. That is all this article is.

          Reply to Comment
      • sh

        Tones and arguments are just sounds. Don’t you find that some of the actions described in this piece, such as:

        “In 2013, at least 572 homes and structures belonging to Arab Bedouin citizens in the Negev were demolished, many of them destroyed by residents themselves due to threats of financial charges by state authorities. The number of demolitions in the occupied Jordan Valley doubled in 2013, with 390 structures destroyed compared to 172 in 2012. Dozens of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem also face the same threats to their homes. This means that hundreds of Palestinians every year, half of whom are children, are being forcibly displaced on both sides of the Green Line regardless of their citizenship or basic rights.”

        are equally if not more beneath contempt?

        Reply to Comment
        • Jan

          I am certain that given many of her past comments (I assume that Bar is a she) Bar likely approves of what Israel is doing to deny housing for non-Jews. She also likely believes that it is contemptible for anyone to point out that, in spite of Zionist rhetoric, Israel is not a democracy for all of its citizens, only for its favored Jewish citizens. I hope that Bar never repeats the mantra of Israel being a democracy because if it isn’t a democracy for everyone it just isn’t a democracy.

          Reply to Comment
          • BaladiAkka 1948

            Bar is Ginger Eis’ successor from Hasbara Central 🙂 She’s on a (paid ?) mission here.

            Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            Well spotted.

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            Think she might even be the same person? 😉

            Reply to Comment
          • BaladiAkka 1948

            Yep, Reza, me think so too 🙂

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            Newsflash to all the moronic conspiracy theorists about “paid habsara workers:” The primary group of people being paid for their activism are the Adalah employees, Yesh Din workers, B’Tzelem workers, 972mag writers, Michael Sfard and his fellow lawyers, the two writers listed above, Electronic Intifada’s founder (and contributors), Mondoweiss’s founders, ISM’s founders, BDS leaders such as PACBI’s head Barghouti, UNHRC rapporteurs such as Falk and Duggan, UNRWA employees, the countless NGO employees (such as those at HRW and Amnesty who cover Israel) who make a living attacking Israel, and the list goes on and on and on and on.

            Trust me, if I had the resources to make this a part time or a full time gig, I’d take that job in a heartbeat even if it cut my income.

            Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          There is something wrong with the state enforcing building laws and destroying illegally built houses? I realize that you and those that built those houses don’t actually recognize the legitimacy of the state at all, but the laws exist, they are clear, and they are applied.

          Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Your comment when you are faced with a truth you don’t want to recognize is beneath contempt.

        Reply to Comment
    2. “according to a new data analysis by Adalah, in 2013 the state offered more land tenders for housing, industrial and commercial zones to Jewish settlements in the West Bank than it did to all Arab towns inside Israel, despite the Arab citizenry constituting two to three times the population of Jewish settlers”

      I think a rebuttal to this statement, if possible, would be quite useful.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        The rebuttal is that Arabs in Israel illegally build vast numbers of houses every year without asking for approvals or permits.

        Were one to actually count houses constructed illegally in any year in the Arab sector it would dwarf the number of houses constructed in the settlements by a vast proportion. When a single Arab house is destroyed after having been built illegally we get people like Amjad and Sh claiming racial discrimination.

        Reply to Comment
        • Or it may be that permits are usually denied, which is why, force of family growth, additions are built anyway. But, hey, they are still illegal.

          And there is illegal building in the West Bank too.

          Looking at the demographics,

          “the state offered more land tenders for housing, industrial and commercial zones to Jewish settlements in the West Bank than it did to all Arab towns inside Israel, despite the Arab citizenry constituting two to three times the population of Jewish settlers”

          so a population 2 to 3 times that of West Bank settlers receives more legal tenders, it is not surprising illegal building occurs. Hardy a rebuttal.

          Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      Tones and arguments are just sounds. Don’t you find that some of the actions described in this piece, such as:

      “In 2013, at least 572 homes and structures belonging to Arab Bedouin citizens in the Negev were demolished, many of them destroyed by residents themselves due to threats of financial charges by state authorities. The number of demolitions in the occupied Jordan Valley doubled in 2013, with 390 structures destroyed compared to 172 in 2012. Dozens of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem also face the same threats to their homes. This means that hundreds of Palestinians every year, half of whom are children, are being forcibly displaced on both sides of the Green Line regardless of their citizenship or basic rights.”

      are equally if not more beneath contempt?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rehmat

      Only the brainwashed Zionist believe Israel to be a democracy.

      Professor Michael Scheuer, while testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee on October 22, 2013, said: “If I’m given a choice, I’d dump Israelis tomorrow“. He was responding to Rep. Peter King’s criticim for Scheuer claim that “Muslims world hate the US for its support for Israel“.

      http://rehmat1.com/2014/01/02/ex-cia-official-id-dump-israelis-tomorrow/

      Reply to Comment
    5. Tomer

      What about Israel starting up a Jewish Land Day. It will be to remember the zillions of dumans stolen from us in Morocco, Algeria, Syria. Egypt, Yemen, Baghdad, etc etcc etc. Total land area confiscated is = 4 x the current area of Greater Israel.

      Put that in your progressive website and THINK about it!

      Reply to Comment
      • JG

        Do you really believe this dumb talking point that your hasbara office told you to come up with, tool?
        Tell us more about “your” land in this countries and a 4x greater Israel…

        Reply to Comment
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