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A microcosm of 'the Cause,' Land Day at Qalandia falls flat

What could have been an inspiring display of purposeful collective action turned out to be the opposite.

The Land Day commemoration at Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem was indicative of the state of the Palestinian cause, as supporters of different factions turned on each other in a ferocious rumble and the people were left protesting aimlessly.

The annual demonstration, which takes place in different locations across the country, had a robust turnout at Qalandia but the lack of strong leadership and direction was noticeable.

After the quarrel between supporters of Fatah, PFLP and Al-Mubadara (the Palestinian Initiative Party of Mustafa Barghouti) finished, the large crowd could not find a coherent way forward. Israeli soldiers blocking the road to the checkpoint fired teargas, rubber bullets and skunk spray in large quantities. Dozens were injured and rushed away in ambulances throughout the day. Youth from the adjacent refugee camp, from which Qalandia gets its name, began throwing stones and those wishing to march peacefully were caught in the middle.

The Qalandia demonstration was symptomatic of much larger issues with Palestinian attempts to mobilize against the occupation. The society is divided sharply along factional lines and there is virtually no leadership as party leaders no longer dirty their hands on the ground—with the exception of Mustafa Barghouti, who was injured during the protest and taken away in an ambulance.

Officials in the Palestinian Authority are not interested in leading their people in mass demonstrations. Thus popular frustration finds no coherent channel of expression and easily devolves when confronted by the Israeli military, which acts aggressively to break up any form of Palestinian protest.

This year’s commemoration had the potential to be a brilliant display of collective action as it linked up with the Global March on Jerusalem. Instead—at least from the vantage point of Qalandia, I heard things were better in other places—it was uninspiring. The Palestinian Authority security forces linked hands to prevent the Palestinian demonstrators from reaching an Israeli checkpoint in Bethlehem, according to Ma’an News, which also has pictures.

Land Day first began in 1976 after six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed in a large demonstration protesting an Israeli government announcement to expropriate thousands of dunams of land for “security and settlement purposes.” Palestinians throughout the entire country, including the West Bank and Gaza, commemorate the event annually.


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    1. A

      Also in Bethlehem PA police thugs tried to stop the march because ther masters told them to

      Reply to Comment
    2. Andrew

      Thank you, though, for the honest assessment.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lbnaz

      How well was the Neturah Kartei delegation received?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Joel

      The author, Mr. Rahman said, ‘Mustafa Barghouti, who was injured during the protest and taken away in an ambulance.’

      The author might have added that Mr. Barghouti was injured by fellow demonstators and not by the IDF.

      Reply to Comment
    5. ginger

      Nothing pleases Netanyahu as much as the continued success of their divide and conquer strategy, which is obviously still very potent. Remaining splintered by the Israelis is their only way to continued Israeli success
      Palestinians need their own SuperGlue, part of which would undoubtedly come from cutting off US payments designed to keep Abbas in power and keep Palestinians splintered
      For Palestinians who benefit from US or Israeli support of one faction against the other – particularly for straight payments of money or power – you deserve your own special place in Hades

      I second the observation that very clear and honest assessment of the problems within the Palestinian body, whether suckered into by Israel/the US or due to their own greed after years of battering, or just due to the best Palestinians simply not being the ones in charge (another detail Israel does it’s best to make happen), is exactly what is most helpful
      How about electing Marwan Barghouti president while still in Israeli jail, on a Palestinian unity ticket (not only between Fatah and Hamas, but between Fatah and the rest of the Palestinian splinter groups)
      A Palestinian unity president like Barghouti, who Peres said Israel would have to release if he were elected president, seems to me to be just the ticket.
      Without something dramatic like this I expect more of the same – a big satisfied Cheshire cat smile from Shin Bet for their complete success
      If Barghouti is the SuperGlue – pour it on!

      Reply to Comment
    6. sh

      Sad not to have been able to pull together this Land Day, but it’s coming.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Michael W.

      I heard Neturah Kartei got beat up in Jordan. You’ll have to look up the cache of the articles about this.

      Reply to Comment

      Oh you poor, unfortunate victims of Zionism, you wanted to have a party, but the Jooz spoiled it for you… Oh well… Aren’t you glad you live under their rule as opposed to Assad’s though? Do you realize that the Jooz treat you much better than any Arab gov’t would? The “occupation” is a blessing in disguise, isn’t it?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Beholder

      These events depict the actual condition of entire Arab society.
      Westerners could not possibly cause even half the harm that Arabs are causing themselves.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Leen

      I sense a bit of orientalist thinking in there.

      Anyway, I kind of have to remind everyone that Europe was not always a shining beacon of democracy. People only need to remind themselves what occurred between 1900-1950 in Europe and the rise of totalitarian regimes up until the fall of the Soviet Union.
      There isn’t a special genetic code in the DNA of Arabs that make them susceptible to causing more harm than Westerners, to claim that you would be conforming to racial supremacy. And I think I don’t need to remind everyone how dangerous biological racial supremacy is.

      I can also name a couple of things that demonstrates the harm the ‘Westerners’ have cause the world and themselves.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Amin

      Barghouti is being outted among Palestinians for embezzling funds destioned to help the Palestinian people. It was about time we turned on him. At an Al Awda conference in California yells and taunts from the audience discussed this.

      Reply to Comment
    12. phlegmatico

      the Nakba didn’t occur in 1948; it occured in 1891 when Arabic-speakers didn’t stop the first Hebrew kindergarden (with a stated intent of building a country) from opening. Ever since then, there hasn’t been any Palestinian unity. Could that ==possibly== show that it’s not in the cards?

      Reply to Comment
    13. Dear Friends,

      You are welcome to join us for the November Interfaith Freedom Marches:

      Jenin,West Bank, Wed., Nov. 21, 2012, 2:30 pm, Main Square, Abu Baker Street
      Ramallah, West Bank, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 12:30 pm, Manara Square
      Jerusalem, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, 2:30 pm, Damascus Gate, Old City

      My friends, it’s no longer possible to say, “Ah, that’s the other side of the World, what does this place have to do with me, my family, my world….”

      The people in the Holy Land, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike, are enshrouded by deep suffering, terrible restrictions on freedoms, limitation of circulation, restricted access, unfair confiscation of land, etc. Whenever that happens in the World, we all suffer because I truly believe, my friends, we are all connected.

      When they are free (of suffering, etc.), only then can we be free!

      It’s time we all do something about it, in an effective, non-violent way.

      Let this march be a precursor to freedom through love and understanding by bringing all people together, as brothers and sisters and as children of the creator, showing the world that all people want peace in Israel and Palestine.

      Dr. Frank Romano
      A Land Day Organizer
      March 30, 2012, Qalandia Checkpoint
      Author: Love & Terror in the Middle East

      Reply to Comment