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As the land goes, so hope and faith go with it

Arab Israelis wave Palestinian flags during a rally commemorating Land Day on March 30, 2014 in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Arrabe. Photo by AFP

38 years on, Israel still doesn’t understand Arab protests over land seizures

Since the first Land Day, Israeli Arabs have been losing their trust in Israel’s Jewish populace.

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz
March 30, 2014

Israel’s Palestinian Arab community on Sunday observes Land Day, an annual event commemorating protests that broke out on March 30, 1976 against government land seizures in which six Arabs were killed by Israeli security forces.

That first Land Day began with a general strike in Israel’s Arab communities, in the wake of a cabinet resolution approving the expropriation of 20,000 dunams (some 5,000 acres) in an area known as Area 9 or the Sakhnin valley, as part of the government’s goal of increasing the Jewish population in the Galilee.

In the intervening 38 years, two events stand out in shaping the often rocky relations between the state and its Arab citizens. The first was the second Rabin government and the Oslo peace process, when for the first time Arabs in Israel were seen as genuine partners and a number of Galilee Bedouin communities received official recognition. The second watershed moment was the events of October 2000, which precipitated the complete collapse of Israeli Arab trust in the establishments.

Over the past decade, many issues have risen to the surface. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee and human rights organizations have released documents emphasizing the desire of Israel’s Arab citizens to preserve their national identity while accepting Israeli citizenship based on full equality and their recognition as a minority. The state, however, went in the opposite direction, stressing the state’s Jewish character at every opportunity, to the current juncture in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a precondition for discussion of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Specific proposals, such as the so-called Prawer plan for relocating tens of thousands of Negev Bedouin from unrecognized villages to recognized communities and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s population exchange proposal, send Israeli Arabs a clear message that the state wants as few of them as possible within the state’s borders, and in the smallest area possible.

Israeli Arabs waving Palestinian flags during a rally in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin on March 30, 2013 commemorating the 37th anniversary of 'Land Day.'
Israeli Arabs waving Palestinian flags during a rally in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin on March 30, 2013 commemorating the 37th anniversary of ‘Land Day.’AFP
 This policy is borne out in the severe housing shortage within the Arab community. According to a recent study by the nongovernmental organization Hagalil, Israel’s Arab community will need at least 100,000 additional homes over the next decade.

El Baqa, an organization specializing in planning issues, cites figures from the Interior and the Housing and Construction Ministries, according to which only nine percent of building permits issued between March and September 2012, or 2,200 units, were in Arab communities, for a 43 percent decline between 2012 and 2013 in building permits in Arab communities. The practical result is a rise in unlicensed construction, and thousands of demolition orders that hang over the heads of homeowners.

The bottom line is that the state has not only failed to learn the lessons of the first Land Day, but is increasingly turning its back on its Arab citizens.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee has called a general strike for Sunday (including schools). The traditional Land Day parade will take place in Sakhnin and in Arabeh, and the main rally will be held in the latter town in the afternoon. A parade will also be held in the unrecognized Negev Bedouin village of Suween, east of Be’er Sheva on Route 25, whose participants will call for the Prawer plan to be shelved and the unrecognized communities sanctioned.

It is doubtful that the participants’ calls and chants will receive broad media coverage; Israeli public opinion doesn’t really care about the issues, which have not changed from year to year.

The time has come for all parties to look for a new policy, under which on one hand the state views the Arabs as equal citizens whose housing needs must be met, and on the other hand the Arab leadership − whether the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee or the mayors of Arab communities − puts forth its own plans and recommendations and demands the fulfillment of the basic right to housing before it is too late. Parades and slogans alone are not enough, and the younger generation of Arabs is beginning to lose its trust in everyone.

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.

By Amjad Iraqi, +972
March 30, 2014

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 by Tali Mayer/

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.


Anniversary of Land Day,

Statement by Adalah
30 March 2014

In 1976, Palestinian citizens of Israel staged mass protests against the state’s expropriation of thousands of dunams of Palestinian-owned land in the Galilee. 38 years later, the struggle continues, as Israel daily expropriates Palestinian land for alleged security and settlement purposes on both sides of the Green Line.


Today, the state of Israel, through the Israel Land Authority (ILA) owns 93% of the land of Israel, and through the Civil Administration controls the majority of land in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The state’s unequal land distribution policy grants substantial privilege to Jewish citizens, daily undermining the rights of Palestinians to live with dignity on their land. Wanting to document how Israel continues to tighten its control over confiscated Palestinian-owned land and property in Israel and the OPT, Adalah researched and compared the numbers and locations of state-published bids for new housing units and industrial and commercial zones, and its sales of Palestinian refugee property. Read and share the full data report!

The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel has declared a general strike in commemoration of Land Day on 30 March 2014.

 © 2014 Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

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