Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Palestinian Land Day:
It's their Land
By Eileen Fleming
Al-Jazeerah, ccun.org, March 29, 2010
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
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.” 
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
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.”
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.
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
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
I inquired, "Isn't that what Israel did with Hamas? Didn't
they originally support Hamas to be a wedge against the PLO?"
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
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)
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
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
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
“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.’
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.” 
Only in Solidarity do "we have it in our power to begin the world
Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org
A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com
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"