Yom-el-Ard -- Day of the Land:
Symbol of Palestinian Resistance
from the Halifax Political Forum
HALIFAX (15 April
2004) -- March 30 marked Yom-el-Ard, the 29th anniversary of the Day
of the Land, a symbol of Palestinian resistance. On Land Day, 30 March
1976, thousands of Palestinians inside Israel and the West Bank staged
a general strike against new orders of expropriating 60,000 dunams of
their land in the Galilee which were declared "closed military
zones." After years of military rule, Land Day 1976 was the first
act of mass resistance by the Palestinians inside Israel against the
Zionist policy of internal colonialization, a systematic process of
expropriation that had reduced Palestinian land ownership from around
94 per cent of all territory in pre-1948 Palestine to less than 3 per
cent in what is now considered to be Israel. The ensuing clashes with
Israeli army and police after the peaceful protests killed six Palestinians,
hundreds were wounded and hundreds more jailed. Land Day reaffirmed
the Palestinian minority in Israel as an inseparable part of the Palestinian
Since then March
30 became recognized as Yom-el-Ard or Day of the Land to highlight the
policies of land grab systematically applied by the Zionist movement
and later by Israel. This year, Land Day was marked with demonstrations
and other actions around the world marked Land Day.
Land day activities
have included a general strike of Palestinians in Israel and throughout
the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This year, one of the largest rallies
took place in the northern Israeli town of Arrabeh, where one of the
six youth was killed in 1976. Some 15,000 people demonstrated in Jenin.
Another demonstration took place in the village of Beit Liqya south
of Ramallah where demonstrators marched to their threatened lands, already
bulldozed for construction of the Apartheid Wall. Villagers planted
symbolic olive trees and chanted anti-Wall slogans.
Thousands of Palestinians
refugees marched in Lebanon with the largest demonstration in the Ein
Al Helwa refugee camp where some 70,000 refugees live. More than 2,000
Egyptian university students took to the streets in both Cairo and Alexandria.
Demonstrators carried Palestinian flags and chanted slogans condemning
the continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.
At the Halifax Forum
to commemorate this occasion and pay homage to the resistance struggle
of the Palestinian people, Palestinian-Canadian student Nabil Hdeib
stressed that the original establishment of the state of Israel in 1948
actually marked the third successive failure historically of the Zionist
project to acquire land from the indigenous Palestinians. At the time
of the British Colonial Mandate in 1921, systematic Zionist colonization,
which had begun to unfold at the end of the 19th century, had succeeded
in acquiring only 2 per cent of Historic Palestine. In the 30 years
prior to World War I, the Jewish settlers were still under 8 per cent
of the total population.
Despite 47 years
of British imperial carrot-and-stick tactics under its Colonial Mandate,
the Zionist project again failed. Even the poorest Palestinians farmers
stood strong and refused to sell or abandon their land under the Zionist
pressure. As well, the World Zionist Organization was unable to entice
European or North American Jews to reconstitute a Eurocentric society
of wealthy capitalists, wealthy professionals, industrial workers and
by the British government reveal that the total area acquired by Zionists
from 1920, when Land Registry Offices were opened, permitting transfer
of ownership, until the forcible dislodging of the Palestinian Arabs
in 1948, was under 4 per cent of the total area of Palestine. Although
they had no control over the immigration of Zionist colonists into Palestine,
the Palestinians did have some control over the sale of individually-owned
land to those colonists. In fact, much of the land acquired by the Zionists
was from absentee landlords, or transferred by the British government
from the public domain, although it was supposed to be held in trust
for the Palestinian people.
What the British
called "public domain" began under Ottoman law as "public
land," i.e., land kept aside from private ownership to be brought
into use or production under exceptional circumstances such as extended
drought. Such land was not to be alienated into private hands. Under
the British Colonial Mandate, although this Ottoman category was officially
recognized, the Land Office treated so-called common land as "public
domain" available for private ownership. Private ownership could
and did include appropriation or a hand-over of control to the "Jewish
National Fund," established in 1901 and part of the World Zionist
Organization, deliberately designed to act as a private owner in the
name of the "Jewish people." Land was taken from the collective
of the Palestinian people, "nationalized" or "collectivized"
by kibbutzim, but was actually never turned over to individual Jewish
property owners before 1948.
Right Disguised as "Jewish Right"
Still, by 1947 the
Zionists controlled not more than 5.6 per cent of Palestinian land.
As a result of this failure, and with the Anglo-American imperial governments
facilitating their moves, the Zionists ruthlessly used armed force to
expel 780,000 Palestinians in "Nakba" (the Catastrophe), emptying
the land of their rightful inhabitants, establishing what became the
state of Israel on robbed Palestinian land, and thus forcibly depriving
them not only of the right to self-determination but also of their elemental
right to exist on their own land. Israel was opened for a well-organized
and liberally-financed new wave of colonization, speedily executed in
order to create a seeming fait accompli, "facts on the ground",
the reversal of which world public opinion would be reluctant to urge.
Zionist principle of racial self-segregation originally outlined by
Herzl in Der Judenstaat in 1896 of "land redemption" and "transfer"
also demanded racial purity and racial exclusiveness in the land. As
such, the Zionist credo of racial self-segregation necessarily rejected
the coexistence of Jews and non-Jews.
the indigenous inhabitants in the territory in which Jewish colonists
were to assemble was deemed a blemish on the image of pure Zionist racism.
Outside Israel, the Zionists similarly criticized, from the same racist
standpoint, continued Jewish residence in the lands of the Gentiles.
On this basis, the State of Israel erected an entire legal order, including
prohibition against the resale or lease of Jewish-owned land, a so-called
Absentee Property Law (which in Arabic is called Qanoon Elhader/Gayeb)
adopted in March 1950 along with other measures. It declared as "abandoned"
any property temporarily vacated by Palestinians who were not present
directly before, during or after the war of 1948, even if they took
refuge within Palestine!
Through these measures,
90 per cent of the land was seized by the Jewish National Fund. No land
transaction could take place except with a Jew or a Jewish entity. 
The new state of Israel, established according to the conceptions of
the European nation state, defends the property rights of the contending
forces in the name of "Jewish right." In Europe and North
America, Jews were excluded from many residential areas by the technique
of adding special "covenants" to all property deeds in a given
area or neighbourhood, specifying that the property could not be sold
to anyone of Jewish background. In Israel, exactly the same racist principle
was applied with the backing of the state against the Palestinians.
However, "Jewish right" was elevated by Zionist Israel to
monopoly right. As a result, almost 100 per cent of the land is held
"in trust" by the JNF, which is still technically an agency
of an international body, the World Zionist Council, whose board consists
of prominent Zionist millionaires and billionaires from around the world.
Of the 150,000 Palestinians
who remained in the new Israeli state, approximately 25 per cent were
displaced from their homes and villages and became internal refugees.
That left less than 22 per cent of Palestine under Arab control. In
1967, Israel completed its expansionist colonial plan and occupied more
Palestinian land while systematically dispersing its inhabitants. In
the areas occupied in 1967, Israel used military orders to confiscate
Palestinian land, of which over 1,300 have been issued so far, and which
can be contested only with great difficulty. Since 1967 Israel has confiscated
more than 750,000 acres of land from the 1.5 million acres comprising
the West Bank and Gaza.
By 1993, over 80
per cent of the lands owned by Palestinian Arabs living within Israel
had been confiscated and placed at the exclusive disposal of the Zionist
state and movement. So the Day of Land became an occasion to remember
these collective injustices and an opportunity to draw attention to
the land grab policies administered by the Zionist entity of Israel
up until this day.
Significance of Land Day
Today the Palestinians
are facing another major land grab threat embodied in Israel's Apartheid
Wall. "It is a land grab tool in the first place despite the official
Israeli jargon of 'separation' and 'security'," Mr. Hdeib stressed.
"The only 'separation' this wall is doing is separating Palestinian
villages from their land and adding it to Israel, and the only thing
Israel is securing by building the wall is a guarantee of maximum profits,
more violence and an even weaker chance of peace."
"Still in its
early stages of construction, way before any 'separation' has been achieved,
the Apartheid Wall is causing immense damage. Two hundred ten thousand
Palestinians are barred in enclaves, in severe violation of their rights
under international law. Sixty-seven villages are separated from their
means of livelihood. Twenty-eight hundred acres of Palestinian land
were confiscated. Eighty-three thousand olive trees were uprooted. Thirty
water wells producing 4 million cubed metres per year were confiscated.
Thirty-five thousand meters of water infrastructure were destroyed by
the bulldozers. 
"Added to the
Apartheid Wall is the expansion of the infrastructure of military checkpoints
(now over 700) and segregated bypass roads built on expropriated land,
and designed to contract and split the Palestinian space and facilitate
illegal Zionist settlements.
"While it is
the Palestinians who continue to be dispossessed, it is the titans of
international finance capital -- concentrated in real estate and 'property
development' (including highways construction) and originating from
the U.S., Canada and France as well as Israel -- who continue to be
enriched in the name of 'security' on the basis of increasing their
stake in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Canadian Highways International Corporation (CHIC)  which enriched
itself through monopoly right in Canada -- the Highway 407 Express Toll
Route (ETR) in Toronto, Ontario (the world's first all-electronic highway);
the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island; and the Cobequid Bypass
(a toll highway) in Nova Scotia and part of the Trans-Canada Highway
-- is constructing the Cross-Israel Highway known as Route 6 in alliance
with the most powerful real estate and construction interests within
Israel. This monstrous, segregated, four-lane highway is rampaging through
woodlands, deserts and villages and will stretch from the southern tip
of Israel all the way up to its northern border with Lebanon. In part
it parallels the Green Line or pushes it eastward into the Occupied
Palestinian Territories. The consortium -- Derech Eretz Highways (1997)
Ltd. -- is also made up of monopolies from Israel (Africa Israel Investment
Ltd. and 36 other firms), France (Société Générale
d'Entreprises), and the U.S. (Hughes Transportation Management Systems
and Raytheon Company, the weapons manufacturer which supplied the dysfunctional
Patriot missile system to Israel).
"The Day of
the Land is an occasion not only for Palestinians but for every people
and nation that has had its land stolen and its inhabitants dispersed
be that in Palestine or Canada, be it the indigenous and First Nations
or the ordinary people themselves. The costly sacrifices and unyielding
resistance of the Palestinian people has not been in vain. They safeguarded
the Palestinian national rights and underscored the legitimacy of their
claim to their national heritage. Rights undefended are rights surrendered.
Not a single day has passed or is passing that the Zionist junta of
Israel has not expropriated land for self-serving reasons. The Zionist
settler-state, therefore, has remained a usurper, lacking even the semblance
of legitimacy -- because the people of Palestine has remained loyal
to its heritage and faithful to its rights."
1. "Palestinian Land Day -- Frequently Asked Questions,"
3. In 1999 control of CHIC was acquired by the U.S. financial conglomerate
CIT Group. The $3bn contract, with 80 per cent of any potential losses,
is guaranteed by the Israeli state. "Profits from the Promised
Land," Tony Seed, Dossier on Palestine, shunpiking magazine.
-- -- -- -- --
Sponsoring organisations for the regular Winter 2004 series "Focus
on Palestine" include: Dalhousie Students for Peace and Justice,
CKDU Radio, Canada-Palestine Association, Shunpiking Magazine, dominionpaper.ca,
and People's Front (Halifax)