Yom-el-Ard -- Day of the Land:
Symbol of Palestinian Resistance

More 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 nation.

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 farmers.

Statistics published 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.

Monopoly 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.

The fundamental 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.

Coexistence with 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. [1] 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.

The 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. [2]

"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.

"For instance, Canadian Highways International Corporation (CHIC) [3] 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," MIFTAH

2. GushShalom.org

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.

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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)


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