Palestinians and their supporters organised demonstrations across 80 different countries to mark Palestinian Land Day on 30 March. Joseph Daher reports.
Land Day is commemorated every year to reaffirm the attachment of the Palestinian people to their lands and their rejection of the Israeli occupation and its illegal settlements. The origin of this event is the widespread popular uprising by Palestinians in 1976, rebelling against the decision to confiscate lands to build Jewish settlements.
Demonstrations and a general strike in Palestinian towns were organised. The Israeli state repressed the Palestinian popular movement, murdering 6 protesters and wounding or imprisoning hundreds of others.
This year, because of Israel's escalated attacks on Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Global March to Jerusalem was called (also on 30 March) to highlight the city’s troubles. The day therefore became a major focus for Palestinians, Middle East activists and the wider international solidarity movement. This summary focuses on Palestine and the Middle East.
In the Gaza Strip thousands of people rallied, while Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) answered the protests by killing a 20 year old Palestinian boy north of Gaza, while 37 others were injured in Khan Younis and Beit Hanoun.
In the West Bank, the IOF also fired rubber coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades to break up groups of Palestinian demonstrators. Close to 200 people were injured in clashes at the Qalandiya checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem, mostly from tear gas inhalation.
Five medical workers were also reported to have been shot with rubber coated bullets and one car was set ablaze.
In Bethlehem, 11 people were hospitalized, including a 20 year old man in serious condition after being shot a gas canister in the head.
Near Nablus, a thousand Palestinians marched in Kafr Qaddoum, an area declared a closed military zone by the Israeli forces. 500 others protested in Iraq Burin, toward the Zionist settlement of Bracha. Four people were injured by rubber bullets in Kafr Qaddoum and one in Iraq Burin.
According to one organising committee, 34 protesters had been jailed by late Friday. They included 10 Palestinians arrested at the entrance of Nabi Saleh and 17 from Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, among them the head of Fatah's portfolio in the city.
They were also some attempts by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip respectively to prevent such gatherings - and some protesters were beaten by both security forces.
In East Jerusalem, 19 Palestinians were hospitalized - including the local head of the Fatah movement, Omar Chalabi, hit by a rubber bullet. The access to the Temple Mount was reserved for Palestinians over the age of 40 and holding a residence card issued by Israel, while the Israeli police announced the arrest of 34 people.
Thousands of Palestinians have also marched in Deir Hanna in northern Israeli territories, waving Palestinian flags and photos of the six martyred of "Land Day" in 1976.
There were many demonstrations elsewhere in the Arab world. In Jordan, a sit-in was attended by over 15,000 people, including Islamists, left-wing activists and trade unionists, to Kafreïn, near the Dead Sea, about 1.5 km from the border.
Waving Palestinian and Jordanian flags, protesters held placards proclaiming "Freedom for Jerusalem and freedom for Palestine" and chanted slogans against the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty signed in 1994.
In southern Lebanon, around 1000 Lebanese and Palestinian refugees accompanied by foreign activists demonstrated under the surveillance of Lebanese security forces. They gathered at Beaufort castle, situated in the Nabatiyeh governorate, which overlooks Palestine.
In Tunisia, the Parliament raised Palestine flags during the Parliament session on Land Day.
Land Day and the Global March to Jerusalem built on the success of the recent Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) – the most successful ever – which involved actions in cities around the world, including in Palestine and across the Arab countries. The IAW is an annual series of events at universities that raise awareness of Israel as an apartheid state and builds the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Land Day will not be forgotten. Palestinians and their supporters will continue their struggle against Israeli occupation, colonisation and apartheid.
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