On 30 March 2017, Palestinians commemorated the 41st anniversary of the Yom-Al Ard, or Land Day. The Land Day dates back to 30 March 1976, which constituted a turning point as the first mass mobilization by Palestinians within Israel against settler-colonialism and land theft. Israel had ordered the confiscation of 2,000 hectares of land owned by Palestinian citizens of Israel. On 30 March of that year, thousands of Palestinians held demonstrations from across the Galilee in the North to the Negev in the South against the expropriation of Palestinian land, which follows the Israeli policy of “Judaizing” the area at the expense of the indigenous population. During the 1976 demonstrations, six Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured or arrested by Israeli forces.

Ever since, Palestinians commemorate the Land Day to remember the sacrifices made for their land and show their commitment to their land rights and ownership. They hold vigils and demonstrations, and plant olive trees to collectively resist the Israeli occupation and associated crimes. Land Day also serves as reminder that Israel’s policy of settlement construction and confiscation of Palestinian land entrenches injustice and violations against Palestinians.

41 years later, the theft of Palestinian land and expulsion and dispossession of its inhabitants continues unabated in every part of historic Palestine. Following its long-established policy of settler-colonialism and “Judaization”, Israel has systematically exacerbated its process of expropriation on the basis of old and new laws, the expansion of settlements, the encircling and fragmentation of Palestinians land, and the creation of conditions that renders life for Palestinians unbearable.

On the evening of yesterday’s Land Day, 30 March 2017, Israel’s government unanimously voted in favor of the construction of a new illegal settlement in an area called “Emek Shilo” in the occupied West Bank amidst an alarming surge in settlement activity – less than two weeks after the United Nations criticized Israel’s continued settlement policy in violation of uncountable resolutions, the latest of them being Security Council Resolution 2334 of 23 December 2016. The Land Day therefore not only marks a historical event but is an act of awareness raising and resistance to Israel’s persistent violations and land theft on both sides of the Green Line.

It is not only in this regard that the 1976 Land Day tells the story of an ongoing plight. The Palestinians marching in commemoration yesterday, on 30 March 2017, faced excessive use of force by the Israeli military just as their predecessors did. As Palestinians marked the Land Day through marches, the planting of olive trees, and other events – across Deir Hana and Sakhnin in northern Israel, across central Israel and the Negev/Naqab region, and in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip – repression and violence by Israeli soldiers and police that resulted in the injury of dozens of peaceful Palestinian protesters have been widely reported.

During a demonstration in Hebron City at the heart of which Israel implanted settlements, Israeli forces obstructed the way, declared the area closed military zone, and detained four Palestinian activists, including Anas Samir Daana, Human Rights Defender Badee Dwaik, Head of the Committee against the Wall and Settlements in the Southern West Bank Younes Arrar, and Ishaq al-Khatib. Moreover, Israeli settlers attacked and assaulted Palestinian protestors, with Israeli forces and border police standing idly by.

Left: Palestinian demonstrators run as Israeli forces fire tear gas at them in the village of Madama, Nablus. Right: Palestinian protestors are arrested by Israeli military in the City of Hebron. March 30, 2017.

At the march in Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, Israeli forces shot sound bombs and tear gas at activists, lawyers, and members of the Palestinian education ministry. In the Madama village in Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at protestors, resulting in the injury of 50 Palestinians, including deputy governor of Nablus Anan al-Atiri and member of the People’s Party Khalid Mansour, and the suffering of dozens from severe tear-gas inhalation.

Young Palestinians chant in commemoration of the Land Day in their march from Sakhnin to Deir Hanna, in northern Israel. MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) emphasized that the struggle for their land, for justice and equality is as important as ever. Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh stressed: “We stand united against the bulldozers and against the incitement of the prime minister and his ministers”. (+972, Activestills) March 30, 2017.

Palestinians across the West Bank, in Bethlehem (see photo), Hebron and Nablus marched to commemorate Land Day. The governor of Nablus, Akram al-Rjoub, told Ma’an that “today we need to be in our lands, to boost our resistance and existence in the area and to empower popular resistance against the Israeli occupation forces and settlers”. March 30, 2017.

At Gaza’s Land Day commemoration, Hamas official Mushir Al-Masri emphasized that “the unity of the Palestinian people is the key to the liberation of our people”. (Middle East Monitor) March 30, 2017

The commemoration of the Land Day also serves as reaffirmation that Palestinians, regardless of their current place of residents, are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people and their struggle for their inalienable rights, freedom, and dignity.

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) reiterates its conviction that the continued inaction by the international community encourages Israel to expedite its expropriation of Palestinian land, settlement construction, and associated grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law with impunity. GICJ also calls on the international community to take all necessary measures to ensure that Israel

• Fully respect the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association, expression and movement in occupied Palestine, and guarantee the safety and freedom of those exercising these rights.

• End the use of the criminal, legal and security tools to obstruct peaceful protests and assembly, including the use of arbitrary arrests and detentions, to free all political prisoners, and ensure fair and speedy trials for those charged with an offence;

• Prevent incitement and attacks against peaceful protestors, thoroughly investigate violations, and bring perpetrators to justice;

Without the necessary political will to force Israel to comply with international law, its human rights obligations, and relevant resolutions such as Security Council resolution 2334, and to adhere to the Human Rights Council resolution passed last week, on 24 March 2017, calling on Member States to regulate trade with illegal settlements, the halfhearted condemnations will remain gestures void of any significance for the Palestinian people. This year’s Land Day serves as somber reminder that Palestinians’ long-awaited justice, dignity and freedom in their independent State of Palestine continues to be trampled on and still remains to be attained.

Day of Remembrance articles by GICJ:

International Women's Day Victims of Chemical Warfare

Mine Awareness & Assistance in Mine Action

Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda Human Rights Day - 2016

Victims of the Crime of Genocide

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