Apr 03,2017 – JORDAN TIMES – James J. Zogby
March 30, 1976, was a transformative moment in Palestinian history. On that day, Palestinian citizens of Israel organised and implemented a nation-wide strike to protest the Israeli government’s plans to confiscate thousands of hectares of Palestinian-owned land in the Galilee region.
The confiscations were designed to provide for the expansion of the Jewish population in the Galilee — since Israeli leaders were concerned that the composition of the region had remained overwhelmingly Arab.
Confiscations were nothing new. In the three decades between the founding of Israel, in 1948, and 1976, Israel had seized 607039 hectares of Palestinian-owned land — about one third of the land mass of the state of Israel — much of it from Palestinians who had been expelled in 1948.
But it was this effort to Judaise the Galilee that proved to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. The Arabs said “enough” and had the organisational wherewithal to act.
The strike, which was called “Day in Defence of the Land”, was planned as a peaceful demonstration of Palestinian resolve and was restricted to the all-Arab villages and towns.
It was a success in terms of participation since in both its planning and execution it involved tens of thousands — workers, shopkeepers and students, men and women alike.
The success was muted, however by the violence used by the Israeli police against the demonstrators, as part of its effort to stifle any and all forms of Arab resistance.
After declaring protests illegal and attempting to place curfews on Arab towns and villages, Israeli forces brutally responded to the country-wide mobilisation, killing six and injuring over 100 Arab citizens.
Since that day, on every following March 30, Palestinians worldwide have commemorated the theft of land and the deaths of the demonstrators with Land Day events.
The impact of Land Day was important at several levels. In the first place, Arabs and Palestinians in the diaspora became aware of and inspired by their brethren in Israel.
Before the 1976 events, these Palestinians were either unknown or dismissed by the broader Arab world.