(April 1) – Palestinian citizens of Israel marked Land Day on March 30, an annual commemoration of protests that began 40 years ago on March 30, 1976 when Israeli police killed six during a demonstration over land confiscations. As in years past, a general strike was announced for one day, and thousands protested in the north and the south of the country in opposition to a major offensive of land expropriations. The theft and plunder of Palestinian homes and land is accompanied by Israeli state violence including “extra-judicial executions” against all those who protest or resist under the pretext of opposing “terrorists” and “anti-semitism.”
Since the first Land Day protest, marches have spread to the West Bank, Gaza and were an annual event among Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria until recent years.
This year, marches were held in the West Bank opposing a land grab near the Jordan Valley, with a main march held in Bethlehem, and dozens clashed with the military at checkpoints throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.
Sit-in on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
Meanwhile, Maan news agency reports that thousands of Palestinians following Friday prayers on April 1st staged a sit-in on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City. “Demonstrators demanded promises from Palestinian leadership that recent reconciliation meetings held in Qatar would mark the beginning of the end of factional division. Hamas and Fatah officials met in Doha last weekend to discuss the implementation of a reconciliation process between the two major Palestinian factions, whose division has devastated efforts towards creating an independent Palestinian state.”
Thousands join Palestine marathon to affirm right to movement
In Bethlehem, thousands of Palestinians and foreigners took to the streets on Friday April 1st to take part in the fourth annual marathon to be hosted by the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, aimed at highlighting the severe movement restrictions Palestinians face under Israel’s military occupation.
Setting out from the Church of the Nativity, runners made their way past Israel’s imposing separation wall, which cuts around much of the city, before passing Duheisha refugee camp and the town of al-Khader, near Gilo military checkpoint. “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement, but not everyone has the option,” the marathon’s organizers had written on their website. “Restriction on movement is one of the major challenges for the Palestinian people living under occupation. Palestinians cannot move freely on roads, or from one city to another.”
Because the Palestinian Authority does not control a contiguous 42 kilometres in Bethlehem district — the distance of a full Olympic marathon – the run was instead forced to loop around an 11 kilometre stretch.Nearly 4,400 runners took part – up from 3,100 last year – with a record 46 per cent participation of women, surpassing the 39 per cent that joined 2015’s run. In a stark reminder of the strict movement restrictions faced by Palestinians, no runners from the Gaza Strip were able to participate this year, despite a formal request from the PA asking Israel to allow 102 Gazans leave the blockaded coastal enclave.
Demonstration in the Galilee town of Arraba
Members of Knesset Aida Touma-Sliman, a representative from the Joint List–Israel’s Arab faction and third largest political party – attended a march in the Galilee town of Arraba and site of the first Land Day protest in 1976. “Actually it’s sad to be 40 years on, yet we are still fighting the same struggle and we are facing the same policies, and in fact it is even worse,” Touma-Sliman told Mondoweiss, “We thought that after 40 years that we would only be honouring the memory of land confiscation, but we are still facing a wider struggle.”
In Israel, “50,000 houses Arab houses are under demolition orders, villages are ordered to be evacuated and demolished,” Touma-Sliman said.
So far this year, Israeli authorities have announced the confiscation of more than 500 acres of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley area, in preparation for illegal Israeli settlement construction. Yousef Sharqawy, a well-known Palestinian activist in Bethlehem, said. “If Israel continues they will split the West Bank in half, connecting the Jordan Valley to Jerusalem and Palestinians will be confined ever more.”
In addition to several land grabs, Israeli forces have demolished half as many Palestinians homes in the first few months of 2016 as they did in all of 2015, according to United Nations documentation.
The UN added that last month saw the most home demolitions in one 30 day period than any other since the UN started its documentation in 2009.
Israeli forces open fire in Bethlehem
In the occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, Palestinians dedicated this year’s Land Day to the tens of bodies of Palestinian children being held by Israeli forces.
Ahlam al-Wahish, a director of the Palestinian Women’s Union, told Mondoweiss.net that Israeli forces have been holding the bodies of 16 Palestinian minors from Bethlehem since the First and Second Intifadas.
Around 200 marchers were in attendance, with more gathering as the march made its way through the city. Protesters carried fake coffins draped in Palestinian flags, marching toward Israel’s separation wall. As protesters made their way to Israel’s separation wall a few miles down the street, Israeli forces opened a garage-like gate in the wall and began shooting rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at protesters.
Land Day 1976
At the time of the first Land Day demonstration Israel had embarked on a national project to construct new Jewish-Israeli localities in the north that were to go, in-part, on tracks of land owned by Palestinian citizens. The announcement of the state’s acquisition of lands spurred the first large-scale protest from all Arab political parties asserting their collective and historic right to hold their territory in Israel.
It was also the first protest that turned violent where the Israeli military was dispatched and fired live-rounds, killing six and injuring more than 100.
“We have to remember until 1965 Palestinians were still under military rule,” Touma-Sliman said in reference to Israel’s first decades of military government from 1949 to 1966 where demonstrations were outlawed. A decade later when the inaugural Land Day protest occurred, its size, political unity and the deadly encounter with the Israeli army set a tone for how Palestinian of Israeli viewed their status as citizens. “It took ten years for the population to stand up again and to claim its rights and defend ourselves,” said Touma-Sliman.
“I think Land Day is landmark in our history, because it shifted the population from a defeated—let’s say—weak minority, to a minority that is fighting for its rights,” Touma-Sliman reflected on the spread of the day of events to Palestinian communities outside of Israel.
“It’s village by village, and it’s house by house”
While in the northern region near the first Land Day, confiscations continue to date often by way of bureaucratic zoning procedures, “it’s village by village, and it’s house by house,” Touma-Sliman said.
“All that can be confiscated [in the north] is almost all already confiscated, that’s why we are focusing in the Negev now,” Touma-Sliman added.
Palestinians march in Negev to protest Bedouin evictions
In recent years a second Land Day demonstration is held in the south over the issue of Bedouins residing in unrecognized villages. In the Negev desert region 160,000 Bedouins live in towns that are deemed illegal by the state, therefore they do not have access to basic municipal services. Water, electricity and sewage connections are prohibited. These ramshackle towns are constructed with flimsy materials in a loophole to strict building codes, in which an unregistered township can host houses so long as they are not outfitted with formal supplies. Concrete, wood and glass are banned, and so tarp and tin are common fixtures.
Challenging the unrecognized status of Bedouin villages in the south, a march and tree planting event took place in the unregistered village of Umm el-Hieran, which is slated for eviction. Israel plans to build a private Jewish community named “Hiran” in its stead. Bulldozers have been working on the edges of the Bedouin town during the last month to lay infrastructure for the future Israeli community.
The first Land Day march began in 1976 “after the announcement of a confiscation of 20,000 dunums, and at this time the authorities plan to confiscate 800,000 dunums in the Negev. This requires us to forge a strong response in our organized popular struggle,” Odeh said from the podium.
In the Negev, Bedouins or Arab-Palestinians of nomadic heritage have claims to 800,000 dunums of land. However, Israel has yet to review these appeals for deeds that date back to the British and Ottoman period, before Israel’s founding in 1948.
“As we commemorate this day, this year as the Arab public continues to suffer from discrimination in land and housing,” Odeh continued, “Houses are threatened with demolition, villages are threatened with eviction, our Arab towns are continuously being diminished.”
“And so today we launch yet another cry against policies of discrimination, against the uprooting of families in Umm el-Hieran from their town, and we demand recognition of all the villages in the Negev,” Odeh told supporters.
Israeli forces have faced repeated criticism for their excessive use of force against Palestinians since a wave of unrest swept Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory last October. More than 200 Palestinians have now been shot dead by Israeli forces, some in clashes, the majority after they had been accused of attacking or attempting to attack Israelis, with nearly 30 Israelis killed in the same period.
A soldier’s gruesome killing of a wounded Palestinian who was shot in the head at point-blank range despite having already been shot to the ground, in Hebron, caused international outcry last week, an incident one senior UN official branded an “extrajudicial execution” and a “gruesome, immoral, and unjust act.”
Files from Maan News Agency and Mondoweiss.net
For your information: One day of land, property theft & destruction, Sept. 29-30, 2015
Settlers ‘occupy 23 homes’ in East Jerusalem neighborhood
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 30 Sept — Israeli settlers early Tuesday occupied 23 houses in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan south of the Old City of Jerusalem, a local information center said. Wadi Hilweh Information Center said in a statement that “settlers of the Elad (Ir David) Association” stormed Silwan at 1:30 a.m. escorted by Israeli soldiers and forcibly evicted the residents of an apartment and occupied it, in addition to several vacant homes. The houses belong to the Baydoun, al-Karaki, Abu Sbeih, al-Zawahra, al-Abbasi, al-Khayyat, Qarain and al-Yamani families, the statement said. The Wadi Hilweh Center called the act an “unprecedented settlement attack.” “Even if the houses have been bought stealthily, this is still an illegal seizure of Arab houses by the Elad settlement association.” …
Ir David Foundation is an organization that promotes a Jewish connection to parts of the Silwan neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, including the “City of David” archaeological site. East Jerusalem is internationally recognized as Palestinian territory, but Israel occupied it in 1967 and later annexed it in a move never considered legitimate abroad.
Israel distributes demolition notices to homes in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (PNN) 29 Sept — The Israeli Occupation Authorities distributed today, Monday, demolition notices to a number of houses in Wadi Al-Nes village south Bethlehem. The popular resistance against Occupation and apartheid wall committee coordinator in Al-Ma‘asara village told PNN that the Israeli forces this Monday morning, started distributing demolition notices and construction halt commands to a number of houses in Wadi Al-Nes, adding that the ‘civil administration’ officers were photographing the houses and sticking demolition notices to their walls.
Background information: Wadi Al-Nes is a village neighbouring the apartheid wall. The occupation has been targeting the village since very long through preventing the inhabitants from using the historical road that connects it to Bethlehem city, after the illegal construction of Efrat settlement. The villagers of Wadi Al-Nes also suffer from having no lands or license to build, because of the Israeli policies that aim to tighten the screws on the village. This led the inhabitants to build on the eastern side of the village, where occupation forces followed them with the demolition notices.
Committee: Israel ‘creates fake cemetery’ to steal land in Jerusalem
[with photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 30 Sept — The head of the Jerusalem committee for Islamic cemeteries told Ma‘an Sunday that the Israeli municipality had recently created a fake Jewish cemetery on Muslim-owned property in order to confiscate Palestinian land. Hajj Mustafa Abu Zahra said Israeli municipality workers in Jerusalem had installed seven “false graves” on a piece of land near the southern wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and installed gravestones with a Star of David and a large sign reading “Jewish Cemetery” in Hebrew.
“These graves are only an attempt to confiscate the land,” Abu Zahra said. “We are more entitled to use the land as an Islamic cemetery, especially after no room has been left in our cemeteries which we have been using for 1,400 years.” As the Israeli workers were installing the graves, others demolished 20 Islamic graves at Martyrs cemetery in the area, Abu Zahra said.
Israeli forces destroy power grid in Nablus village
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 29 Sept — Israeli military forces on Monday destroyed an electricity network in the Nablus village of Aqraba, a Palestinian official said. Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settlement activity, told Ma‘an that Israeli military bulldozers raided the Khirbet al-Tawil area of the village and demolished the main power line established in 2004. Israeli soldiers destroyed over 80 electricity pylons and wires, he added. Israel is using demolitions to “pressure residents to leave their houses for the sake of nearby settlements.”
In August, Israeli forces demolished four houses in the al-Tawil neighborhood, some of which were over 100 years old. The al-Tawil neighborhood is on the outskirts of Aqraba and locals say Israeli forces have targeted several properties in the area under the pretext that they were built without a permit.
Israeli forces demolish 5-story residential building in Abu Dis
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Sept — Israeli forces demolished three floors of a residential Palestinian building in Abu Dis overnight Sunday on the pretext that the owners lacked building permission, locals said. Witnesses told Ma‘an that five Israeli bulldozers accompanied by Israeli forces surrounded a five-story building in Abu Dis after midnight and began demolishing three floors at around 1:40 a.m. Israeli forces closed all roads leading to the building before the demolition.
Owner Muatasim Adilah, a lecturer at Al-Quds University, said that Israeli forces ordered him and his family to leave the building without being allowed to remove any belongings. Neighbors and local residents were not allowed near the area during the demolition. Three of the five floors were destroyed, with the other two floors left uninhabitable. Adilah said that the first two floors were built in 1959 while an additional three floors were constructed several years ago after obtaining a license from the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s Jerusalem municipality issued a demolition warrant for the additional three floors on April 30, 2013 after claiming that the building is located within the municipality’s boundaries. Adilah then tried to obtain a construction license from the Jerusalem municipality but it was rejected. The building is 1,000 square meters and built on privately owned land. Clashes broke out following the demolition, and Israeli forces shot three youths with live fire, witnesses said. The demolition lasted four hours.
Israel’s West Bank Prawer plan?
Alternative News 29 Sept by Elizabeth Austwick, Eddie Scherler — Campaigns are being mounted by local and international groups against Israeli plans to expel 12,500 Bedouin-Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem’s so-called E1 area. Israel contends the expulsion is to improve Bedouin lives, although Israeli designs to expand area settlement are explicit — The Israeli government released six plans earlier this month to forcibly displace the Bedouin-Palestinian communities in the Jerusalem periphery in favour of settlement expansion which could connect the existing West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim with Jerusalem.
Under these plans, Israel would expel the 12,500 Bedouin-Palestinians who live in this area and move them to the existing villages of Fasayil and al Jabal, as well as to the new township of Nweima, planned for north of Jericho. Around 80% of the Bedouin-Palestinians living in E1 are refugees from the Negev, who were forced out their homes and lands in 1948. This latest plan will once again displace them from their land with the aim of annexing the area into greater Jerusalem … The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the Israeli Civil Administration presents the expulsion plans as appropriate to the “dynamic changes” that Bedouin society is undergoing as it moves from an agricultural society “to a modern society that earns its living by commerce, services, technical trade and more”.
The Bedouin-Palestinian communities in question, however, were not consulted about these ‘dynamic changes’ proposed to their way of life. Abu Suleiman, head of the Jerusalem Bedouins’ Community Cooperative, asks “why do they not let us build here if they want to improve our living conditions” … Abu Khamis, from Khan al Ahmar, stated that “the Bedouins have a very different kind of lifestyle, they need land and space for sheep and herding; this new township (Nweima) is designed for lawyers and doctors”. Each family is to be allotted a housing plot of 250 square metres, a small area unsuited for the rearing of livestock … a similar plan was carried out in 1997, in which several West Bank Bedouin communities were transferred to the al Jabal area of the Jerusalem-area town of Abu Dis, where they were allocated small areas of land with permanent housing units.
A report conducted by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem concludes that “this transfer resulted in the collapse of their pastoralist economies and irreversible damage to their social fabric and rural way of life.” As Abu Khamis remarked, “if you take a fish out of water it will die, and if you put Bedouins off their land they will fall”.