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Palestinians mark Land Day with protests

Published Apr 8, 2007 7:36 PM

March 30—The main demonstration of the 31st annual protest known as Yaum Al Ard (Land Day) took place here today in Sakhnin, a northern Palestinian town of about 20,000 within the 1948 borders of the garrison state of Israel. The march of at least 5,000 Palestinians, joined by some Jewish supporters, filled the main street of the town.

Young people demand return of
Palestinian lands.
WW photo: Leslie Feinberg

Thirty-one years ago, on March 30, 1976, Palestinian residents of Sakhnin and Arrabeh organized a general strike and poured into the streets in protest against the Israeli confiscation of 5,500 acres of land from Arab villages here in the Galilee to create “closed military zones.” The Israeli army and police opened fire on the women, men and children who marched here. Six Palestinians were killed, at least 96 wounded and more than 300 were whisked away into detention.

Today, Palestinians of all ages marched through the streets of Sakhnin singing in Arabic: “My land, I love you, you are my life.”

A colorful sea of flags, held aloft by contingents of demonstrators, gave visual representation to the united front that today’s demonstration represented. The large contingent of the Communist Party of Israel—which is more than 90 percent Palestinian—held many red flags and many of its members wore T-shirts emblazoned with the image of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

The Arab nationalist party Balad—the Arabic acronym for National Democratic Assembly—also had a very large contingent carrying orange flags.

The Islamic Movement was identified by its green flags. The Arab Movement for Change carried yellow flags. The Arab Democratic Party and the United Arab List also marched with their own flags.

Marchers chanted, clapped and sang in protest of the decades of theft of their land until they reached the cemetery where the six 1976 martyrs are buried. There, after a moment of silence, a political rally was held in Arabic. Sakhnin Mayor Mohamed Basheer, a central committee member of the Communist Party of Israel, welcomed demonstrators and thanked Jewish democratic forces for their participation.

In recent weeks Israeli occupation forces—using equipment supplied by the United States—demolished the homes of 200 Bedouin families in the Negev, just 300 kilometers from Sakhnin.

Other protests today targeted the construction of the Apartheid Wall, which has imprisoned whole Palestinian towns and villages. Its serpentine shape also constitutes a grab of Palestinian lands. People protested at the Wall in Jenin, Tulkarem and Jerusalem.

Demonstrations also took place in Qalqiliya, Salfit, Ramallah and Hebron. Students organized protests in Qalqiliya, Tulkarem, Jericho, Bethlehem and Birzeit.