Today Palestinians observe Land Day in commemoration of the six unarmed Palestinians killed by Israeli troops on this day in 1976.
The original Land Day strike occurred on March 30, 1976 when thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in reaction to Israeli government’s appropriation of about 5,000 acres of Arab-owned land between Arab towns in northern Israel.
“Although the strike was strictly observed by Palestinians throughout Israel, the focus of the protest were three villages in the central Galilee that faced the loss of a large area of prime agricultural land: Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Deir Hanna.” –Jonathan Cook, Palestinians Celebrate Land Day
The original strike was organized by the “Committee to Defend the Land,” a coalition composed of many disparate political groups, but the strike was rejected by or not endorsed by the more establised “Committee of Heads of Local Authorities.”
“Compared to the large-scale land expropriations from the 1950′s and 60′s, the amount of land actually seized from Palestinians in 1976 was relatively small.” Rabinowitz & Baker, Coffins on Our Shoulders
“What is significant about the movement of the Land Day is the fact that it merged the nationalist demands with the civil rights demands and thus was able to mobilize a large part of Palestinian Arab population.” Farsoun & Aruri, Palestine and the Palestinians
In response, the Israeli government sent in not just the police, but the army. After protesters threw stones, the army imposed a curfew.
“When a neighbour stepped outside her house, she was shot and injured, Mr Khalaila said. He and his older brother, Khader, tried to help the woman. When they were about 50 metres from her, Khader was shot in the head. ” (Cook)
Palestinians recall many similar beatings and shootings that took place on that first Land Day and of wide-scale arrests that followed the strike.
Today, Land Day is one of the most important national non-religious observances of the Palestinian people, and in fact, many consider the original Land Day as one of the major events that helped to unify and define the disparate Palestinian factions.