Israeli Arabs marked the annual Land Day on Saturday, with thousands taking part in protests across the country.
The annual event commemorates six Israeli Arabs killed by security forces during riots on March 30, 1976, which were held to protest the state appropriation of Arab land in the Galilee.
The largest demonstration on Saturday was held in the Galilee village of Sakhnin, where a few thousand protesters carrying Palestinian flags – and some Syrian flags – marched around the village, with many chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “with blood and fire, we will liberate al-Aksa,” among other chants.
“This is a day for us to remember,” said Sakhnin native Adi Ganaim, 40, carrying his fouryear- old son on his shoulders. When asked if things had gotten better or worse for Israeli Arabs since 1976, Ganaim said, “It’s all exactly the same.”
Mahmoud Izibidat, 76, stood outside a kiosk remembers the events of that day in 1976, “like they were yesterday.”
Izbidat pointed to a house at the end of the street, which he said was at the time an open field where two of his neighbors were shot by Israeli forces.
When asked what Land Day means today, he said, “It’s a holiday of sorts, a day for me to speak to my grandchildren about what happened, so that they remember.”
There was no police presence at the march as part of efforts to prevent clashes with protesters.
In the West Bank, two soldiers were lightly wounded by rocks thrown by approximately 20 Palestinian rioters near Kalkilya. The IDF dispersed the protesters with riot-dispersal means.
The soldiers were taken to the hospital.
In Kalandiya, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, some 150 Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers, who responded with riot-dispersal means, an army spokeswoman said. There were no injuries in that clash.
Dozens of Palestinians rioted at Hirbat Aliya, near Efrat. Soldiers were on the scene to contain the incident.
Meanwhile, on the border between Israel and southern Gaza, Palestinians hurled rocks at soldiers. One rioter was lightly injured after sustaining a gunshot wound.
In a separate incident, a five-year-old boy was lightly wounded by stones thrown at his family’s car, while they were traveling on Highway 60 near Efrat. He was evacuated to Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood.
Following the incident, the IDF searched the area for the perpetrators.
In a different protest held at Shokat Junction in the Negev, former MK Taleb al-Sanaa was detained by police for violating the conditions of the protest.
MK Ahmed Tibi of the United Arab List spoke at the Land Day protest in Taibe where hundreds of people and Knesset members demonstrated. Tibi said at the event, “The land is the main obstacle between Arab citizens and the state.” He also stated that Israeli Arabs are treated by exclusion and expropriation of land. Land Day is held annually on March 30 to commemorate the deaths of six Galilee Arabs in 1976 riots over a government decision to confiscate land.
At a demonstration in Beit Safafa, Tibi said this is the first time that Beit Safafa took part in the Land Day activities.
This is because of the stupidity of the government of taking land and building a highway with six lanes in the heart of a quiet and peaceful neighborhood.
“I chose to come here to say that Beit Safafa is like Taibe and Sakhnin and the Negev. You are not alone and we will not leave you alone,” he declared.
He also added that the bulldozers “will not defeat us” and ended his speech with a poem by the famous Palestinian Mahmoud Darwish stating: “Take your names and get out, take your bulldozers and go away in order to be equal and respectful.”
Balad MK Haneen Zoabi released a statement in honor of Land Day stating that Land Day is the name of the main struggle between us and the state. She went on to add that on the original Land Day, the state declared its main project is to Judaize the land and because of this the state placed itself as hostile towards the native peoples – the Palestinians. “And this is still true today,” Zoabi added.
But in reality, she said, this Judaization policy actually began when the Israeli state was founded. “The hatred towards the natives and the battle for their existence is the principle of the Zionist project of the Jewish state.”
“The state expropriated 86% of the Arab’s land, who now live on 3% of their land,” she said.
Zoabi concluded: “They take what we have, and try to get rid of us and then push us into a small piece of land. Colonialism? – even worse.”