Saturday, October 31, 2020

The aftermath of the Land Day massacre on Gaza’s border

By Ruth Regan - April 02, 2018
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Gaza] [IDF] [protests]

On Saturday March 31, Palestine held a general strike and a national day of mourning for the 17 people killed in Gaza by the Israeli military the previous day, during the Land Day protest, labelled the 'Great Return March’.

While shops were boarded up and events cancelled in Ramallah, in Gaza funerals for the slain begun. 1400 were wounded in the violence and hospitals struggled to cope and ran low on blood.
Meanwhile, the IDF released a barrage of propaganda defending their actions and portraying the protest as a violent, terrorist-backed “riot”.
They tweeted imagery with the caption “kids shouldn’t be part of a violent riot” and released a video from the Head of IDF Public Diplomacy, Major Keren Hajioff, who said the “riot is another attempt by the brutal dictatorship of the Hamas terror organization to distract the people of Gaza and the world from the real problems that Hamas has caused its own people.”
Nevertheless, international media broadly – though not universally - condemned the attack and Haaretz warned of a resulting “propaganda nightmare” for Israel.
The United Nations (UN) called for an “independent and transparent investigation,” yet the UN Security Council were unable to agree on a joint statement during an emergency meeting called by Kuwait on Friday evening, with blocks from the United States.
Land Day protests date back to March 30 1976 in Galilee, now northern Israel, where the Israeli government’s plan to seize back private land for official use, much of which was Arab-owned, led to a general strike and marches organised across Arab towns.
Six unarmed Arab Israelis were killed in the resulting clashes. Around 100 people were wounded and hundreds more arrested. It was the first nationally organised day of collective action by Arab Israelis and came to be known as Yom-Al Ard, Land Day.
Each year, Palestinians hold a day of commemoration which they use to reiterate connection to and ownership of their land. It is also an opportunity for Arab Israelis to express solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Typical protests involve holding vigils and planting olive trees, in acts of collective resistance to the occupation.
The organised 'tent city’ protest in Gaza this year had been well-known to Israel in advance. It had been “previously declared by the organizers as peaceful demonstrations,” the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported in a statement.
The event involved Gazan residents, activists and families setting up a tents close to the eastern border, demanding their right to return to the land seized from them in 1948.
Where they were to be set up is a sensitive, Israeli-controlled military zone, considered a 'no go’ area.
There had therefore been much speculation over how the Israeli military would react. Israeli media reported the military were gearing up for “large scale clashes” as early as a week before.
In their statement, PCHR declared the “huge number of victims proves that the Israeli forces continue to commit further crimes and use of excessive force against Palestinian civilians in disregard for their lives upon an official political decision.”
The protest is set to last 46 days. Beginning on Land Day, protestors intend to continue for six weeks until Nakba Day, May 15.
They have remained steadfast at the border so far, despite the disproportionate violence inflicted upon them on day one.
Violence continued into day two with reports of at least six Palestinians injured by open fire from Israeli soldiers in watchtowers.

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