[News] Commemorating Land Day amid lockdown in Palestine

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 30 14:01:07 EDT 2020

Land Day amid lockdown in Palestine
Yara Hawari - March 30, 2020

Forty-four years ago today, the Israeli police shot six Palestinian
citizens of Israel dead as they were protesting against the Israeli
government's expropriation of thousands of acres of Palestinian land in the
Galilee. Since then, March 30 has been known as Land Day and is an
important date in the Palestinian political calendar.

This year, Palestinians will be marking Land Day at home amid the COVID-19
pandemic, which has left much of the world's populations under lockdown and
curfew. Being confined to their homes or their villages and towns is not a
new experience for Palestinians which is perhaps why so many have taken it
in their stride.

Indeed, Palestinians in the West Bank are confined to what amounts to
bantustans connected to each other only by roads controlled by the Israeli
regime, while their brothers and sisters in Gaza live in an open-air prison
deemed "unliveable" by the United Nations. Most Palestinians living across
the "Green Line" have Israeli citizenship, they nevertheless live in urban
and rural ghettos.

Palestinians are also disconnected from their Arab brothers and sisters
with many of them prevented from travelling around the Arab world, either
because their documents do not permit them to do so (in the case of
Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) or because they are under travel

As part of the COVID-19 response, the Israeli regime has imposed even more
measures restricting Palestinian movement. The city of Bethlehem has been
put under lockdown, while crossings into Gaza and the West Bank have been
shut down. Palestinian labourers working in Israel have also been told to
either stay for an unknown period of time in shoddy and unsanitary
accommodation or give up work and stay in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority has imposed a curfew and set up checkpoints
between villages and towns to limit the movement of people. Businesses have
been shut down, except for supermarkets and pharmacies.

Meanwhile, Israel is continuing its practices of removing Palestinians from
their land, even exploiting the lockdown amid the pandemic to do so. In
Jerusalem, where there is a concerted effort to Judaise neighbourhoods and
reduce the number of Palestinian inhabitants, the demolitions
of Palestinian homes continue, despite the outbreak. The Israeli regime
claims these buildings are illegal in order to justify demolishing them,
yet Palestinians are consistently denied building permits.

Demolitions are also used as a method of collective punishment of the
families of Palestinian political prisoners particularly in the West Bank.
In the midst of this pandemic, this continuing cruel practice renders calls
by Israeli authorities to "stay at home" absurd.

Similarly the construction of illegal settlements across the West Bank has
not halted and there are fears that de jure annexation of many areas will
be expediated under these circumstances, particularly as Benjamin Netanyahu
is once again set to lead the next government.

Already, last week there were three cases
in which illegal Israeli settlements razed Palestinian land and there has
been an overall rise in attacks against Palestinian properties.

Earlier this month, Palestinians from Beita village near Nablus held a
sit-in to try and protect land from being stolen by settlers. The Israeli
security forces came out in full force to give cover to the settlers and in
the process shot 15-year-old Mohammed Hammayel in the head killing him

Many in historic Palestine are worried that Israel will use the COVID-19
outbreak as an excuse to leave in place new restrictive measures even after
the pandemic is over and will also prevent Palestinians from resisting its
land grabs. At a time when the world is focused solely on the pandemic and
the Israeli regime has the full support of the US administration to do as
it pleases, Israeli aggressive expansionism seems inevitable.

Yet over the decades, Palestinians have shown incredible strength, courage
and sumud (steadfastness) in the face of great adversity. While Israeli
settler colonial expansionism does not rest, neither does Palestinian
perseverance. As the Palestinian poet Tawfiq Ziyad wrote:

In Lidda, in Ramla, in the Galilee,
we shall remain
like a wall upon your chest,
and in your throat
like a shard of glass,
a cactus thorn,
and in your eyes
a sandstorm.
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