Palestinian Land Day and
Israel Apartheid Week activities around the world gave Israel and its
Western backers something to think about in recent weeks, reports Eric
Israeli land confiscations accelerated in the 1970s and led Palestinians
to organise the first coordinated demonstrations in the Occupied Territories
on 30 March 1976, during which 6 Palestinians were killed. This date
has been marked ever since as “Land Day”.
The secret Interior Ministry Koenig Memorandum, written shortly after
the 1976 Land Day rallies, called for “diluting existing Arab population
concentrations” to “ensure the long-term Jewish national interests”.
This officially marked the implementation of Ben Gurion’s plans of ethnic
cleansing to make Israel a de facto Jewish state. Treatment of native
Arab Muslims and Christians ever since merely confirms this policy,
with forced Jewish loyalty oaths and second class services and laws
This year’s 36th annual Land Day rallies saw Israeli security forces
shooting dead a 20-year-old man, and wounding 37 stone-throwers in the
Gaza Strip and around Jerusalem, using live ammunition, rubber bullets,
tear gas and stun grenades. Israeli forces were put on high alert on
the frontiers with Lebanon and Syria, but there were no reports of anyone
nearing the frontier fences. In fact, the Israeli Defence Forces were
relieved at the relatively small numbers of protesters.
But there is little for them to cheer about. Israeli Brigadier General
Yoav Mordechai said, “The Nakba and Naksa days are ahead of us, and
that is where the challenge will be.” Nakba (disaster) Day, the day
after Israeli independence day, is 15 May, and Naksa (retreat) Day,
when Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, previously
controlled by Jordan and Egypt, is 5 June.
During Nakba Day commemorations last year, thousands of Palestinian
refugees from Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Syria marched towards
the ceasefire borders with Israel. Fifteen Palestinians were killed
and hundreds wounded, and more than a hundred protestors from Syria
managed to breach the fence and enter the Golan Heights. One even made
it all the way to Tel Aviv.
Land Day is now formally commemorated in a Global March to Jerusalem,
protesting the Judaisation of East Jerusalem as Israel prepares to make
Jerusalem its Jews-only capital. According to organisers, more than
600 institutions from 64 states were involved in planning the march.
Protests also took place outside Israeli embassies in European and Arab
countries. Backers of the march include former Malaysian Prime Minister
Mahatir Mohammed and former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa Desmond
Tutu. Organisers planned to send convoys of vehicles to Israel’s borders
simultaneously from Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
Jordan’s demonstration attracted 15,000, included four rabbis from Neturei
Karta. “We want the world to know that the Jewish religion does not
accept the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people.
It is against the views of Jews around the world who are true to the
Torah,” said Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss. “We are here to mark Land Day,
and tell the world not to blame Jewish people for the crimes of Zionism,”
Rabbi Ahron Cohen said. “Judaism and Zionism are two different concepts.”
Numbers were smaller in Lebanon, as Lebanese security forces attempted
to prevent a repeat of last year’s fatal border protests. About 200
foreign activists, including two more rabbis, arrived at Beaufort Castle
to join the southern Lebanon rally. In Syria, despite the civil war,
protesters rallied in Damascus in solidarity with both the Palestinians
and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Egypt had planned demonstrations,
but they were called off due to heightened security and the tense political
To mark Land Day, Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving
five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role during the Second
Intifada, called on Palestinians to launch a popular resistance campaign
against Israel and for the Palestinian Authority to stop peace negotiations
and all coordination with Israel in the economic and security realms.
Land Day, of course, is all about land. Appropriately, 30 March 2012
is the first anniversary of the Stop the Jewish National Fund (JNF)
campaign aimed at ending the role of the JNF in expanding illegal settlements
by displacing Palestinians, stealing their property, and then covering
this up with tax-exempt donations from diaspora Jews. This campaign
is a key element in Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activism.
The JNF uses greenwash to advertise itself as an environmental movement,
planting fast-growing non-native firs on razed Palestinian villages
to hide Israeli crimes. Israeli parks include a Leisure corner at Nesher
Park, Canada Park, American Independence Park, JF Kennedy Memorial,
and Coretta Scott King Forest.
The Stop the JNF campaign (www.stopthejnf.org) fights this, even doing
“flash” actions in the Israeli parks, nailing notices to trees to identify
the destroyed Palestinian villages, as well as lobbying foreign governments
to end the JNF’s tax-exempt status. British Prime Minister David Cameron
was successfully pressured to end his status as “Honorary Patron” of
the JNF last year. Stop the JNF also has a “Plant a Tree” programme
in Palestine to replant indigenous trees.
In the build-up to Land Day, throughout February and early March, student
solidarity groups marked the 8th Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) at 120
universities in 40 cities around the world, from Al-Quds (Jerusalem)
and Albuquerque to Yaffa and Zurich. At Boston-area universities Israeli
activist and filmmaker Shai Carmeli-Pollak screened his 2006 documentary
“Bilin Habibti” about Israel Defense Forces violence. Members of Brandeis
University SJP marked their first annual Israeli Apartheid Week with
a hunger strike to draw attention to Palestinian Khader Adnan’s 66-day
hunger strike in protest of his detainment without charge. Good news:
the international media spotlight on the case pushed Israeli officials
to agree to free Adnan in April.
At the University of Amsterdam, Shir Hever, an Israeli economist at
Jerusalem’s Alternative Information Centre, gave a series of lectures
“Could the economic policies of Israel be considered a form of Apartheid?”
At Glasgow University, Israeli anthropologist Jeff Halper, co-founder
of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, spoke on “Israeli
Apartheid: The Case For BDS”. At the University of Liverpool, the Corporate
Watch research group unveiled a new source book Targeting Israeli Apartheid.
In London, a Beats Against Apartheid event included performances from
hip-hop artists Lowkey, Mic Righteous and Awate.
British and Canadian politicians were furious. In Canada, the Ontario
legislature unanimously condemned Israeli Apartheid Week. “If you’re
going to label Israel as Apartheid, then you are also attacking Canadian
values,” Conservative legislator Peter Shurman told Shalom Life. “The
use of the phrase ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ is about as close to hate
speech as one can get without being arrested, and I’m not certain it
doesn’t actually cross over that line.”
In the UK, thought police were called on to investigate comments made
at Middlesex University’s Free Palestine Society IAW forum by Liberal
Democrat Peer Jenny Tonge and former US marine Ken O’Keefe. O’Keefe
is alleged to have incited racial hatred by comparing Jewish supporters
of Israeli crimes to Nazis in their treatment of Jews. “The decent Germans
of World War Two, what did they do when the Nazis came to power and
instituted their policies? Did they do enough to stop the Nazis? No,
they didn’t. What are the Jewish people doing right now? Are you doing
enough to stop your racist, apartheid, genocidal state?” Baroness Tonge
agreed with O’Keefe telling the audience at that Israel would “not last
forever” and would “lose support, and then they will reap what they
Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/
You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/ His Postmodern Imperialism:
Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at http://claritypress.com/Walberg.html