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Home arrow Blog arrow March 2008 arrow March 25, 2008

March 25, 2008
WAWA Blog March 25, 2008: "This land was theirs...our only hope for true peace and security in the region"...It's Their Land...revised 10:30 AM
 
 

Land Day: March 30, 2008; Looking Back and Moving Forward


On March 28, 2008 the villagers of al-Masara, near Umm Salamona, in the occupied Hebron district will hold their annual non-violent demonstration and commemoration of Land Day and raise their voice in opposition to the separation wall and settlement expansion.

"Land Day falls on March 30 and marks the 1976 killings of Palestinian Israelis who were holding non-violent demonstrations against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land. The Israeli army and Israeli police opened fire on the demonstrators, killing six. Since then, March 30 has been a celebration of Palestinian non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation and continued land theft. Israel’s most successful land theft tools are the annexation wall and the settlements. Al-Masara is highly affected by both, with much of the village’s land stolen by the wall and the settlement of Efrat very nearby. The villagers will be demonstrating against the wall as well as Israel’s recent approval for Efrat to build 54 new units on the confiscated land of al-Masara." [1]

Hannah Mermelstein, a co-founder of Birthright Unplugged who lives in Boston, Philadelphia and Ramallah, wrote:

"On March 20, 1941, Yosef Weitz of the Jewish National Fund wrote: 'The complete evacuation of the country from its other inhabitants and handing it over to the Jewish people is the answer.'

"Yosef Weitz's wish was granted. In my name, and in the name of Jewish people throughout the world, an indigenous population was almost completely expelled. Village names have been removed from the map, houses blown up, and new forests planted. In Arabic, this is called the Nakba, or catastrophe. In Israel, this is called "independence." 

"As we approach the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel, the 60th anniversary of the Nakba…Let us remember more than 6 million people whose basic human rights have been deprived for 60 years, and let us, as Jewish people with a history of oppression and a tradition of social justice, work for the right of indigenous people to return to their land. This is our only hope for true peace and security in the region."[2] 


 
On March 30, 1976, in the Galilee, during a peaceful protest, six unarmed Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army and police, who also injured 96 others and arrested over 300. The demonstration was prompted after Israeli authorities announced the confiscation of a total of 5,500 acres of land from Palestinian villages in the Galilee, and classified them as "closed military zones."


I was in Jerusalem on Land Day in March of 2006. Just after the break of dawn, I accompanied a wide awake group of Israeli Jews, who traveled three hours north to the lower Galilee municipality of Sakhnin, an Arab village whose land continues to be grabbed and colonized by Israel.

Ronnie, a Canadian who moved to Israel with the desire to help build a civil society, is a co-founder of Women in Black and active with Machsom Watch/women at the checkpoints who watch for and report on human rights abuse, laughed as she told me, "A friend said that I am so Left that if I ever gets to heaven I will probably argue with God that those in hell just didn't get a fair deal."

Ronnie turned serious as she continued, "Religion is used as a cover, but it's all about the land! It's convenient to claim one is doing something for God but the laws are made to take the land. We don't have settlers in Israel -the common name for illegal colonists in the West Bank-we just take it! First it is claimed to be for military reasons then it'll become a park or agricultural land that the state has confiscated.

"The Palestinians who did not leave in '48 but remained here still have lost their land. They can't get permits to build... I am opposed to the occupation and as an Israeli Jew I want to see justice for all...and I refuse to be enemies with anyone."

Three hours from Jerusalem, we met up with over 100 progressive Israeli's, Arab Christians, Muslims, atheists, communists and internationals who attended a tour of the area and the conference coordinated by Batshalom and The Women's Coalition for Peace and Justice.

I learned that not only had Israel confiscated acres of the most fertile of Palestinian land they had also placed land mines on the land. Many farmers and other innocent ones have lost their lives or legs, so people quit caring for their groves and the Israeli government declared the village of Sakhnin a military zone.

A few years prior, the President of Israel had declared that the people of Sakhnin, deserved to have their land back. But the Israeli county of Misgav, abetted by the Israeli Land Authority continues to collect taxes from the indigenous people and still has not returned any land nor have they issued any permits for Palestinians to build.

One of the Israeli peace activist's commented, "In 2000 during Land Day, hundred's of nonviolent protesters were arrested and we were hit with tear gas and rubber bullets. Name it and we have had it!"

Another told me, "I am an Israeli Jew and I am responsible to change something about this situation. We all need to do this together."

The speakers all spoke in Arabic or Hebrew, and my interpreter was Aliyah [Hebrew for "Go Up"], who was born in St. Louis, grew up in Cleveland and moved to Israel in 1948.

"My Father was born in Jerusalem and I was a Zionist, but now I am not so sure. I still want the Jewish people to have a state but it must be honest and moral, I don't want a piranha state! Before 1967 I was euphoric! My husband and I began to learn that there were Israelis who you could call prophets, who said we must return the land and make peace. Then a fundamentalist Jewish group, The Gush Emunim began erecting the settlements in the newly possessed land.

"When Israel went into Lebanon I was infuriated! I demonstrated against the massacres at Shatila and Shabra. Eighteen years of Israel in Lebanon is what built up the Hezbollah! The Israelis supported the group at first because they hoped the Hezbollah would be against the Palestinian refugees in South Lebanon."

I inquired, "Isn't that what Israel did with Hamas? Didn't they originally support Hamas to be a wedge against the PLO?"

Aliyah replied, "Yes, stupidity repeats itself!"

In the Northern part of Israel 53% of the population are Jews who control 80% of the land. Palestinians are 47% of the population with only 20% of the land.

Sakhnin has 25,000 people and less than 10,000 dunums of land but they only control half of that. In 1948 they owned and controlled 170,000 dunums.

A Defense Industry and Army base complex a few miles from where we stood has a most mysterious warehouse. Aliyah remarked, "No one knows what is going on inside, but it may be a nuclear reactor. The municipality asked the army to develop in another direction for there is a school over there too. The Israelis are allowed to expand anywhere, but the people of Sakhnin are not allowed permits to builds on their own land.

"I really became aware of what was going on in the '80's. I had been invited to a meeting of The Bridge for Peace and Coexistence, which is a group of Arab and Jewish activists. A man asked me where I was living and when I answered Bneitz-ion. He calmly and politely told me "That is my Uncle's land."


Since 1967 Israel has confiscated more than 750,000 acres of land from the 1.5 million acres comprising the West Bank and Gaza. Most of the land has been confiscated to make space for illegal settlement expansions, and apartheid bypass roads that are for the exclusive use of the Israeli colonists. Since 1948, Israel has confiscated nearly 85 percent of the territory within the Green Line from Palestinians. Most of this land was taken from the 800,000 Palestinian refugees, who were evicted or fled for fear of massacres during the 1948 war.

Israel's illegal settlement expansion and land confiscation has continued unabated and the ongoing construction of the Israeli separation wall, which has been described by a UN report as a "creeping annexation", involves the confiscation of the most fertile of Palestinian land and water sources.

The Israeli Knesset (Israeli parliament) has passed dozens of laws in defiance of U.N. Resolutions and International Law, such as The Absentee Property law and the Development Authority (Transfer of Property) Law.

This law, which in Arabic is called 'Qanoon Elhader/Gayeb', was adopted in March 1950. It classifies anyone who was a citizen or resident of one of the Arab states or a Palestinian citizen on November 29, 1947, but had left his place of residence-even to take refuge within Palestine- as an 'absentee'. Absentee property was vested in the Custodian of Absentee Property who then 'sold' it to the Development Authority. This effectively authorized the theft of the property of a million Arabs, seized by Israel in 1948.

Adopted in July 1950, this law was devised as a legal ploy to shield the Israeli government from the accusation that it had confiscated abandoned property. The Development Authority is an independent body empowered to sell, buy, lease, exchange, repair, build, develop and cultivate Palestinian property. None of these transactions could take place except with a Jew or a Jewish entity!

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 clearly asserts that the "occupying power cannot move segments of its own population to parts of the land it occupies," or make any demographic or territorial changes that are not in the interest of the occupied. Furthermore, provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention have unquestionably condemned Israel's settlement activities and demanded the ceasing of "all" settlement expansion by Israel.

UN Security Council Resolution 681 (1990) confirmed that the Forth Geneva Convention is applicable to the Occupied Territories and thus Israel's compliance is mandatory.

Yet, settlement activity continues to increase and the U.S.A. government turns a blind eye and deaf ear to the cries for justice from the occupied, oppressed and indigenous people of the Holy Land; which is in pieces; Bantustans.
 

Hope lies in the international communities resolve to seek justice and compel Israel to abide by UN Security Council Resolutions and International Law, for people have rights and nations and states have obligations.

The Founding Fathers of Israel affirmed: "On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations."- May 14, 1948, The Declaration of the establishment of Israel.

The Founding Fathers of America penned: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. -July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence

Sixty years ago, the establishment of Israel was contingent upon the upholding of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS: "Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law... Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."-Preamble



On this Land Day, let us remember the more than 6 million people whose basic human rights have been denied for 60 years, and all those who died during nonviolent demonstrations that sought to regain their legally owned land. May we all seek the higher ground of social justice and work for the rights of the indigenous Palestinian people to return to their home land. Only justice: equal human rights for all, can lead to security for Israel and that is the way to a true peace in the Holy Land.

1. http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2008/03/24/land-day-demonstration-in-al-masara/

2. http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/this_weeks_issue/opinions2/?content_id=4644


Other Sources:

 http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=3410&CategoryId=4

 http://www.birthrightunplugged.org/



This land was theirs
March 23 2008  

By Hannah Mermelstein, a co-founder of Birthright Unplugged who lives in Boston, Philadelphia and Ramallah.

On March 20, 1941, Yosef Weitz of the Jewish National Fund wrote: "The complete evacuation of the country from its other inhabitants and handing it over to the Jewish people is the answer." On this day in 1948, almost two months before the first "Arab-Israeli war" technically began, the 1,125 inhabitants of the Palestinian village Umm Khalid fled a Haganah military operation. Like their brethren from more than 500 villages, they likely thought they would return to their homes within a few weeks, after the fighting blew over and new political borders were or were not drawn.  

Instead, more than 6 million Palestinian people remain refugees to this day, some in refugee camps not far from their original towns, others in established communities in Europe and the US, all forbidden from returning to their homeland for one reason: they are not Jewish.  

Yosef Weitz's wish was granted. In my name, and in the name of Jewish people throughout the world, an indigenous population was almost completely expelled. Village names have been removed from the map, houses blown up, and new forests planted. In Arabic, this is called the Nakba, or catastrophe. In Israel, this is called "independence."  

Last month I went with a man from Umm il Fahm (a Palestinian city in Israel) to his original village of Lajun, only a few miles away. Adnan's land is now a JNF forest "belonging" to Kibbutz Megiddo. As we walk the stone path he points to each side of the road, naming the families that used to live there: Mahamid, Mahajne, Jabrin…. The land there is not naturally rocky; the stones that we walk on are a graveyard of destroyed houses. Adnan was only six years old when the Haganah's bullets flew over his head and he and his family fled. But he remembers. He tears up as we stop at the site of his destroyed house and says, "Welcome to my home."  

Adnan is an Israeli citizen, yet the land that was stolen from him has been given to a body that refuses to let him live on it. As an American Jew, I could move to Lajun/Megiddo tomorrow, gain full citizenship rights, and live on the land that Adnan's family has tended for centuries. Adnan, who lives just a few minutes away, is forbidden from doing so.  

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel, the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, let us remember Adnan. Let us remember the inhabitants of Umm Khalid. Let us remember more than 6 million people whose basic human rights have been deprived for 60 years, and let us, as Jewish people with a history of oppression and a tradition of social justice, work for the right of indigenous people to return to their land. This is our only hope for true peace and security in the region.  


http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/this_weeks_issue/opinions2/?content_id=4644


FOR MORE INFO ON Birthright Unplugged see:
 http://www.birthrightunplugged.org/

 

 



 
   
 
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