Land Day: What happened in Palestine in 1976?

Every year on March 30, Palestinians hold protests and vigils and plant olive trees to reaffirm their connection to the land.

Protests in a demonstration in Gaza
Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza joined the Land Day protests near the eastern Gaza borders, March 30, 2022 [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Every year on March 30, Palestinians observe Land Day, or Yom al-Ard, recalling the events of March 30, 1976, when six unarmed Palestinians were killed and more than 100 injured by Israeli forces during protests against Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land.

INTERACTIVE Palestine Israel what is Land Day-1711525002

How much land did Israel confiscate?

Israel ordered the confiscation of 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of land belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Galilee. These plans were part of Israeli state policy to Judaise Galilee following the creation of the state of Israel.

The confiscated land is roughly the size of 3,000 football pitches or the area from the tip of Manhattan to Central Park in New York, US.

What do Palestinians do on Land Day?

Palestinians, both inside Israel and across the occupied territory, mark this day by holding protests and vigils and planting olive trees to reaffirm their connection to the land. The protests are often met with brutal use of force by Israel.

A woman raising the Palestine flag
Um Ahmad al-Banna was wounded in the protests of March of Return and joined Land Day commemorations in Gaza in 2022 [Abdelhakim Abu Riash/Al Jazeera]

Is Israel still seizing land?

Yes, Israel has continued to seize large swaths of Palestinian land, designating them as military zones, state land and other labels.

Most recently, on March 22, 2024, Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared Israel was seizing 800 hectares (1,977 acres) in the occupied West Bank, in a move that would facilitate building more illegal settlements.

“While there are those in Israel and in the world who seek to undermine our right to Judea and Samaria and the country in general, we promote settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country,” Smotrich said, using Biblical names for the area that are commonly heard in Israel.

Settlements – illegal under international law – are Jewish-only communities built on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On March 6, Israel’s settlement-planning authority announced it had approved the construction of some 3,500 new housing units in Maale Adumim, Kedar and Efrat within the occupied West Bank.

INTERACTIVE Israel approve new housing units settlements-1711620519

From November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2023, Israel has approved at least 24,000 illegal housing units to be built on Palestinian land.

Earlier this month, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said settlements had expanded by a record amount and risked eliminating any possibility of a Palestinian state.

Source: Al Jazeera