Thousands of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs held rallies on Wednesday to mark the 40th anniversary of “Land Day” – when protests against the Israeli confiscation of land in the Galilee region ended in violence and death.
Six Arab Israelis were killed by Israeli security forces during the demonstrations in 1976.
The commemorations, which were marked by a minute’s silence, featured slogans such as “the earth is the homeland”.
“Land day was the first Palestinian uprising, and it started here in the Galilee and the Negev. It started as a defence of the land, that they (the Israelis) were planning to confiscate – but it became a defence of their existence: a National Day, a Palestinian, Arab and International Day,” said Mohammad Barakeh, chairman of the High Follow-up Committee, the main representative body for Arabs in Israel.
There were also protests in Gaza featuring a poster more than 2,000 metres long, described as the longest in the world.
That claim was unconfirmed – but the message to the Israelis was crystal clear: a mural spelt out, in English, the words “You leave, we stay – it’s our LAND”.
There were similar sentiments in the West Bank where a rally was held outside a prison.
It ended up in clashes betweens stone-throwing Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.