For nearly three decades the Palestinian people had been brutalised and belittled. Then on 30 March 1976 they took a collective stand. They were not the nomadic nuisance denounced by the Western "Israeli" Alliance. They were a people with the same inalienable rights as any people. And they would determine their own fate.
They held a general strike and demonstrated against the recently announced intention of the "Israeli" forces to further snuff out Arab viability in the Galilee region. But the "Israeli" armed forces would not tolerate what they viewed as insubordination; they turned their weapons on the protestors, killing six outright, injuring dozens and arresting those who persisted in raising their voices. The Western "Israeli" media quickly put down the fatal day as an outbreak of rioting Arabs. But the estimated 400,000 Palestinian people who had participated in the strike knew better.
Despite the condescension they had endured, the Palestinian people formed a committee to address their concerns to the Israeli state which now claimed them as citizens. They knew there was a fundamental and ethical flaw in what the Israelis had conceded was the 'Judaization of the Galilee'. Just the week before the demonstration, a spokesman for the Arab committee stated:
'This is not a Palestinian issue, or an issue of Arab nationalist feeling. I look at this as a human rights issue, as a minority living in the country. We are not against development. We want development. We are the ones who need it. If the government wants to develop the Galilee, it should include Arabs in the plans. It should set up a committee to make plans that would serve both Jews and Arabs.'
As years of conflict have ensued, the 30th of March has been a yearly reminder of the reality that was exposed in 1976. The Palestinians were extending their hand in compromise. Sadly, they had yet to learn that this hand would never be accepted.
Remembered as 'Palestine Land Day', the occasion honours those who were martyred in pursuit of basic human rights. Of course it is partly about land-territory, boundaries, rights to passage. But we should remember that there is more than this to Land Day. The commemoration of the events of 1976 is a statement that the Palestinian people refuse to be arbitrarily renamed 'Israeli Arabs', branded as terrorists and stomped into submission until they fade into a half-remembered history.
In recent years, Palestine Land Day has served as an international day of action, a day to reiterate the demands of the 1976 protesters by way of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against "Israel" until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. Yet even this non-violent act of civil demonstration has met with disdain amongst those set on rubbing out the notion of Palestine.
In an effort to counter the BDS campaign, pro-Israeli groups have begun what they call a 'buycott' in which they will buy up all of the "Israeli" products that are being 'boycotted', an economical thumbing-of-the-nose. One leader of the counter-move explained:
'The broad concept is that the power of the pocketbook counters the boycott effort. The message needs to be that when you target "Israeli" goods for boycott, the consequence will be more sales, not less'.
Did they think that we hadn't noticed their unrelenting power? In the grand scheme of things, the trade affected by either boycott or buycott initiatives is insignificant at best. Perhaps another pro-Israeli campaigner was more to the point:
'We need to show the boycotters that their efforts are doomed. Let the boycotters know that when they call for boycotts of even one or two stores or products, they will face a much larger movement to buy Israeli goods'.
An honest explanation at last: show the protesters that their efforts are doomed. Make them feel that they are nothing more than the frantic images of their nightmares, struggling to cry out, but in the end unable to find a voice.
This drive to intimidate reflects a pattern of arrogance, a pattern which has recently culminated in unveiled threats at the highest level. The Jewish state has warned the fifteen members of the United Nations Security Council, as well as members of the European Union, that if the Palestinian Authority continues its efforts to gain recognition within the United Nations, then '"Israel" would respond with a series of unilateral steps of its own'.
One European diplomat confirmed to "Israeli" newspaper Haaretz that 'his country did not receive a serious response when asked what unilateral steps Israel might take'. At the same time, "Israeli" diplomats stated that 'even if the General Assembly grants recognition', it would 'not lead to a Palestinian state, but could lead to violence on the ground'.
Beyond tossing around ideas of annexing major settlement blocs to Israel, however, the "Israeli" establishment has expressed indignation at the possibility of circumventing the usual US veto on measures before the Security Council. Noting that the Palestinians could gain UN General Assembly recognition for statehood under the Uniting for Peace Resolution 377 (1950), Gabriela Shalev, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, stated:
'it would be a real obstacle… not just a public relations setback. This would seek to impose on us some kind of Palestinian state'.
One Jerusalem Post editor commented with dismay that
'Israel's complacent assumption has been that even an overwhelming vote to establish 'Palestine' at the GA in September would have merely 'declaratory' impact'.
Theoretically, member states will be permitted to take collective measures to support the 'new' Palestine. And so the strategists of the Western "Israeli" Alliance are busy sorting out how to deal with the impending twist in this ongoing conflict.
Palestinian representative Saeb Erekat stated this action would mean that Palestine would no longer be considered 'disputed lands', but a 'state under occupation'. But if the hopes of the Land Day martyrs are ever to be realised, it may take much more than the UN General Assembly. After all, this esteemed body recognised that Lebanon was a 'state under occupation' for twenty-two years. And did nothing.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.