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Jerusalem globalises Palestine Land Day

Palestinians have observed Land Day on 30 March every year since 1976. It was then that Palestinians in Israel organised a general strike to protest against the seizure of their land by the state. The Israeli government responded with characteristic colonial brutality, unleashing military force against peaceful demonstrators; six Palestinian youths were killed by the Israelis that day, and scores more were wounded. This year, because of Israel's escalated assault on occupied Jerusalem and its inhabitants, Land Day 2012 is a global event of enormous significance.

The organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem could not have chosen a better date on which to highlight the troubles of the Holy City. Two million people are expected to take to the streets in 30 countries to send a message to the Israeli establishment; that its illegal occupation of Jerusalem has gone on too long and its twin policies of ethnic cleansing and Judaisation must end.

Since its inception, Land Day has united Palestinians of all faiths and political persuasions across historic Palestine and in every corner of the world. When the final chapter of Palestinian history is written, 30 March will, inevitably, occupy a distinguished position. Without minimising the importance of other landmark events, this day symbolises more than any other the true nature of the conflict in Palestine, which resolves around the fact that Palestine was never "a land without a people", as Israel's founding myths insist, and its real owners have never relinquished their sovereign rights to the ownership of their land.

Israel's objectives are clear: [1] to change the demographic balance in Palestine in favour of Jews; [2] to provide land for illegal Jewish settlers and investors; and [3] to procure a cheap source of labour for Jewish-owned businesses. Nevertheless, more than 100 years since their first encounter with Zionist colonialism, Palestinians remain rooted in their land. From the Galilee in the north to Bir Saba'a in the south, and to Jerusalem in the centre, their aim is one and the same: to overcome the scourge of Israeli policies such as home demolitions, land grabbing and indefinite incarceration.

Six decades after the creation of the Zionist state of Israel, scores of Arab villages remain classified as "unrecognised", the legal device used to deny them basic services such as water, electricity, health and education. Meanwhile, the conquest of the land continues at an alarming speed in the Galilee and Negev, often accompanied by the colonisers' customary tactic of changing place names. The fact that this process of land-grabbing has continued for so long is a testimony to the determination of the Palestinian people, but this begs a somewhat obvious question: if the Palestinians in Israel are truly equal citizens of a democratic state, why does the government deem it necessary to dispossess them of their land?

Today, the Israeli government has put in motion 14 separate proposals to build settlements on both sides of the 1949 Armistice Line. The undeclared aim is to prevent any geographic contiguity between Palestinians villages and towns and thwart the future demarcation of a border between the State of Israel and an independent Palestinian state.

When Land Day comes around next year, a new reality will be in place on the ground. Israel will have completed the construction of its 700 kilometre –long apartheid wall across the West Bank and around Jerusalem. In 2013 it will be almost ten years since the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall is illegal and should be dismantled. Eighty-five per cent of this hideous structure runs through the occupied West Bank; leaving 200,000 Palestinians isolated from the West Bank and marooned between the wall to the east and the Armistice Line to the west.

Land Day 2012 is thus extremely significant. The tragedy of Jerusalem has transformed it into a global event. Far from being an occasion of localised civil protest, Land Day has become the focus of a global campaign to save Jerusalem from the ravages of Judaisation. The Holy City is not the unique preserve of the Palestinians; it is the collective heritage of all mankind. Israel ignores this and its relentless campaign to change the city's religious and demographic character has gone too far. This is why people across the world have decided to stand up and march today.

Israel's deluded leaders prefer the reductionist approach to Jerusalem; they want to confine it to elusive "final status negotiations" between themselves and the PLO, while they continue to do their worst. Jerusalem's stakeholders, however, belong to much more than the PLO or its dominant faction, Fatah; they belong to humankind. This is why the Global March to Jerusalem marks a major step in the right direction in seeking to return Jerusalem to its natural and rightful position in the consciences of people who love justice and believe in the rule of law, wherever they may live.

This year's Land Day marks the beginning of a new era; the era of silence is over. People around the world have woken up to the mortal dangers confronting Jerusalem; their own historic and religious connection to the city is threatened. The Global March will not end the occupation, that's for sure, but it will certainly raise the awareness of the threats to Jerusalem. Israel's ethnic cleaning and military conquest of the Palestinians has created awareness instead of confusion, resolve instead of apathy and hope instead of despair. Everything points to the fact that neither the Palestinians nor the free people of the world will ever surrender their rights to and in Jerusalem. No injustice lasts forever, and Israel's occupation and desecration of the Holy City of Jerusalem is not and must not be an exception to that basic rule of humanity.

Commentary & AnalysisIsraelMiddle EastPalestine
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