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Terrorism & Security

Israeli efforts to defuse 'Land Day' tensions fail as clashes erupt at checkpoint

Some Palestinian protesters threw rocks at Israeli soldiers amid Land Day commemorations of the 1976 killing of six Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israeli forces responded with tear gas.

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Palestinian boys have started arriving at the blockades. Jabai, 19, has come from Nablus to join the protest. "Today is different than any other Friday demonstration," he says. "Many more people are coming.”

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And what of organisers' hopes that the demonstrations will be peaceful? "No, we want to throw stones and break things", says Jabai, highlighting the difference between Palestinian activists and the frustrated youth who come to demonstrate anger. The first rocks are already being thrown at the Israeli watchtower.

And later:

A procession of hundreds of Palestinians bearing orange flags, drumming and whistling, is pouring down the Jerusalem road from Ramallah towards Qalandiya. They have been met by armoured Israeli vehicles blasting high-pitch sirens.

Jawaal, the Palestinian mobile network provider, has pitched a tent a few hundred metres up the road from Qalandiya giving away branded baseball caps and water to protesters.

Palestinians have commemorated Land Day every year since 1976, when, defying a curfew, residents of several Arab villages in Israel turned out in protest. In the ensuing clashes, about 100 were wounded and hundreds arrested, according to an opinion article in Haaretz by Palestinians Sam Bahour, a West Bank resident, and Fida Jiryis, who lives in an Arab village in the Galilee.

Thirty-six years later, the situation is as dire as ever. Racism and discrimination, in their rawest forms, are rampant in Israel, and are often more insidious than physical violence. Legislation aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Israel is part of public discourse. Israeli ministers do not shy away from promoting “population transfers” of Palestinian citizens − code for forced displacement.

The message is clear: Israel has failed, abysmally, in realizing its oft-cried role as “the only democracy in the Middle East,” with such discriminatory policies, and a culture of antagonism and neglect vis-a-vis a fifth of its citizens. The original Land Day marked a pivotal point in terms of how Palestinians in Israel − living victims of Israel’s violent establishment − viewed their relations with the state. Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation.

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