Six Palestinian citizens of Israel, who were peacefully protesting the confiscation of their land in the Galilee were shot dead thirty-one years ago today.
Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israel, and the diaspora commemorate this day, another in a long line of commemorations significant in the one hundred year struggle against an enemy determined to possess a land without its people.
Israeli authorities had announced that 5,500 acres of Palestinian-owned land would be confiscated from villages in the Galilee in what is now northern Israel. Palestinian communities inside Israel declared a general strike and took to the streets in protest where they were violently confronted by Israeli police. The area was declared a closed military zone and was later utilized for massive illegal settlement expansion in the Galilee area.
Land Day has come to signify Israel's ongoing theft of Palestine's patrimony, even our olive trees and stones. The Palestinian's identity is very much tied to his/her geography, which is why well-meaning "friends" who call upon Palestinians to relinquish their right of return, bring to mind the "whispering" campaign.
The whispering campaign was the psychological warfare component of Operation Yiftach, the Zionist plan to ethnically cleanse Eastern Galilee of its Palestinian inhabitants, spearheaded by Yigal Allon in 1948.
In Allon's own words: "I gathered the Jewish mukhtars, who had ties with different[local]Arab villages," and I asked them to whisper in the ears of several Arabs that giant Jewish reinforcements had reached the Galilee and were about to clean out the villlages of the Hula [and] to advise them, as friends, to flee while they could"(Khalidi 429).
According to Khalidi, the whispering campaign "precipitated the flight of eighteen percent of the population of the Galilee panhandle" (429).
Khalidi, Walid. All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated By Israel in 1948. Washington DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.
Over 250 Palestinian villages were depopulated before Israel was declared a state on May 15, 1948.