An Israeli policeman’s account of Land Day, 1976

On March 30, 1976, Israeli police repressed protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel against the confiscation of Arab land in the Galilee for use by Jewish citizens. Six protesters were killed, some 100 wounded and hundreds were arrested. Ever since, Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora mark Land Day on March 30. ‘Ha’olam Hazeh,’ a magazine published by Uri Avnery, was the only Israeli media outlet to challenge the state’s narrative of the events at the time. The following, a testimony from an Israeli police officer who was present that day, is short item ‘Ha’olam Hazeh’ published following the Land Day events.

(Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

I was unfortunate (the swelling on my forehead will attest to that) to be a part of the police forces which were supposed to pacify the riots which had broken out amongst the Arabs of the Galilee on the day they called “Land Day.”

Reading the reports by journalists who were present on the ground, I cannot but throw down the yoke of silence imposed on me as a police officer, and set the record straight regarding a number of issues.

I am not a man of the left, but aspects of my view of what happened in the Galilee on March 30 [1976] will surely have me annexed to the left-wing bloc, for this bloc, in my opinion, is, to my dismay, the bloc holding the objective view.

On March 30 at 12:30 in the morning, my unit was called to a briefing, which was engulfed in hatred towards Arabs, and in which expressions mandating violence for the sake of violence against those who have violated our sleep, the Arabs, were voiced. When we reached the place, no stones awaited us, and therefore our ‘forces’ invaded the village in armored vehicles – associations with my parents’ stories about the British Mandate [come to mind].

In the face of the villagers’ practical discontent, the officers began to fight back with their submachine guns. These officers were very pleased with themselves, since after all, it is not every day that one can be a hero with such ease. And more than all others, a first sergeant and a logistics officer found relief from their abhorrence of the bureaucratic apparatus by shooting at the panicked villagers (the latter even hit two, one of them, it turned out, died due to this).

After the villagers fled, the forces entered some of the homes and began to take their rage out on their entire contents. I witnessed one such incident, in which glassware, the television set, the record player, pictures and other objects were smashed to pieces. Such images cannot but remind me of the poems by Bialik and Tchernichovsky about the pogroms waged against the Jews [in Russia] at the end of the last century and the beginning of this century.

The thing which terrified me most of all was the immense hatred of Arabs running through the veins of most of my fellow policemen, a hatred which was relieved only in the slightest on March 30.

We must shake off our hatred of the sons of Ishmael, for the sake of justifying our legitimate right to reside on this land.

Originally published by Ha’Olam Hazeh, 1976. Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman.

Why Land Day still matters