Today is Land Day in Israel/Palestine, a memorial day commemorating the March 30, 1976 deaths of six Palestinian-Israelis, killed while protesting Israel’s practice of expropriating Palestinian-Israeli land.
Since then, Palestinians both inside and outside of Israel-proper have marked March 30 as a day on which to protest not just issues concerning land within Israel’s internationally-recognized borders, but also Israel’s generally discriminatory practices toward its Palestinian citizens, and the occupation/settlements.
So far (1:45 pm, CST) one protester, Mahmoud Zaqout, has been killed in Gaza, but at least one other person has been critically injured by Israeli fire, so it’s likely that the number of dead will rise by at least one. Many others have been injured and/or detained.
Such a day seems a particularly good day to run Billy Bragg’s “The World Turned Upside Down,” about a 17th century land protest.
There are, of course, myriad differences between any and all 17th century realities and those of our century, and certainly between that of peasants claiming land for common use in England, and a nationalist war over a scrap of land in the Middle East. Indeed, the Diggers of whom Billy sings would likely not have begun to know what to do with the notion of nationalism, an idea born in the late 19th century.
Never mind. Some words, some ideas, some suffering is, in fact, universal, and carries down through the ages. And the echoes are frighteningly close to what we still see today, nearly 500 years later.
May this Land Day be the last, and may Israelis and Palestinians alike soon know peace and justice, amen amen.
To St. George’s Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs
From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed
But still the vision lingers on