Not only on Land Day: the Palestinian blood and soil fixation

“Palestinian blood, Palestinian flesh, the Palestinian national anthem on Palestinian territory. It’s good. It makes me feel proud.”

This is a statement by Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian football federation, quoted in a BBC report about a World Cup qualification game from July last year.

Given the fact that soccer often brings out fierce nationalistic sentiments, this statement by the president of the Palestinian football federation is perhaps not particularly noteworthy.

However, the theme of blood and soil is unfortunately quite dominant in Palestinian nationalism – though the vast army of activists who agitate for the Palestinian “cause” online in English are doing their dedicated best to create a “narrative” tailored to politically correct Western sensibilities.

The image below – used as an illustration in the Wikipedia article on the Palestinian Land Day – perfectly visualizes both the blood and soil fixation of Palestinian nationalism and the carefully constructed message of the supposedly peaceful character of Palestinian activism: In the colors of the Palestinian flag, this poster for Land Day includes a beautiful flower sitting on a layer of green, rooted in black soil, fed by a blood-red river, releasing a blood-red tear or a drop of blood.

Land Day goes back to events in 1976, when Israeli government plans to develop the Galilee required the expropriation of land. Some 30 percent of the land was Arab-owned, but Arab communities were also among the intended beneficiaries of the development plan. Yet, there were violent protests and riots, and in the ensuing confrontations with Israeli security forces, six Israeli-Arab citizens were killed.

As a Jerusalem Post editorial on the 25th anniversary of Land Day in 2001 noted, “much of the annual tension surrounding Land Day results from the all-too-familiar phenomenon of history being mixed with myth.” A short BBC story from the same year nicely illustrates this point. Under the headline “Remembering Land Day,” the BBC claims: “Land Day is the day when Israeli Arabs hold demonstrations to mark the loss of their land to Israel in 1948.” Unsurprisingly, the BBC also claims that all of the expropriated land was owned by Arabs.

It is arguably very instructive to look back at some of the events of Land Day 2001 as described by the Jerusalem Post:

“The culmination of the day’s events was a mass rally held in Sakhnin, where thousands of protesters, including Peace Now members, gathered after taking part in local marches in their home communities. Participants chanted anti-government slogans, but were also seen waving PLO and Syrian flags. This came just days after the Syrian president asserted that Israel’s actions were worse than those of the Nazis, and at a time when the PLO’s main faction, Fatah, is openly involved in acts of terror against Israelis. [This is a reference to the so-called Al-Aqsa intifada.] … At other Land Day events, protesters reportedly unfurled Hizbullah banners and carried posters of the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who is best remembered for his vow to throw Israel into the sea.”

For this year’s Land Day last Friday, Palestinian activists decided to join forces with the groups that sponsored a planned “Global March to Jerusalem” which included various terrorist and extremist groups as well as Iranian organizations. While it may sound cynical, it is unfortunately all too realistic to conclude that the aim of this planned assault on Israel’s borders was the creation of “a new batch of martyrs” whose death would be blamed on Israel.

Indeed, the pervasive glorification of terrorism and “martyrdom” starkly illustrates the Palestinian fixation on blood and soil; some particularly egregious examples include recent events held in celebration of the 47th anniversary of Fatah that promoted the appalling notion that Palestinian children “were created to be fertilizer for the land of Palestine, and for our pure land to be saturated with their blood”  — which is apparently a line from a song that was also performed at an event attended by high-ranking Palestinian leaders.

The Palestinian anthem also includes a line about “longing in my blood for my land and my home” and mentions in addition “the fire of the weapons,” “the land of struggle,” and the notion of Palestine as “vendetta;” according to Wikipedia, the anthem’s title refers to “one who risks his life voluntarily; one who sacrifices himself” – all in all somewhat less offensive than the previous examples, but still quite remarkable language for an anthem that was officially adopted in 1996.

Unsurprisingly, supporters of the Palestinian cause prefer to ignore the prominence of the blood and soil theme in Palestinian nationalism – indeed, and perhaps equally unsurprisingly, a prominent defender of the Palestinian cause like Juan Cole would instead prefer to accuse even a liberal leftist supporter of Israel like Jeffrey Goldberg of promoting “blood-and-soil Israeli nationalist fantasy.”

7 responses to “Not only on Land Day: the Palestinian blood and soil fixation

  1. Excellent article. I was trying to find some information on this “land day” nonesense. The wikipedia page read more like a pro-palestinian screed than anything informative. Thanks for this.

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