Lessons of Land Day @ 45
This 22nd issue of Land Times/أحوال الأرض commemorates several milestones and anniversaries and the lessons they convey. Palestine’s National Day of the Land (30 March) is a constant reference as the day 45 years ago when six martyrs fell under Israeli guns during protests against the further dispossession of Palestinian land and natural resources in the Galilee, inside the Green Line (1948 Armistice Line). That first Land Day, in 1976, refocused the national narrative on the core of the conflict, which always has been the invaders’ assault on the indigenous people’s housing, land and natural resources, the root of the ethnic cleansing, refugee and displacement catastrophes that the Palestinian people has endured.
This anniversary year is also significant for HIC and its Members, for 1976 was also the year of the Coalition’s formal beginning 45 years ago at the 1st UN Conference on Housing and Human Settlements. And those parallel events had a particular link to land struggles, including Palestinian land, as well.
Of course, given the UN’s role in the lawless partition and for-reaching destruction of Palestine, the Organization still bears “a permanent responsibility toward the question of Palestine until the question is resolved in all its aspects in a satisfactory manner in accordance with international legitimacy,”
It is also this year that HIC Members welcomed the International Criminal Court (ICC) affirming its jurisdiction over a range of serious crimes committed there, if only in a narrow time period and only in the territory occupied since 1967. [ICC article reference and link]
Within the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) agenda, Palestine remains prominent. For the second time in two years, UN Special Rapporteurs jointly called on Israel to refrain from home and village demolitions (2019 and 2021). And the consultations of HIC Members and allies with several rapporteurs reported here show that crises and emergencies—both longstanding and COVID-19 related—are high on their list of priorities.
Also at the Human Rights Council, some states have joined NGOs, Palestinian civil society, academics and even some Israeli pundits in recognizing the apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people as a whole. The ICC’s foundational Rome Statute (1998) enshrines apartheid as an ongoing crime against humanity, affirming that the crime is not limited to foregone practice in southern Africa. In fact, at this most-recent (46th) session of the UNHRC, Namibia has called for re-establishment of the UN Centre against Apartheid with reference to Israeli practices (not necessarily limited to the occupied territory, as this Land Day also reminds).
Today’s Land Times/أحوال الأرضalso reminds readers of occupations of land and its people elsewhere. The outgoing US Administration “legacy” of illegality has shed new light on other such occupations. US President Trump’s anomalous [شاذ] recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the 1967-occupied Syrian Golan has revived attention to that otherwise “forgotten occupation.” Here, you will find an explanation of how Israel’s institutionalized material discrimination and dispossession operate in that territory, aligning with the definition of apartheid.
The Trump “legacy” also raised the veil on another analogous-but-neglected occupation through the recent three-way quid pro quo involving the Kingdom of Morocco’s agreement to formally normalize relations with Israel in exchange for the US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara, which territory Morocco invaded and continues to occupy. The recent period also marks the 45-year-old Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in the matter, which rejected all six Moroccan claims to sovereignty over the neighboring former Spanish colony.
Just as that anniversary passed, Morocco also broke the 30-year-old cease-fire with the Sahrawi people’s representative, POLISARIO, further militarizing the situation, reported in this issues’ “Western Sahara Rises Again.” A companion article, “EU’s Fishy Business with Morocco” explains how European funds that illegal occupation.
This month, Syria also marks a full decade of devastating war, making life harder than ever for the 6.7 million people displaced, including 2.5 million children, within Syria, as well as 6.6 million external refugees. Yemen is another crisis situation often described as the “worst humanitarian disaster on earth.” Despite many hazards, HIC-HLRN has made progress on its efforts toward housing, land and property restitution for the estimated 4 million Yemenis displaced and dispossessed. As reported in this issue, diagnostic and quantification efforts of HLRN and partners are contributing to a vision of a civil society-driven National Land Observatory to aid the transitional justice processes.
Sudan has been a theater of much conflict and displacement, especially in Darfur, Blue Nile State and Nuba Mountains (South Kordofan). The profile of HIC Member in Sudan, the National Center for Peace and Development (NCPD), outlines complementary efforts to address civil society capacity needs at the nexus of peace making and development before and during Sudan’s current transition.
HIC Member Dibeen Association for Environmental Development operates also at the nexus of sustainable development and its three dimensions of nature, society and economy. In its presentation, Dibeen also explains how these dimensions are bound together also by human rights and Dibeen’s advocacy to recognize the “human right to environment,” which has yet to be codified.
Another norm setting effort is represented in the masterclass jointly organized by HIC-HLRN and the Global Land Tools Network within the 2nd Arab Land Conference. That informative session coincided with the process undertaken by UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to prepare a General Comment, interpreting states’ treaty obligations on matters related to land. In the masterclass, HIC-HLRN assumed the role of advocate in favor of recognizing “a human right to land,” as it fulfills a universal human need, with a thesis that combines both law and physical science.
While land is important for everyone, Palestine’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees to explore various aspects of the relationship of women to land in the Arab region. The findings of the literature review contributed by HIC-HLRN explores many of these aspects in the article “Why Land for Women?”.
Consistent with global HIC’s African orientation, HLRN is contributing to developing and consolidating HIC Members’ women and land rights repertoire, while African Members identify candidates to a social movement Board member. Toward both of those developments, Land Times/أحوال الأرضproffers a working definition of the often-used but still-imprecise term “social movement” at Members’ request to help guide that selection. Whereas HIC’s Women and Shelter Network once operated effectively from its secretariat in Africa, Members across the continent have reaffirmed to develop knowledge and advocacy capacity, as exemplified in the report on New Research Findings in Women’s Land and Home Project from Uganda.
And in commemoration of this month’s International Women’s Day (8 March), this issue reprints “Women lead, survive, thrive and resist, even in crises.” This reminds us all, by way of examples, of women’s vital role in all of these cases toward the survival and revival of society as a whole.
The continuous monitoring and advocacy work of Zimbabwe People’s Land Rights Movement, a partner in HLRN’s Women’s Land and Home project, shows us another pattern of deprivation that communities face in that country. Their contribution in “The Crowborough Pattern” explains how this single case exemplifies a pattern of housing rights denial targeting the rural poor, and the need for solidarity in advocating alternatives.
Such monitoring, documentation and experience sharing are vital to the solidarity action for which the HLRN Violation Database was created. While your solidarity action is always needed, “A Continuing Pandemic of Violations” is call to everyone to contribute to and benefit from this tool, which enable the diagnostic report “A Pandemic of Violations” last World habitat Day and joins the new publication on the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism on implementation of the Committee on World Food Security’s policy for food security and nutrition in protracted crises. We see also in an article on the planned UN Food Systems Summit is cooking up a diversion from what is needed to “transform our world.”
Anniversaries like the ones cited here should remind of lessons never to be repeated if we are to build back better.