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Palestinians prepare for ‘Naksa’ marches on borders
By OREN KESSLER
31/05/2011
Hundreds of thousands join Facebook campaign to mark "setback" of Six Day War; IDF to deploy larger forces along northern frontiers.
 
Following the example of this month’s Nakba Day marches, Palestinians and their supporters are preparing to launch another multipronged assault on Israel’s borders this week to mark the “Naksa,” or setback, of Arab defeat and territorial losses in the 1967 Six Day War.

The website “Third Palestinian Intifada” and its Facebook page, “Countdown to the Third Palestinian Intifada,” have posted detailed plans for marches on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza, as well as processions to Jerusalem’s Al- Aksa Mosque, on three separate dates before and during the war’s anniversary.

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The group’s “plan of action” calls for mass rallies on June 3, 5 and 7 – the Friday leading up to the Six Day War anniversary, the date on which the war began and the date Israeli troops took Jerusalem, respectively.

Thirteen people were killed on May 15, Nakba Day, while trying to breach Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon.

Many of the protesters killed had been shot by the Lebanese Army as the group approached the border with Israel.

Similar rallies were held on Israel’s borders with Jordan and Gaza, and in the West Bank. In the day’s most dramatic incident, three people were killed by IDF fire when around 100 Syrians broke through the Golan Heights border fence at Majdal Shams. Another 10 were killed by Lebanese troops on the Israel-Lebanon border.

This time, military officials said the IDF will deploy larger forces along Israel’s northern borders to avoid a repeat of the Nakba Day disturbances.

The officials said they expect the rallies to be relatively peaceful, and that they hope an effective troop deployment can prevent border infiltrations altogether.

“The goal is twofold,” one defense official said. “To prevent infiltrations, and at the same time, to try to ensure there are no casualties on either side.”

The May 15 border rallies were coordinated largely through social media sites, and organizers predict an even greater turnout this time around.

“We will renew the memory of the Naksa, and we will make it a setback to the occupying entity,” organizers wrote on Facebook. “Thus we declare with all our strength and with our loudest voice that the seventh of June, which marks the rape of Jerusalem… is a day of allegiance to Jerusalem in all countries of the world.”

In March, Facebook closed a page calling for a third intifada against Israel after Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein complained it was inciting violence.

The current Facebook page, under a slightly different name, was created in early April, and by mid-May had been followed, or “liked,” by 100,000 people. Over the last two weeks the page’s following has grown to over 375,000.

Organizers wrote that the Nakba Day events prove historic Palestine can be “liberated” by mass unarmed marches, provided the “umma,” or Islamic nation, is willing to pay any price, including a million martyrs.

“Our intifada continues, Israel is about to depart, and with God’s help we will all pray in the mosques and churches of Jerusalem,” they wrote.

Similar notices have been posted on other pro-Palestinian websites.

“On Sunday, June 5, the 44th commemoration of the Naksa, or setback – Israel’s 1967 expulsion of 300,000 Palestinians following the Six Day War – Palestinian refugees will return en masse to the borders,” said an article on the International Solidarity Movement homepage.

Meanwhile, the administrators of a popular Facebook page dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad have changed the profile picture to an announcement that the “Continuing Palestinian Intifada” will begin on June 7. The page, “Rassoul Allah,” is one of the most popular of thousands dedicated to the Muslim prophet, with 3.7 million “likes.”

Ofir Gendelman, the Prime Minister’s Office spokesman for Arabic media, said Israel is ready to use “any means necessary” to protect its borders.

“Activity on Facebook calling for people to march on the borders has grown in recent weeks, and there are pages telling people exactly where to go,” he said. “Of course we’re familiar with this activity both on Facebook and Twitter, and have been for some time. We’re prepared for any eventuality, whether by use of the police, army, security forces, Foreign Ministry and of course the Prime Minister’s Office, to provide a security response to attempts to enter into our territory.

“These people want 300 or 400 casualties in order to create a media and geopolitical tsunami to distract the world’s attention from what’s happening in Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, and to direct it at Israel,” he said.

“We must remember that not all those who click ‘like’ on Facebook are going to board a bus and ride to the border. There’s a difference between clicking ‘like’ and taking the personal risk of trying to breach the border,” he said.

“I’m certain the other side will get the message – that we won’t let anyone in, whatever the price. They won’t get in.

The borders under our sovereignty will be maintained, whatever the price.”

According to Third Palestinian Intifada’s “plan of action,” following prayers on Friday, Arabs in Israel, the West Bank and Jerusalem will march on the Al- Aksa Mosque to declare their “allegiance” to the holy city. Egyptians are instructed to gather in Tahrir Square to do the same, as are residents of “the rest of the Arab, Islamic and Western capitals.” Gazans and Jordanians are encouraged to march on their respective borders with Israel.

Two days later, Arab residents of Israel, the West Bank and Jerusalem are again instructed to march on Al-Aksa Mosque, and to “clash with Israeli soldiers in contact areas,” while in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, protesters are to march “peacefully” to their respective border with Israel.

In the capitals of Arab, Islamic and Western countries, rallies are planned outside “Zionist embassies,” including Israel’s diplomatic missions in Egypt.

On June 7, “millions of Arabs, Muslims, Christians and liberals of the world, led by university students in different places will swear allegiance to Jerusalem on the day Jerusalem fell and the mosques and churches fell to the hands of the Zionists.”

Organizers are calling again for marches on Al-Aksa Mosque, and for a “construction convoy” from Egypt to Gaza to bring building materials to the Strip.

“The process of empowerment and liberation, which started in Tunisia and Egypt, should end with the liberation of Jerusalem and Palestine,” organizers wrote. “Palestine will be liberated from the river to the sea, and the sea to the river.”

Eyal Zisser, a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center, said the association between “Nakba” and “Naksa” is problematic from Israel’s perspective in that it identifies the defeat of 1967 with calls for the return of refugees from the War of Independence.

“If we convince ourselves that our problem with the Arab world is not that they are unwilling to accept our existence, but that it’s over the West Bank and Gaza, then why are the Palestinians linking the return of refugees with the ’67 borders?” he said.

Melanie Lidman and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.
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