As Global March to J'lem nears, press war rages

Organizers try to present Friday's border march as legitimate, nonviolent response to Israel's "occupation."

By OREN KESSLER
March 28, 2012 19:46
3 minute read.
Palestinian Land Day protest [file]

Palestinian Land Day protest 370. (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)

 
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Organizers of Friday’s “Global March to Jerusalem” launched a press offensive this week, penning op-eds in mainstream news outlets aiming to present the initiative as a legitimate, nonviolent response to what they described as Israel’s “occupation.”

Friday marks the 36th anniversary of Land Day, when Israeli Arabs in the Galilee and Negev protest government policies they say infringe on their land rights. Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and elsewhere have traditionally rallied in solidarity, but this year organizers hope to see a multi-pronged rush on the Israeli frontiers of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan as well as marches in the Palestinian Authority, Gaza and east Jerusalem.

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Writing on the Huffington Post website on Tuesday, march organizers Paul Larudee, Feroze Mithiborwala and Ali Mallah insisted the event is not an attempt to delegitimize Israel.

“It is a grave mistake to think that such initiatives are the cause of Israel’s delegitimization,” they wrote. “Rather, it is Israel’s actions and policies that create its image as a practitioner of ethnic cleansing and an abuser of human rights.”

Larudee, an American, is a founder of the “Free Gaza” and “Free Palestine” initiatives and the International Solidarity Movement, and participated in the 2008 and 2010 flotillas to Gaza.

Sarah Colborne, director of the UK’s “Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a passenger on the 2010 Gaza flotilla, wrote Tuesday on The Guardian website that life for Arab residents of Jerusalem is becoming increasingly restricted.

“Jerusalem, the traditional center of Palestinian social, religious and economic life, is increasingly being isolated and restricted by Israeli policies,” Colborne wrote on the website’s “Comment is Free” op-ed forum.



“The struggle for Palestinian rights is at the core of the global movement for social and economic justice, for liberation, for equality, and against racism. The Global March to Jerusalem is continuing in that tradition, organizing a nonviolent response to Israel’s violations of international law,” she wrote.

Pro-Israel pundits quickly struck back. A grassroots initiative called “Exposing the truth about the Global March to Jerusalem” said in a statement that organizers hope to wage a sufficiently large rush on Israel’s borders to launch a “third intifada.”

The pro-Israel group noted that last year’s border processions on Nakba and Naksa Day (commemorating the 1948 and 1967 Arab- Israeli wars respectively) resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries after IDF soldiers fired on marchers trying to breach Israel’s borders.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research for the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote in a blog post for the website of The Weekly Standard that the risk of violence at Friday’s march should not be discounted.

“Should the organizers have their way, this will be a messy affair. If Israel fires upon the marchers, it will be a public relations victory. The organizers already know this is likely,” he wrote.

Schanzer noted that senior Hamas figures sit on the Global March to Jerusalem’s (GMJ) central committee and have discussed the march with counterparts from Hezbollah, and that the Muslim Brotherhood has sent delegations from at least five countries to participate. Media in Iran have reported that Iranian parliamentarian Hussein Sheikholeslam is GMJ’s board secretary.

“The need for early intervention is compelling,” Schanzer wrote. “The region is already on tilt, thanks to multiple Arab protest movements and ongoing tensions over the Iranian nuclear program. The last thing we need now is a new conflict in the Palestinian territories.”

A new uprising would be even more dangerous, he writes, if “outsiders, with no ties to the land they’d be dragging to war, sparked it.

“They would pay no price for violence, and create untold unrest in a region that already has its fair share.”

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