Iran’s Press TV is pushing this year’s Quds Day as an annual solidarity event with Palestinians “under Israeli occupation,” as Hamas toned down protests Tuesday in line with Tehran’s agenda. Now Palestinian organizers are claiming that “Quds Day” on Friday will see a million people turn out to protest Israel, including in the Gaza Strip.
The Islamic Republic of Iran created Quds Day in 1979 to coincide with the last Friday of Ramadan as part of its anti-Israel policies. This year, annual events are planned in London and Toronto as well as in 800 cities worldwide, according to organizers. The Toronto Quds Day organizers say the day is for “justice, peace and love” to “counter Islamophobia” and “racism” while opposing “Zionism and Israeli war crimes.” Iran’s regime media have even created a hashtag “QudsDay4return” this year. The hashtag has already become full of antisemitic tropes. One shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a snake devouring Argentina and another shows “biological evolution in Israel” as a cell becomes an ape and then an Israeli soldier. Ayatollah Khameini is also quoted as claiming, “Allah has ordained that Palestine will be liberated.”Palestinian media have predicted that large numbers will protest at the Gaza border on Friday. This comes after pro-Hamas media tended to play down “Naksa Day” on Tuesday.Hashtags were absent in Arabic and English and the numbers who turned out in Gaza were minimal. Naksa Day commemorates the 1967 Six Day War and has seen protests in years past. However, this year, protests were smaller than expected as Palestinian Authority staff protested in Gaza City about cuts in their salaries. The Population Front for the Liberation of Palestine also accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of lacking responsibility by not providing funds for Gaza.Quds Day has become a larger rallying cry this year as it comes after months of mass Hamas-organized protests in Gaza. A poster put up by organizers and posted by journalist Nasser Atta on Twitter, says that on Friday, June 8, “Palestinian factions declared a million-man march.” In Ramallah, a large billboard devoted to Quds Day has also been erected. “Palestinian disappointment with the so-called Sunni Arab moderate camp which is now in alliance with the Trump police and normalizing with Israel, are gearing up to celebrate Quds Day declared by the late Imam Khomeini,” Atta noted.This increasing connection to Tehran’s day potentially signals several related agendas coming together.Iran has long sought the mantle of “anti-imperialist” opposing the US.But in recent years it lost credibility by supporting the Syrian regime’s crackdown and supporting sectarian Shi’ite militias in Iraq and Lebanon. However, the Palestinian cause has served as a unifying issue in the region. Hamas has generally been closer to Iran while the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority has been closer to Saudi Arabia.With Qatar cutting funding, Hamas has few friends and few sources of income in the region. It also has few sources of weapons after Egypt flooded the tunnels linking its smugglers with Sinai. Its eight weeks of mass protests also did not succeed in getting it much support. Isolated, Hamas sees Quds Day as a chance to rally support again. If it can find thousands to turn out, less than the million promised, it will still succeed in finding relevance and increase its connections to Tehran.
Fire in Sapir College from Gaza terror kites, June 5, 2018 (Tal Lev Ram)