Officials: Israel ready for ‘Global March to J'lem’

Processions planned on Israel's borders to mark 36th anniversary of Land Day; Iran pressuring its Jews to take part.

Palestinian at Land Day rally in Gaza City 370 (R) (photo credit: Ismail Zaydah / Reuters)
Palestinian at Land Day rally in Gaza City 370 (R)
(photo credit: Ismail Zaydah / Reuters)
Israel is prepared to handle this week’s “Global March to Jerusalem,” officials said on Sunday, as organizers plan a multi-pronged rush on the country’s borders to mark the 36th anniversary of Land Day on Friday.
Organizers of the event – known as “GMJ” – say they are planning peaceful marches on the Israeli border in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, at checkpoints in the West Bank and at entrances to the Gaza Strip.
“Our aim is to end the Zionist policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and Judaization, which all harm the people, land and sanctity of Jerusalem,” they wrote on the event’s official homepage. “The GMJ is comprised of a diverse coalition of Palestinian, Arab and international activists who are united in the struggle to liberate the holy city of Jerusalem (the city of peace) from illegal Zionist occupation.”
Organizers said processions would also be organized in Arab and Muslim capitals worldwide, and in front of Israeli embassies in a number of unspecified countries.
Friday marks 36 years since the first Land Day, when tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs – and Palestinians marching in solidarity in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Lebanon – rallied against government plans to take control of hundreds of hectares of land in the Galilee and the Negev. Six Israeli Arabs were killed and around 100 were wounded in the protests.
On Sunday, officials said security forces had been given refresher training on non-lethal crowd dispersal techniques. They said border police have been put on alert in Israel and the West Bank, and additional officers deployed to the northern borders to reinforce IDF units.
“We’ve been through this before,” a security source said of Friday’s planned marches. Last May, 13 people were killed while trying to breach the Syrian and Lebanese borders with Israel on “Nakba Day,” the annual date when Palestinians mourn the Jewish state’s creation in 1948. The following month 12 people were injured on the Syrian frontier on “Naksa Day,” marking Arab defeat and territorial losses in the 1967 Six Day War.
Another official said all necessary precautions were being taken, and that Jordan and Egypt had an interest in keeping their borders quiet.
The situation in Lebanon is less clear. One Israeli official said marchers would likely proceed as far as Beaufort – a Crusader castle several kilometers north of the border – while another warned that Iranian involvement in Lebanon’s south means no scenario could be ruled out.
Earlier this week, the Israel-based Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported that Iran is the primary force behind the initiative, both directly and through proxies such as Hezbollah. In February, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described the Global March as an expression of Iran’s policy to strengthen “resistance operations” against Israel.
This month, the GMJ website claimed a Jewish-Iranian umbrella group had thrown its support behind the marches. “We the Iranian Jewry alongside the strata of Iranian people, under the guidance of the leadership, announce that we shall fight against imperialism and Zionism until all the lawful rights of the valiant nation of Palestine are met,” the Society of Iranian Jews was quoted as saying.
“We the Iranian Jewry would also like to show the disassociation of the anti-humanitarian works committed by the occupying Israeli regime and their usurping army with the commandments of divine laws of Prophet Moses (P.B.U.H). We would like to show our support with all those who desire the lawful rights of the valiant nation of Palestine,” the group said.
The statement was signed by Ciamak Mordesadegh – who holds the one Iranian parliamentary seat reserved for Jews – and Rabbi Mashallah Golestaninejad, a Jewish leader in the country.
DEBKAfile reported on Friday that Hussein Sheikholeslam – an Iranian parliamentarian it describes as one of the march’s organizers – instructed Jewish leaders to provide 10 men aged 18 to 22 to be given “the honor” of acting as the vanguard in breaking through the Lebanese-Israeli border fence. The report – which could not be independently verified – quoted Iranian sources as saying authorities may have demanded the inclusion of Jewish marchers so Israeli soldiers would be constrained from opening fire.
In January, the GMJ’s International Central Committee held its first and only meeting in Beirut. The committee consists of anti-Israel activists from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and several other Arab, Muslim and Western states.
The panel includes one Israeli citizen – Muhammad Zeidan, chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, a nongovernmental organization representing Israeli Arabs at the national level. Zeidan sailed on the Mavi Marmara in the 2010 Gaza protest flotilla, in which nine people were killed by Israel Navy commandos while trying to run the Israeli blockade.
One of the GMJ’s major themes is what it describes as Israel’s “Judaization” of Jerusalem.
“Over the last several years Zionist efforts to ‘Judaize’ the city have quickened pace in an attempt to erase Jerusalem’s physical, cultural and spiritual characteristics,” organizers wrote, adding that such efforts have been aimed at changing the city’s demographics “from a Palestinian to a Jewish majority.”
The GMJ website refers to all of Israel as occupied land.
“Massive marches will be organized in Palestine (the 1948 seizures, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) towards Jerusalem or to the nearest point to it,” it says.
The logo on the homepage features all of Mandatory Palestine, and is set against a banner showing Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Muslim and Christian holy places are set against the backdrop of the Mount of Olives, but the sprawling 3,000-year-old Jewish cemetery with its 150,000 tombstones is absent, replaced by a barren hillside.