Hundreds protest during Land Day in Jerusalem

PA lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti injured; police: Event ‘relatively quiet’ compared to what we prepared for.

Border police use pepper spray as they detain protestor 370  (photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Border police use pepper spray as they detain protestor 370
(photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Jerusalem was the focal point of the 36th annual Land Day protests on Friday as hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated at the Kalandiya checkpoint and a number of places in east Jerusalem.
The event also coincided with the Global March to Jerusalem, an international protest from pro-Palestinian groups that organized simultaneous solidarity marches in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and some European capitals.
About 100 Arabs protested next to the Damascus Gate at the Old City, the closest entrance to the Aksa Mosque, and tried to march to the entrance. Seventeen demonstrators were arrested as security forces dealt with sporadic rock throwing and stopped the march.
One policeman was injured in the clashes. There were no incidents in the Aksa Mosque plaza. Isolated incidents of rock throwing also occurred inside the Old City and at the entrance to Isawiya but there were no injuries or damage caused.
Fifteen youth were detained for questioning in Isawiya when they were caught throwing stones at a patrol of border police.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch visited the Kalandiya checkpoint, the scene of the most serious clashes, and called Palestinian demonstration taking place there a “show.”
“They are throwing stones, and we are responding,” he said.
After the protests wound down, Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the Land Day events passed in “relative quiet,” compared to preparations for rioting. Thousands of police were deployed in east Jerusalem alone, with thousands of additional troops deployed across the North in preparation for mass demonstrations.
“Constant security assessments were made throughout the day, and considering the expectations of the possibility of disturbances... on the borders things were quiet and inside Israel things were quiet, aside from a few sporadic incidents,” said Rosenfeld.
On the Palestinian territory side of the Kalandiya checkpoint, the protest started around noon with a small group of youths hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at security forces.
Initially, the horde of international media vastly outnumbered the protesters by a ratio of approximately 10 to one.
The protest continued for more than four hours as police and soldiers tried to disperse the 500 protesters massed a few blocks from the checkpoint.
Riot police pushed the youth back in the direction of Ramallah, using crowd dispersal methods such as stun grenades, “the Scream,” tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon that sprays a smelly substance called “the Skunk.”
Meher Solaie, a volunteer with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, said that medics treated about 100 people during the protest for injuries sustained from rubber bullets and tear gas.
About 50 of the injured protesters were transferred to clinics and hospitals for additional treatment, and the rest were treated on the scene.
Solaie added that it was a “normal” amount of injuries for a protest of this size. Ten Palestinian ambulances and around 60 volunteers were on duty for the protest.
Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary- general of the Palestine National Initiative, was injured when a tear gas canister hit him in the head and the back and was evacuated to Ramallah by ambulance.
“The world must see that this is becoming the beginning of a Palestinian Arab Spring,” Barghouti told The Jerusalem Post by phone from the hospital. “The cause of freedom is the same everywhere, you can’t have freedom in Egypt without freedom in Palestine.”
Barghouti added that this was the largest Land Day march at Kalandiya that he could remember in recent years, and that a number of additional protests were planned during the spring.
Among the participants were the Palestinian Social Affairs Minister Majida al- Masri, PA-appointed governor of Jerusalem Adnan al- Husseini, and Fadwa Barghouti, wife of the prisoner Marwan Barghouti.
At one point, a fight broke out between the Palestinian protesters as they were heading to the checkpoint. On the other side of the street, Palestinians shouted: “What is this? What are they doing?” Ambulances drove through to disperse the crowd, which used the wooden flag poles to hit each other.
Witnesses told the Post that the reason the fight broke out was that Barghouti and his party members led the march and didn’t wait for other protesters to participate as they were still praying.
In a statement, the Palestinian police announced that it is investigating the assault on the ambulance treating Barghouti after he was hit by a gas canister in the head. The IDF denied that Barghouti was hit by the gas canister.
The participants chanted patriotic slogans and voiced “Allahu Akbar” [God is great]. Some men were covering their faces with masks. One of them told the Post he was masked out of fear of being arrested.
Several Facebook posts on Friday and Saturday discussed the failure of political parties to gather more people to participate in Land Day protests.
Palestinian-Canadian Lana Hamadeh attended the protest as one of nine delegates from the Canadian Global March to Jerusalem mission. Hamadeh said she and other protesters were demanding “the right of return for Palestinians and the protection of Jerusalem.”
“Non-Jewish holy sites are at risk and the city itself is being ethnically cleansed,” she said during a break in the clashes. “We are asking for our right to re-enter Jerusalem and reclaim it for everyone, not just for Jews.”