Today was the “Nakba” (or “catastrophe”) Day, when Palestinians and other Arabs mourn Israel’s victory in the 1948 war. The catastrophe, of course, was that Israel won. Nakba Day is an annual event, but today the Arabs tried a new strategy. Demonstrators marched on Israel from all directions, in a coordinated assault:
Mobilized by calls on Facebook, thousands of Arab protesters marched on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday in an unprecedented wave of demonstrations, sparking clashes that left at least 15 people dead in an annual Palestinian mourning ritual marking the anniversary of Israel’s birth.
In a surprising turn of events, hundreds of Palestinians and supporters poured across the Syrian frontier and staged riots, drawing Israeli accusations that Damascus, and its ally Iran, orchestrated the unrest to shift attention from an uprising back home.
This photo is of Syrians who crossed the border fence into Israel:
This violent clash on the West Bank was one of many:
The coordinated protests apparently took Israel by surprise, which seems odd if they really were organized on Facebook.
The events carried a message for Israel: Even as it wrestles with the Palestinian demand for a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war — there is a related problem of neighboring countries that host millions of Palestinians with aspirations to return.
As always on nakba, the “right” of return was a major theme, with some demonstrators carrying keys to symbolize that purported right. The real problem, of course, is that the real aspiration isn’t just “return;” as in 1948, 1967 and 1973, it is conquest. This map of “Palestine” was part of a banner that was carried by demonstrators:
Daniel Pipes has been warning for some time that Palestinians may developing a more effective strategy, i.e., peaceful or at least relatively non-violent mass protests, which will be harder for Israel to deal with than straight-up terrorism. Today Pipes wrote:
I predicted a few weeks ago that Arab upheavals might inspire Palestinians to shift “away from warfare and terrorism in favor of non-violent political action. That could include massive non-violent demonstrations such as marching on Israeli towns, borders, and checkpoints.”
Right on cue, on what Palestinians call “Nakba Day,” a rejection of Israel’s gaining independence on May 15, 1948, mass activity took place in a coordinated and unprecedented fashion today. A New York Times headline aptly summarizes events: “Israel Clashes with Protesters on Four Borders,” being those of Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza.
Of the four, the demonstration on the normally placid Golan Heights stands out….
Syrian subjects crossing en masse onto the Golan Heights without Israeli permission has never (to the best of my knowledge) happened before. And, of course, in totalitarian Syria, this sort of occurrence requires government approval. While one can ascribe this protest to Damascus’s wanting to divert attention from its own internal problems, it also fits into a larger picture.
Danny Danon, a leading Likud politician, portrayed the four-sided challenge as a rehearsal for September, when the Palestinian Authority expects the U.N. General Assembly to declare a sovereign state of “Palestine.” I go further and predict that this cross of civil disobedience and low-grade violence will be the Palestinians’ favored tactic for some time to come. I also predict that it will fail if, as today, a death toll ensues. But it can do real damage to Israel if the leadership manages to keep the crowds non-violent.