Inspired by the Arab uprising, protesters on three borders marched into Israel and triggered violent responses from Israeli security, leading to at least 15 dead. The protests were held on Nakba Day, a day of commemoration of the displacement of the Palestinians from Israel. Nakba is Arabic for “catastrophe.”
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. It was a rare incursion from the usually tightly controlled Syrian side and could upset the delicate balance between the two longtime foes [...]
Deadly clashes also took place along Israel’s nearby northern border with Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip on Israel’s southern flank. The Israeli military said 13 soldiers were wounded, none seriously.
Sunday’s unrest — which came after activists used Facebook and other websites to mobilize Palestinians and their supporters in neighboring countries to march on the border with Israel — marked the first time the protests that have swept the Arab world in recent months have been directed at Israel.
Israel claims that Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Syria and even Iran orchestrated the incidents to take pressure off of the uprising happening inside Arab countries, but the more likely explanation is that the protesters simply took inspiration from those protest movements. Nakba Day is traditionally a day of protest, after all. It just became far more aggressive this year. Capitalizing on the unrest, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the dead martyrs, suggesting that we may have reached a new phase of the resistance in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Juan Cole writes:
Syria’s protests about the Israeli rush to use live ammunition on protesters would have carried more weight had the protest issued from quarters not engaged in a similar deployment of live ammunition on… protesters [...]
What was driving the Palestinian protests is desperation and a state of statelessness, of being in limbo, of having no rights, no property, no prospects, living within sight of their former home, gazing at it from foreign countries that happen also to speak Arabic but which treat them as aliens or (as in Jordan) second-class citizens [...]
Since the Palestinians’ lack of a state is what allows them to be treated like dirt, to be further dispossessed at will, to be blockaded from basic staples, to be put in a condition of “food insecurity,” it follows that what they need above all is a state. I asked the twice-over refugees of Nahr al-Bared what they would do if President Obama succeeded in securing a two-state solution. They almost shouted. We’d be in Jericho tomorrow, they said. They’d go to the West Bank, where their citizenship would be recognized. They’d finally have a passport. They could get a job, own property, be proper human beings, escape the great Palestinian-Jail that the world community had placed them in for the sake of Israel. Mind you, they were from Haifa and the Galilee. They wouldn’t be going home. But they would be going to their nation-state and that was better than the nothing they now have.
I have no idea if this was a one-time event or if it will continue in the lead-up to a possible effort to get official recognition of a Palestinian state from the UN General Assembly in September. But it’s natural that a dispossessed people would pick up on the uprising throughout its region and apply that to Israel. And with violence a staple of interactions between Israelis and Palestinians, I don’t see much hope for restraint.