Israeli Backlash to Palestinian Land Day Global March to Jerusalem

Global March to JerusalemIn commemoration of Palestinian Land Day, activists from all continents are gearing up for peaceful protests along the Israeli borders on March 30. These marches are being organized by the non-governmental organization Global March to Jerusalem whose intended aim is

“to mark it as an international event to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians and to protect Jerusalem. This will be achieved by organizing a Global March to Jerusalem or to the nearest point to it. The march will demand freedom for Jerusalem and its people and to put an end to the Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and Judaisation policies affecting the people, land and sanctity of Jerusalem.”

Protests are set to take place along the Israeli borders and at various Israeli embassies in Europe. Although the protests are primarily comprised of Arab protesters, the movement has received endorsements from a number of high profile European and American NGOs and individuals such as U.S. based NGO Code Pink and public figures such as Cornel West, Tariq Ali, Judith Butler, and Noam Chomsky.

There is some uncertainty about the nature of the protests. New sources like Al-Arabiya and Haaretz, have reported disputes between the protests organizers who are calling for a peaceful end to Israeli occupation and outside participants who “might use the protest marches to seek confrontations on Israel’s borders, particularly the Lebanese and Syrian frontiers” (Al-Arabiya).

The Israeli government has responded to the anticipated protests by putting border police in Israel and the West Bank on alert, as well as sending additional forces to back up IDF soldiers at the northern borders.

Despite GMJ calls for “peaceful national movements,” the movement has received aggressive backlash from members of the Israeli media who have categorized it as violent anti-Israeli rioting. Responses are being put forth by op-ed pieces by people like Loay Abu Haykel in JPost that herald the March 30 Land Day protests as “potentially … the most violent-ever.” Others like Alex Joffe argue that the protests, due to the nature of the conflict will be inherently violent, writing,

For the Palestinians, nonviolence is merely another tool on a spectrum. Violence is almost never completely disavowed. Indeed, stone-throwing is not regarded as violence at all, just free speech; and the “absolute right of people under occupation to resist” is inevitably paired with the phrase “by whatever means necessary,” making protestations of nonviolence unpersuasive. In any case, the demand for a “right of return” carries the explicit threat of violence at all levels – personal, legal and cultural.

In contrast, the global March West Bank organizer Said Yakin has told Media Line News,

“We are against violence…We do not choose to clash with the Israeli soldiers and are calling on them to be careful because we are without weapons. We are under occupation and we look to live in peace without settlements and checkpoints, blood and discrimination.”

Despite countless reassurances from the organizers of the protest that the intent is to raise awareness about occupation and civil rights, the Israeli media continues to offer dire forecasts of violence.

Melissa Moskowitz is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.