|Global March to Jerusalem|
|By Marcy Oster|
|Friday, 30 March 2012 11:58|
JERUSALEM (JTA) – If pro-Palestinian calls for a so-called Global March to Jerusalem are heeded, thousands of Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria may converge on Israel’s borders.
March 30 marks Land Day, which commemorates the deaths of six Arab Israelis killed in 1976 during protests against Israeli government land policies that confiscated privately-owned Arab land.
While last year’s Land Day commemorations were held without incident, rallies two months later to mark the anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Nakba – the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding in 1948 – brought thousands of Arabs from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza to march on Israel’s borders, and 13 marchers were killed.
A month later, on June 5, hundreds of Syrian protesters stormed the border with Israel on Naksa Day, the anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, bringing more casualties.
“The IDF… will do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli borders and residents,” the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman told JTA this week when asked how the IDF is preparing for Land Day.
Citing senior defense officials, Haaretz reported that the IDF is prepared for “relatively serious events.” The most current intelligence assessments believe demonstrations Friday will be “limited.”
Preparations for Land Day security have used last year’s Nakba and Naksa day rallies as models. Security forces have updated their knowledge of non-lethal crowd dispersal methods, while border troops have gone on higher alert.
Israeli officials reportedly were most concerned about the Lebanese border and asked the Lebanese government to rein in protesters. The main Lebanese demonstration is planned for the Beaufort Castle, several miles north of the Israeli city of Metullah, rather than the border with Israel. Demonstrators at Beaufort will be limited to 5,000, according to the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper, citing march organizers.
March general coordinator Ribhi Halloum told reporters earlier in the week that the march would be peaceful.
“The aim of the march is to express a message of protest and condemnation against the policy of Israeli occupation in the occupied Palestinian territories,” he said. “We will under no circumstances agree to violence or a violation of the borders. We will maintain the policy of nonviolent protest we have agreed to uphold.”
Land Day events will be held inside Israel’s borders under the auspices of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee.
Israeli police have been cautioned to keep out of Arab villages in Israel in order to maintain calm.
Meanwhile, jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in five murders during the second intifada, urged Palestinians to launch a resistance campaign against Israel. His statement called on the Palestinian Authority to stop all coordination with Israel in the economic and security realms and to stop peace negotiations.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority currently are not engaged in negotiations.