Israel buckles down for 'March to Jerusalem'
Israel is gearing up for another mass demonstration and potential incursions along its borders on Friday, as thousands are expected to take part in the "Global March to Jerusalem". Organisers expect demonstraters to arrive from all over the world.
Israel will deploy more than 2,000 border police throughout the West Bank to stave off disturbances. In addition, the IDF will position troops along Israel's northern borders and will have available non-lethal crowd control equipment such as tear gas.
The march is scheduled to coincide with "Land Day", the annual day to commemorate six Israeli Arabs who died in 1976 while protesting over what they claimed were Israeli government plans to steal Palestinian land.
Last year's Land Day was overshadowed by "Nakba Day" on May 15, when Palestinians mourn the creation of Israel and thousands of people, mainly Palestinian refugees, charged Israel's Lebanese and Syrian borders. Fifteen protesters were killed by the IDF and Lebanese forces during the demonstration, and over 100 Syrians managed to penetrate the Golan Heights. One Syrian got all the way to Tel Aviv where he said he spent the day in Jaffa searching for his family's ancestral home.
Ahead of Friday's protest, Lebanese forces have said that they will only let marchers reach Beaufort Castle, a Crusader fortress several kilometres from Israel's northern border, while along the border with Syria, fortifications have been refurbished since last year.
Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya, said he believes that initiatives such as Friday's march do pose a security threat, even with Israeli officials taking more precautions this year.
"It is both a security threat and a political strategic threat in the sense that if this trend continues, it will be very difficult to challenge it: if they try to penetrate the borders and the army responds with live fire because there is no other alternative, then there will be deaths and martyrs and the media will present Israel in an unfavourable way."
Dr Karmon said he believes that initiatives such as the Global March have been given a boost by the Arab Spring: "People see that the decisiveness of the masses… can work."
Dr Ribhi Halloum, the co-ordinator of Global March to Jerusalem and head of the GMJ International Executive Committee, as well as a former member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, said from Amman on Sunday that the goal is to send a message that "just as all the occupations throughout history concluded in defeat, so will the present Israeli occupation of Jerusalem".
When asked if "occupied" Jerusalem meant what lies east of the Green Line, he said "Palestine is for the Palestinians" and that "there was nothing in history called the 1967 borders or the 1948 borders, there is only Palestine and it is for Palestinians".