News analysis



Unrest on the borders

May 15th 2011, 19:49 by D.L. | JERUSALEM

ON SUNDAY Israel got an unexpected and unpalatable taste of its nightmare scenario: masses of Palestinians marching, unarmed, towards the borders of the Jewish state, demanding the redress of their decades-old national grievance.

In three separate episodes during the day—on the Syrian border with the Golan Heights, on the Lebanese border and on the border with the Gaza Strip—those marching were met with live gun fire. At least a dozen Palestinians died. Scores more, most of them young men, were injured.

Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators traded stones and tear gas in East Jerusalem on the third day of street violence following the death of a young Palestinian, apparently shot by a settler or a security guard. Many were injuried and dozens arrested, but no more fatalities were reported.

Meanwhile in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank, thousands of people marked "Nakba Day", the anniversary of Israel's creation in 1948, in a huge gathering organised by the Palestinian Authority.

Nakba Day, falling close to Israel's independence day (which was celebrated last week), has often been a time of particular tension in the occupied territories and inside Israel-proper. This year police inside the country and the army in the West Bank were placed on high alert. Israel is worried that the Arab spring that is sweeping the region, and the Palestinian leadership's plan to seek statehood at the United Nations in September are likely to inflame popular emotion and lead to violence on the West Bank and possibly also in Israel.

The prospect of mass, unarmed "invasions" by refugee Palestinians from across the borders, though much discussed as a doomsday scenario, was apparently not seriously contemplated by the army. As a result, when a couple of thousand Palestinians, bused to the Golan border opposite the town of Majdal Shams, began clambering over the fence, only a small force of soldiers confronted them.

"I ordered the army to exercise maximal restraint," said Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in a brief televised announcement in the evening. "But no-one should be mistaken; we are determined to defend our borders and our sovereignty."

On the Golan border, several Palestinians were shot dead. But the Israeli officer in command decided not to fire wholesale, and hundreds of people eventually poured through the broken fence and into Majdal Shams. Local residents, Druze citizens of Syria who live prosperously but carefully under Israeli occupation, rounded them up and escorted them firmly back over the border. "We’re not happy about this," Dolan Abu Salah, the town's mayor, told Israeli television.

On the Lebanese border, near the Israeli village of Avivim, Lebanese troops shot into the air in an effort to deter the crowd of Palestinians. When they approached nevertheless, Israeli soldiers fired, killing as many as ten people according to Lebanese reports. The fence was not breached.

On the Gaza border, the army said it had killed one man seen laying an explosive device. At least one other fatality occurred when a crowd of Palestinians marched towards the main checkpoint at Erez Crossing and Israeli troops there opened fire.

Israeli officials claimed to see the hand of Iran or Syria's beleaguered president, Bashar Assad, in the Golan and Lebanon border incidents. They pointed to the relative quiet on the West Bank, despite fears of serious disturbance there.

But behind the brave facade, many in Israel are seriously worried that the powerful phenomenon of masses marching in defiance of armed force may at last be spreading to Palestine after challenging so many regimes in the region.

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1-20 of 121
guest-wneswlm wrote:
May 16th 2011 2:28 GMT

Can you please correct the spelling of the term 'Nakba?" That's how it's spelled. It's not Naqba! Naqba means a face cover and not catastrophe. Please correct the spelling of the word. Thank you!

FFScotland wrote:
May 16th 2011 8:38 GMT

I thought the face cover was called a niqab. Whereas nakba and naqba seem like reasonable substitutes in a language which isn't written using latin characters anyway.

wyyy wrote:
May 16th 2011 12:11 GMT

Calling people anti-Semitic when they criticize anything about the state of Israel is one of the cheapest rhetorical tricks around. Drop it and try to stick to debating the facts, please.

dandid wrote:
May 16th 2011 12:23 GMT

This ploy of people going to the border smells of opportunistic disractions by Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.
If the Palestinians keep trying to undermine Israel, eventually it will stop it's restraint, stop caring about pleasing the UN and EU, and many Palestinians will die due to their fundamentalist and recalcitrant leaders.
Blame Arab leaders. They only seek power, and fault Israel for everything no matter what.
Jews always seem to be the easiest scapegoat.

FreedomUSA wrote:
May 16th 2011 1:13 GMT

Whatever the Israelis do, the answer needs to be unarmed and peaceful resistance and demonstrations. The sooner the Palestinians denounce any sort of violence and begin the peaceful resistance like in Egypt and Tunesia, the sooner the current apartheid regime in Israel will fall.
Make no mistake, the IDF will shoot to kill but the Palestinians must continue resistance peacefully to establish their state.

guest-wneowna wrote:
May 16th 2011 1:53 GMT

I know that isrel is more clever than all

May 16th 2011 2:08 GMT

Why does everyone hate Israel? The Arab states I can understand a little bit, due to the deep-seated hatred between Islam and Judaism, not to mention the fact that the West took the land away from the Palestinians and gave it to the Jews. I can't understand why the West hates Israel though. Didn't we set up the traditional land of Judea for their use? Wasn't it the Western Allies of World War 2 that gave Israel to the Jews? So why do we hate them?

Lafiel wrote:
May 16th 2011 2:11 GMT

as always on this subject, it is more enjoyable to read the comments than the article.

Straight Forward does have a point. The Israeli/Arab Palestinian issue brings people out of the woodwork, who are unheard of in other situations/events.

If human life is truly equal, then people need to be condeming everything else that is happening and not suddenly become vocal when Israel is part of the situation. It makes them appear very biased at the least.


If every Arab Palestinian marched to the borders and into Israel, that is the most assured way of destroying Israel.

Because Israel would either have to kill them all which would mean Israel would become an enemy to almost every country on earth, or allow them to occupy Israel.

Considering the size of the populations the Israelies would suddenly become a minority and in a democratic/republic type of government, it is the majorities that rule, not minorities. After which all the Jews would be executed and forced to flee once the Palestinians took control. I seriously have no doubt that there are many who would do this, especially if the scent of victory is in the air, people who normally stay on the sidelines tend to joing the apparent winning side.

In any event, only a few thousand Arab Palestinians is not enough to do much besides a political PR stunt, just like the "aid" ships trying to break the blockade of Gaza. all PR

May 16th 2011 2:14 GMT

Someone killed to steal something very valuable, hearing the police approaching, he feels an existential threat. That basically sums up the pathetic Israeli argument.

Israelis need help from their friends to disconnect from this fantasy of using military might to justify grabbing occupied lands, selling it to jews from Brooklyn to Moscow while Palestinians lost generations rot in refugee camps all around them.

The answer to the existential threat is to plea bargain, the good news is that the Palestinians and the Arabs are easy to please, they unanimously agreed to let Israel keep 72% of its loot (1967 borders). Israelis have to stop deluding themselves with false (security) arguments and malicious schemes aimed at turning the Palestinians 28% of the land into some form of large prison camps overlooked by Israeli settlements and surrounded by an apartheid wall.

The most surprising fact is that Israelis, normally above average in intelligence, are not grasping reality. Reality is that the world is changing and reality is that no amount of political power in the US on their side, no amount of military supremacy and no amount of media control and propaganda is going to stop the inevitable natural law: "popular will shall prevail" and today's popular will, globally, not only in Palestine is on the palestinian side.

The existential cry song has worked in Israel's favour for too long, but its shelf life is not unlimited! In 1967 they were singing that cry song in 1000's of decibels just before they trapped the Egyptian army in the Sinai and massacred 30000 egyptians, some claim not only 300000 egyptians died in cold blood but also Americans died in cold blood, in the USS Liberty who were in a position to learn the reality and stop the lies and the massacres.

Choosing Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman as PM and FM respectively certainly doesn't help Israel's case.

Artevelde wrote:
May 16th 2011 2:16 GMT

If these Palestinians want redress for the decadesold issue, shouldn't they be marching on the Arab and Middle-Eastern states that ejected many 100.000 Jews and stole their property?
Surely the goods stolen from the jews were worth much much more than the whole of palestine at the time...

Surely that would be right and proper?

But right and proper is not the issue here is it? The destruction of Israel is. In which case the Jewish state has the moral right and duty to protect it's existance and citizens with any and all means necessary. Even if that includes "no quarter given"-orders.

PKP801 wrote:
May 16th 2011 2:21 GMT


Since you can't criticize Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism, and you can't criticize Arabs/Palestinians/Muslims without being accused of anti-Semitism, how can anybody ever discuss or address this problem?

Anybody with more than two brain cells to rub together can see that the relationship between Israel and its neighbours is mutually antagonistic. BOTH sides are at fault for general jackassery/douchebaggery and deserve a collective slap upside the head.

Either that or we take the respective leaders of all the squabbling nations and lock them in a room together until they learn to get along like grown-ups. I'm a big fan of treating people who ACT like infants AS infants.

JW101 wrote:
May 16th 2011 2:30 GMT

Can I second WWY - calling any critics of Israeli policy anti semitic only seems to be an attempt to kill any debate.

Most of the hostility towards Israel seems to stem from the fact that it wants to have 2 classes of citizens, who have different rights depending on whether you were born an Arab or a Jew. Not many states survive for long like that, and it means Israel is dependant on massive external support.

Unarmed protest will be a powerful tool - how long will the USA allow it's Israel to depoly armed soldiers against unarmed civilians?

speedworm wrote:
May 16th 2011 2:45 GMT

Israel should retreat into the 1967 border, if they really want peace.

Froy'' wrote:
May 16th 2011 3:00 GMT

That's it: people power. Unarmed but determined. They should even forgo the whole stone-throwing shenanigans, that only gives arguments to their oppressors. If all 7 millions Palestinians within and without the OPT walk straight to their lost homes and illegally expropriated lands, there will be nothing that can stop them. The world will support them as long as they stay non-violent.

marco666 wrote:
May 16th 2011 3:00 GMT

"ON SUNDAY Israel got an unexpected and unpalatable taste of its nightmare scenario: masses of Palestinians marching, unarmed, towards the borders of the Jewish state, demanding the redress of their decades-old national grievance." ... LOL. Why not put this in a perspective that Europeans might understand .... masses of European muslims denied the same human rights as white europeans marching, unarmed, enmasse through european capitals demanding he redress of their decades-old national grievances (like citizenship rights!!!!). What a joke. The whole episode was staged and according to Israeli sources some of the "Palestinians" were fleeing from Syrian oppression and there is clear evidence that on Lebanese side some of the deaths were a result of the Lebanese army shooting people in the back. The only people would buy into this stuff are the radical leftist feminists who easily turn a blind eye to real repression in order to stoke their virulent anti-sematism. Sorry folks but these borders are tightly controlled on both sides. The only way people could get access to the Israeli border is if they were bussed there with the pure (cynical) intent of using innocent lives to promote an Islamic repressive agenda. What sane country would put unarmed civilians on the front line ... like Iranian radicals who used children to clear out mine fields in the iran-iraq war ... need anymore be said?

FFlump wrote:
May 16th 2011 3:15 GMT

@Strait Forward

"Anyone living today, including those anti-zionists, anti-Israeli, anti-Semites on this board who won’t place their influence on the aggressor Palestinians and the rest of Arab blood thirsty world, to revert their plans, and end their existential threat on Israel, will be responsible for any loss suffered by the Palestinians and the rest of those involved in their aggression against Israel."

What coordinated evil is it the "blood thirsty world" of arabs is planning? Most of the arab world is caught up i "The Arab Spring", a genuine push for humanity and good in the region. This is a true game changer whose consequences are not clear yet. One would think the old system of deflecting frustration with the old regimes by pointing to Israel will be over. But that will just give the criticisms that do come from this part of the world greater legitimacy. What is very clear however is that to talk about arab "plans" which would pose an "existential threath to Israel" within this very fresh, more open and more democratic arab world is silly at best at this point in time.

Garaboncias wrote:
May 16th 2011 3:16 GMT

I am genuinely curious, and posing the following question to all posters.
If you were a frustrated Arab - frustrated with everything: your leaders, your country, your future, your life, your place in the world, etc. - and wanted to show your rage and let off some steam, against whom would you march with a chance of survival? The Arab regimes owning/running your life or Israel?
Another observation. All the other stunning brutality and slaughter going on right now on our planet, put together, don't get a fraction as much attention as any unrest involving Israel and the Palestinians. Why is that? Are all the other millions of lives not worth the time it takes to mention them? I am generalizing for all parameters, so, please, spare me any self-righteous drivel.

May 16th 2011 3:29 GMT

I wonder how relations between Mexico and the U.S. would be if the U.S. were as passionate and diligent about protecting its borders...

FFlump wrote:
May 16th 2011 3:29 GMT

"@ Joseph Zrnchik:

‘You are right, unarmed demonstrators marched and were slaughtered and maimed with ordinance en mass.’

Now hold you horses, Joseph. I see that suddenly you care so much for unarmed people Slaughtered and maimed…

I ask myself where were you psosts when the Economist published articles on hundreds of Syrian slautered by their own leaders, or in Yemen, or Bahrain, or Egypt, or Libya…

Or is it the opportunity to go after the Jews that makes you erupt in such an anger.

Yap… can’t miss the anti-Semites stamp. Human rights are their dearest custom they wear when they can have an anti-Israeli party."

And now you are doing it again!!!

I have told you before that you cannot justify crimes by referring to other crimes!!! And I have told you before why Israels abuses are so grievous. Israel is a democratic nation, these things shouldn´t happen with such a state. It makes no sense shouting at the syrian regime because it is not a rational regime. You don´t argue with a dog that bites. You take him to the vet and put him to sleep. Such logic does not apply to Israel, and I don´t understand why you keep insisting on Israel being treated along those lines.

Clave32 wrote:
May 16th 2011 3:43 GMT

It was only a matter of time before Israel got pulled into the Arab uprising. I don't know how long Israel can hang on to its instrangiance when surrounded by a sea of change.

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