The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has conducted an extensive survey of the websites of pro-Palestinian activists in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East and has published a guide to events planned for 2012.
Some activities are focused on public relations, others have the potential to cause violence, and yet other activities seem aimed at further destabilizing Israel’s already shaky neighborhood.
The Center reports:
The networks waging the campaign to delegitimize Israel are planning a series of propaganda displays for 2012, some of them in the upcoming months. They intend to hold marches (promoted by Hamas), a protest fly-in to Ben-Gurion International Airport, a flotilla and propaganda events for the "Israeli apartheid week."
The most high profile event on the horizon is the Global March to Jerusalem, which is encouraging activists worldwide to gather in convoys and head together to Jerusalem on March 30th, or “Land Day” a day Palestinians mark the killing of six Israeli Arabs over a land dispute with Israeli authorities in 1976.
Upon entering its website, the Global March’s logo says a lot: a map of Palestine including all territory from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, with Israel completely wiped off the map. The map is painted in green, the signature color of Islam, suggesting organizers view their struggle as a religious one.
Activists plan to gather in areas bordering Israel, including Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The Meir Amit Center reports:
The organizers of the marches plan to send groups from several countries to Arab states bordering on Israel. The participants will attempt to cross the border and invade Israeli territory.
Global March organizers describe combating the “Judaization of Jerusalem” as a key objective:
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… The march will confirm that the policies and practices of the racist Zionist state of Israel against Jerusalem and its people are a crime not only against Palestinians but against all humanity.
According the Global March’s North American website, endorsers include a mix of Palestinian and anti-war groups, as well as “United Progressives,” an anti-war group that promotes various progressive causes. Individual endorsers include Lauren Booth, a British broadcaster for Iran’s Press TV who has called Gaza a “concentration camp” and Richard Falk, an expert on the UN Human Rights Council who was derided for publishing an anti-Semitic cartoon on his blog last year depicting Jews as a bloodthirsty dog urinating on Lady Justice. Falk has also suggested that the U.S. government was behind 9/11 and that the media covered it up.
While American and European activists purporting to be peaceful are endorsing the Global March to Jerusalem, it is simultaneously being promoted by Hamas, a group committed to Israel’s destruction which the U.S. and European Union categorize as a terror group.
Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced the march at a December 14th rally as seen in the video organizers posted:
Hamas frequently invokes its goal of “saving” Jerusalem from the “impurity of the Jews” painting the issue as a religious struggle. These hard-core Islamists decry what they call the “Judaization” of Jerusalem without any regard to the historical fact that Jews have lived for millennia in the city holy not only to Islam, but to Christians and Jews.
A YouTube video promoting the Global March includes images equating Israel with “cancer” and suggesting Israel’s founding was a “great plundering.” It calls Jerusalem “a Holy City inhabited by Palestinians for centuries.”
The Meir Amit Center assesses that so far, response from the West has been small. Another obstacle: activists need permission to hold marches in neighboring countries.
Besides the Global March, Pro-Palestinian activists are planning protests from the sea. The Meir Amit Center reports on a planning meeting that took place in Italy in November aimed at learning lessons from the past failed flotillas whose goal is to break Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza. It reports:
…the coalition sending the flotillas is also apparently examining the possibility of sending a large flotilla from several different European ports. […]
The flotilla organizers are also busy raising donations for the funds necessary to purchase a large number of ships.
Another protest aims to enter Israel by air. Last summer, international activists flew to Ben-Gurion Airport for demonstrations, but most were arrested and sent home on outbound flights. The Meir Amit Center examined activists’ websites and reports that this year’s “fly-in” is scheduled for April 15th, during the Passover holiday and a week after Easter:
The objective of the fly-in was described by its organizers as challenging the "policy of isolation" Israel imposes on the West Bank. Fly-in participants have been requested to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport but to keep a low profile, apparently to make it difficult for Israel to prevent them from entering the country.
All these activities are being described as peaceful protests, but as history shows, there are potential flash-points. Israeli police are aware of the chance of violence, as occurred last spring when pro-Palestinian protesters marking the anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War tried to storm the Israeli border from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. The Israel Defense Forces called it a Syrian-government “provocation.”
As it is, tensions are high, especially with the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks not showing any signs of progress.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on Jordan -- the launching point for some of the Global Marchers -- a country where the “Arab Spring” has not arrived. With a majority Palestinian population living under minority Hashemite rule, it’s not unfathomable that a march ostensibly aimed at Israel could take on a life of its own to air grievances against King Abdullah’s regime.
So far, demonstrations bringing together Palestinians and international activists have not been game-changing events. The Free Gaza Flotilla failed to break the sea blockade, and “Boycott Israel” activists have not impacted Israel’s economy. It remains to be seen if this spring’s “Global March” will recruit “massive” throngs as advertised, or not. Organizers say they are banking on “the spirit of the Arab spring revolutions and the determination of young people who were able to overthrow dictatorships.” Israeli police and border patrols are no doubt preparing for the worst.