Written by Ryan Mauro
Sunday’s Nakba Day was marked with bloodshed. At least fifteen people were killed when Palestinian demonstrators clashed with the Israeli military on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The Iranian and Syrian regimes chose to use this holiday to whip up the region into anti-Israeli fervor, hoping to steer the Arab Spring in a direction away from them and towards their enemies.
Israel also had to face clashes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in addition to the violence on its borders. A 22-year old Arab-Israeli also drove a truck into vehicles and civilians in Tel Aviv, killing one person and injuring 17. The attacker claims his vehicle had problems with the brakes, but witnesses are certain it was deliberate. One says he yelled, “Allahu akbar” and “death to Jews” during the attack.
“The leaders of these violent demonstrations, their struggle is not over the 1967 borders but over the very existence of Israel, which they describe as a catastrophe that must be resolved,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu. He defended the Israeli military, saying “we are determined to defend our borders.”
An estimated 1,000 people ran up to the Israeli-Syrian border and 300 actually breached it. The Syrian border guards did not stop them. Those who crossed into Israel have all been returned except those detained for questioning. The Israeli government is accusing Syria of trying to deflect attention away from its violent suppression of anti-government protests. The U.S. agrees, and the White House spokesman accused Syria of “inciting” the clash at the Golan Heights.
A Syrian dissident says that his sources in Damascus revealed that pro-Assad Palestinian groups transported the participants to the border the previous night. The organizers of the protest on the Lebanese border said Hezbollah financed it. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces alsosaid the incidents had the “fingerprints” of the Iranian regime.
Hundreds of protesters in the Gaza Strip were allowed to walk through a checkpoint manned by Hamas to approach the Israeli border. The leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, preached to a crowd of 10,000 that the day was one of “great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Palestine.” He also referred to the recent reconciliation agreement with Fatah as a step towards this goal, stating that “to achieve our goals in the liberation of our occupied land, we should have one leadership.” A spokesman for Hamas referred to the day as a “turning point.”
The rhetoric of the Palestinian Authority was not much different, as the Hamas-ally praised those who lost their lives battling Israeli soldiers. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad expressed his desire that 2011 will be the year “in which our people achieve freedom and independence.” President Mahmoud Abbas will lobby the United Nations to officially recognize an independent Palestine this fall, so the unity between Hamas and Fatah and the Nakba Day provocations should be seen as part of this plan.
The Syrian government reacted to the violence by condemning Israel’s “criminal activities.” President Bashar Assad is hoping to leverage anti-Israeli sentiment in his country to his political benefit as he faces an unprecedented challenge to his rule. The Syrian regime has tried to delegitimize its opponents by accusing anti-government protesters of being backed by Israel.
The Assad regime is also fearful because the U.N. Special Tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri is expected to indict Hezbollah, and has reportedly received new information about Syrian complicity. The tribunal has amended its secret indictments to account for “substantive new elements unavailable until recently.” Hezbollah, Syria and Iran are extremely nervous over this development, and have sought to pin the responsibility for Hariri’s death on Israel. The results of the U.N. investigation are so damaging to Hezbollah that the group took over Lebanon’s government to stop it from cooperating.
The Nakba Day provocations were also in Iran’s political and strategic interests. The Iranian government was planning for student protests on the same day. The Iranian regime is also suffering from divisions within its own ranks, and likely calculated that a ratcheting up of regional tension could unify it. The regime is also hoping to empower the Islamist forces in the region challenging the pro-American Arab governments by creating an anti-Israeli, anti-Western political environment.
In The Coming Is Upon Us, the regime’s propaganda documentary outlining its prophetic role in preparing the way for the Mahdi, it is taught that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood is the fulfillment of Islamic prophecy. According to the film, the Iranian regime believes it is to lead an Arab coalition in destroying Israel before the Mahdi appears, and the Brotherhood’s ascent is what makes this possible. The Nakba Day provocations should also be seen as an attempt to make this scenario come about.
The bloodshed on Nakba Day should serve as a reminder that the road to peace does not run through Jerusalem, but through the capitals of the governments whose definition of “peace” means the destruction of Israel.