An annual Palestinian day of protest commonly known as Land Day has been rebranded this year as the Palestinian camp seeks to maximise international exposure to their agenda with a “Global March to Jerusalem”, scheduled for later today, March 30.
Plans for the march are a derivative of the May 2011 Nakba protests that saw infiltrations attempts along the Syrian and Lebanese borders – successful in the former case, when crowds of Syrian Palestinians were arrested in Majdal Shams on the Israeli Golan, while one made it all the way to Tel Aviv before turning himself in.
What groups are behind it? There is growing evidence that Iran has a significant role behind the event, as GLORIA Centre analyst Jonathan Spyer wrote for PJ Media this week.
This initiative is the product of an international alliance that has emerged in recent years between mainly Sunni Islamists and Western leftist supporters of the destruction of Israel. Observation of the original “advisory” and “executive” committees for the march reveal a number of familiar names of individuals and organizations from within this nexus.
What sets the GMJ apart somewhat from previous initiatives of this kind, however, is the notable representation of Iranian and Iran-regime associated groups among its backers. This suggests Iranian government backing for the march. The Iranian-linked groups form a third pillar, alongside the Sunni, Muslim-Brotherhood linked groups and the less important Western leftist anti-Zionists.
Spyer’s analysis validates the conclusions of a report from March 14 from Israel’s Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre.
Teheran has reportedly also coerced support for the march from Iran’s Jewish community.
Palestinian activists, including jailed Second Intifada leader Marwan Barghouti and several terrorists freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap have called upon pro-Palestinian groups to lend their full support to the march.
Internalising the lessons of the past year, Israel has strongly warned its neighbours as well as the march organisers to keep the marchers well clear of its borders.
This year, Jordan has stepped in for embattled Syria by announcing it would allow the march to pass through its territory, although it was unclear if Jordan would permit marchers to approach its border with Israel.
In Lebanon, facing pressure from the government in Beirut concerned about a border clash with Israel, the march organisers have said they will end their march at Beaufort Castle in southern Lebanon.
Other solidarity marches are planned in the region and beyond.
On Wednesday, the Facebook page for the Australian branch of the protest event featured a cartoon of Gaza depicting the form of a Palestinian woman being crucified on a telephone poll branded with a Star of David with the caption “Enough is enough, electricity for Gaza”. The cartoon was strongly criticised as being antisemitic.
Today, the Israeli Embassy in New Zealand issued a response to the march, calling it “an attempt to distract the international attention from what is happening in Syria and Iran”
On Monday, amidst march-related protests, an Israeli diplomat was forced to leave a conference and depart Morocco out of fear for his life.
Many supporters of Israel have been reluctant to respond too strongly ahead of the march, lest it fuel media coverage and inadvertently draw more activists to take part in the protests.
However, in recent days, there has been some worthwhile commentary against the march. In Jonathan Kay, Managing Editor for Comment at Canada’s National Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said that the irony of the march is that Jerusalem has enjoyed unprecedented openness and freedom since the city was united in the Six Day War – in contrast to the religious intolerance prevalent throughout the Arab world.
But that Israel’s tolerant attitude toward other faiths’ presence in Jerusalem were mirrored by, say, Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslims aren’t allowed even to enter Muslim holy cities, let alone build churches or synagogues.
And yet we never hear of a “Global March to Mecca.” Odd that, no?
Jews and Arabs likely will continue to fight over control of Jerusalem for many years. But let us dispense with the idea that the Israeli presence amounts to a “racist” desecration of an otherwise “peaceful” city. If the moral battle between Jews and Arab were fought on the basis of who governed Jerusalem in a more tolerant and civilized fashion, the victor would not be hard to choose.
On Tuesday, Michael Sharnoff, blogger at the Huffington Post, similarly slammed the “hypocrisy” of the marchers, who he said “proclaim to champion Palestinian rights and singling out Israel, while ignoring the abuses taking place on a daily basis in the Arab world.”
If Palestinian rights were truly the GMJ’s raison d’etre, it would organize rallies and protests against Palestinian discrimination in Lebanon where 300,000 Palestinian refugees live in overcrowded camps and dire social and economic conditions. They are also legally barred from owning property and from working in certain areas.
Meanwhile, on the UK’s Commentator website, author Jeremy Havardi called the march a “sham”.
If you want to see real examples of religious discrimination in the Middle East, look no further than Israel’s most vociferous critics. Saudi Arabia, the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim faiths while it is a capital offence for a Muslim to convert from Islam…
Egypt’s Copts have suffered decades of persecution at the hands of Islamist extremists while Christian communities have long been under attack from Gaza to Kabul. Iran is notorious for imprisoning Bahai worshippers for their beliefs. These cases could be multiplied many times over, such is the ubiquitous level of religious intolerance to be found across the Islamic world.
So during the Global March to Jerusalem, the spotlight should fall squarely on Israel’s enemies and critics. It is their hypocrisy and double standards that merit censure, not a Middle Eastern democracy that upholds religious freedom
On the same site, David Lewis, a committee member of the UK Lawyers for Israel asked if the organisers of the march were prepared to take responsibility for bloodshed if the march spins out of control.
The organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem can hardly fail to realise that the march, however peaceful in theory, could easily turn violent. They are highly unlikely to be able to control the events they are unleashing, and they must bear the responsibility for any deaths or injuries on either side which result from their reckless promotion of this irresponsible piece of political theatre.
Perhaps the strongest language against the march in recent days appeared in Front Page Magazine, in a piece written by Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Centre:
Like the Gaza Flotilla, the Global March depends heavily on harnessing Western useful idiots, whom it needs in order to avoid looking like the Iran/Hamas ethnic cleansing project that it is. Like revenants summoned from their crypt, the living dead of the left, widely discredited, morally bankrupt and repugnantly shrill, rise to the call of their Islamic masters.
On the eve of the march, the Jerusalem Post reported a media offensive in the form of a volley of op-eds promoting the march in a number of newspapers and websites. While written by different authors, most of the articles cover the same talking points, which is likely an indicator of coordination.