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The Arab Spring Comes to Israel

Syrian regime has own use for ‘Nakba Day;’ 16 deaths reported

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Palestinian Syrians storm the border at the Golan.(Jalaa Marey/AFP/Getty Images)

In the most violent “Nakba Day” in years—the day on which Palestinians and other Arabs commemorate the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe,” that was (they argue) Israel’s declaration of independence and the attendant displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians—yesterday, Palestinians tried to broach the Israeli border at four different places: Gaza and the West Bank, but also Lebanon and Syria; the Syrian border in particular has been almost totally quiet for decades, despite the fact that it includes the disputed Golan Heights. Planned marchers from Egypt and Jordan were restrained by those countries’ security services, which itself should tell you a lot about how the people in charge of Lebanon and Syria felt about their own protesters. In clashes that included Israeli military firing on crowds that tried to demolish barriers at the borders, more than a dozen (I generally see 16) were reported killed, and many more injured.

Everyone else has recommended it, but still, you should read this take by Andrew Exum, an active-duty counterinsurgency expert turned national security blogger. Israel’s response to the marching was not, he says, in line with past overreactions (such as—this is my example, not his—the response to the Gaza flotilla), but rather entirely understandable: “What were they supposed to do in the face of a breach of the border?” he asks. “And what did the protesters think would happen?” He adds, “You can’t really fault a military for protecting the territorial integrity of its state by force.”

Exum concludes, “Israel has been kidding itself if it had imagined itself immune from the non-violent, peaceful protests that have been sweeping the Arabic-speaking world,” and there are actually two separate ways, albeit stemming from the same place, in which yesterday represented the first day that the Arab Spring truly came to Israel. Place one is Syria: Much as the two-month-long (and counting) uprising against the Assad regime made Hamas feel threatened and spurred it to ostensibly reconcile with its bitter rival Fatah, the Assad regime, itself feeling threatened, needed a scapegoat, and there is surely no better scapegoat in the region than Israel; thus, the Assad regime, almost certainly, cynically harnessed the genuine feelings of its Palestinians by allowing them, for the first time, to actually storm the border, precisely in an effort to draw a response from Israel that could be used to distract its citizens from their uprising against the regime itself and to threaten the international community that support for deposing the regime could lead to more days like yesterday. It is certainly fair to point out that on the same day that four Syrian Palestinians were killed by the IDF for trying to cross in Israel, eight Syrians were killed by Syrian security services for trying to cross into Lebanon. In the context of the past two months, only the former event was extraordinary.

(By the way, contributing editor Jeff Goldberg rightly calls out Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner for his overly earnest treatment of just whether, in fact, the Assad regime let this happen on purpose, when past history indicates that angry protesters reach that border only when the regime wants them to. Likewise, Anthony Shadid’s more fair-minded Times news analysis was headlined, as of last night, “A Random Border Skirmish? Or Is Syria Playing the Israel Card?” when in fact the piece itself makes very clear that it’s the latter. [Also, “random”? It was Nakba Day!] I’m usually not one of those people when it comes to the Times, but come on.)

It would be convenient if the entire thing could be blamed on the awful Assad regime, but it of course can’t. The Arab Spring, and the examples especially of Tunisia and Egypt, in which longtime despots were replaced through popular protests, have made Arabs feel newly empowered about their ability to influence how they are governed. It has also unleashed ugly forces that these despots had kept contained (violence against Egyptian Christians continued this weekend.)

The Arab Spring has made Palestinians feel as though they can shape their destiny vis-à-vis Israel as never before, and if reconciliation—in which a group that calls for Israel’s destruction, Hamas, was welcomed into the main governing body—is any indication; if ostensibly moderate President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent statements that Palestinians will never give up the right of return and that yesterday’s dead were martyrs are any indications; and if one of the most restive Nakba Days in recent years is any indication; then as of right now, the mainstream Palestinian vision of the Palestinian future is incompatible with the mainstream Israeli vision of the Israeli future. That doesn’t justify Israel’s ignoring these latest events. Rather, it demands two things: tactically, a combination of restraint and insistence on red lines; and strategically, inventive diplomacy and compassion. Israel demonstrated the former yesterday; here’s hoping the latter is on the way.

Israeli Troops Fire as Marchers Breach Borders [NYT]
Just Another Sunday in the Levant [Abu Muqawama]
A Random Border Skirmish? Or Is Syria Playing the Israel Card? [NYT]
How to Understand the Golan Heights Demonstrations? [Goldblog]
Scores Wounded in Latest Religious Clashes in Egypt [WP]
Earlier: Has Assad Reached Our Breaking Point?
On Reconciliation, ‘The Devil Is In the Details’

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carl says:

First of all I find it interesting that all the foreign media (including Tablet) completely ignored the Arab israeli truck driver who went on a mini-Jihad yesterday in Tel aviv killing one and injuring many, and when he emerged from his truck screamed allah akbhar and attacked by standers. I guess it doesn’t fit in with the storyline. Secondly what the NYT and others is ignoring is the use that the various Arab regimes make of the Palestinians. They hold them in slums (refugee camps), deny them citizenship and trot them out to use against Israel and to distract attention from their own mistreatment of their own people.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

At least some of the Pal “refugees” who stormed the border fence yesterday in the Golan actually live outside of Syria and came to visit for the occasion.

Also, the Pals gathering point was Damascus where they boarded buses to take them to the border area which is normally a closed military zone. So given the nature of the Syrian police state, and given the access to the normally closed border area, and given the organized caravan of buses that brought the demonstrators to the closed border area, what are the odds that the Assad regime was NOT involved in the organization and execution (double entendre intended) of the demonstration?

Goldberg puzzles how a normally “smart” guy like the NY Times’ Ethan Bronner could actually surmise that maybe Assad had nothing to do with this. A few possible conclusions:

a) Maybe Bronner isn’t so smart after all.

b) Bronner was an enthusiastic advocate of the apparently abandoned Obama “grand bargain” between Syria and Israel and maybe Iran. It just might be too much cognitive dissonance for him to admit that Assad is manipulative & evil and uses his useful idiots (like Bronner) where he can find them.

c) Bronner’s piece was edited by the Times to fit & support the rabid anti-Israel stances of Kristoff & Cohen.

d) Bronner, having long since inculcated the “spirit of the commander” (it’s an IDF phrase — Ru’ach Hamefaked”) into his writing, automatically excuses Israel’s enemies shades the story so that no matter what Israel does, its wrong.

This is far from the first time that Bronner’s reporting has been shown to be distorted. Just spend some time on the CAMERA or web sites to see previous examples. What is of interest here is that Tracy actually noticed it and dared to question the integrity of the allegedly august & ostensibly omniscient NY Times. I guess Goldberg’s post gave him permission to do so.


Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

Elliot Abrams makes an interesting and plausible case that the Obamanoids have NOT abandoned their delusional “grand bargain” between Syria & Israel and that that is the reason that Obama has not condemned publicly and on camera (as opposed to issuing a statement) Assad’s slaughter of his own citizens. Read Abrams piece here:

This might also explain Bronner’s tortuous presumption that the “Syrian Invasion” could be “spontaneous”. Bronner (and the Times in general) has often served as a faithful mouthpiece for advancing Obamanoid positions on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Oh and let me assure you that your left arm will not lose its cunning if you click on the above link and read an article in the Weekly Standard (p’tooi, p’tooi, p’tooi).


Jerusalem / Efrata

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

Rabin and Netanjahu’s ideas are identical:

1) Jerusalem will remain united under Israel’s sovereignty.

2) Major Jewish settlement blocs will be part of the sovereignty state of Israel.

3) The Jordan Valley will remain under Israel’s control.

4) Future Palestinian state will be demilitarized and Israel will control its airspace and border passes.

In addition:

The leadership of Palestinian state must accept Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

A peace agreement must be considered the “end of the conflict”.

A peace agreement must be the “end of all future demands”.

Rabin spoke at the Knesset in October 1995, while Natanjahu in May 2011.

The former, the left wing Labor Chairman and Prime Minister.

The latter, the right wing Likud Chairman and present Prime Minister.

Both, men of peace who are also Jewish/Israeli patriots eager to see a peace in our region but not at the expense of Israel national and security interests.

(The above is based on today’s Netanjahu’s speech at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament).

It’s “breach the border,” not “broach the border.” One can broach a barrel, a storehouse, or the like, meaning that one makes an opening in it in order to draw out its contents. But these Palestinians were not trying to do anything of the sort. Forcibly to make an opening in a border is to breach it.

Dan says:

MKR, I don’t know if Marc meant it, but I do like broach with your definition in this context… after all, this wasn’t an actual attempt at invasion but it was indeed a broach… “making an opening in order to draw a response”.

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The Arab Spring Comes to Israel

Syrian regime has own use for ‘Nakba Day;’ 16 deaths reported

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