Are the organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem able to control the events they are unleashing?

The organisers of the Global March to Jerusalem can hardly fail to realise that the march, however peaceful in theory, could easily turn violent and they must bear the responsibility

June 2011: Syrian rioters, marking the 44th anniversary of the Arab "downfall"
David Lewis
On 9 March 2012 09:39

Numerous anti-Zionist organisations have come together to promote The Global March to Jerusalem, which is planned for Friday March 30th, 2012.

At a conference of these bodies in Beirut on January 17th, former Lebanese Prime Minister Dr. Salim Al Hoss referred, in the restrained terms typical of such events and those who address them, to “the arrogance of the Zionist occupation and its strategy aimed at Jerusalem, Palestine, and the obliteration of the Arab, religious and historical identity through escalating acts of murder, destruction, displacement, occupation, demolition, Judaization, dislocation, confiscation, colonization and ethnic cleansing.”

According to the conference’s official communiqué, those participating will march en masse from neighbouring Arab countries towards Jerusalem “or to the nearest possible point to it”. The communiqué emphasized “the peaceful nature of the march, expressing [the conference’s] hopes on the responsible authorities in all countries concerned, on the provision of facilities envisaged for the success of the march and to achieve its noble objectives.”

The Arab and Palestinian dream of a mass march on Israel has been around for a long time. The last time it was tried was in June last year, when hundreds of Syrian rioters, marking the 44th anniversary of the Arab “downfall” in the Six Day War (Naksa Day), attempted to breach Israel’s northern border with Syria in the Golan Heights, resulting in several injuries and reportedly some fatalities.

Syrian soldiers present in the area apparently made no effort to stop people getting to the border and even engaged in provocation. The IDF issued loudspeaker warnings in Arabic for the rioters to stop advancing and, when these warnings were ignored, fired warning shots in the air, and then at the rioters’ feet, causing at least twelve injuries. When the IDF honoured a request by the International Red Cross to hold their fire, so that ICRC personnel could safely evacuate those injured, the rioters took advantage of the cease-fire and continued storming the border fence.

At a second demonstration on the Syrian border at Kuneitra, involving 200 to 300 demonstrators, Syrian protesters hurled molotov cocktails towards IDF positions. Near the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem between 100 and 200 people rioted and stoned Israel Border Guard forces. According to a report, most of the Qalandiya rioters were members of NGOs rather than “authentic Palestinians”; the IDF used tear gas and other non-lethal methods to successfully disperse the crowd, one Border Guard officer suffering mild injuries.

The June 2011 border riots showed that low-level violence and even fatalities can occur when hundreds of would-be intruders are involved, and that Arab governments and security forces cannot necessarily be relied upon to prevent such attempts to breach Israel’s borders and armistice lines.

The event planned for March 2012 appears to involve many more people, quite possibly in the tens or hundreds of thousands; and the Israeli government must therefore, regardless of the organisers’ emphasis on “the peaceful nature of the march”, anticipate serious violence, and the possibility of injuries and fatalities on both sides.

The legal question arises as to whether any breach or attempted breach of the international border or armistice lines would constitute an attack against Israel that could justify the exercise of her inherent right of self-defence. The precise legal answer may differ according to whether the attack is actual or threatened, armed or unarmed and whether it comes from Judea and Samaria, Gaza, or one of the Arab states adjoining Israel and those territories.

The legal advisers to the IDF will no doubt be discussing these issues with commanders and giving the appropriate advice. But in any event no state can permit an invasion of its territory, whether by armed forces or by masses of unarmed marchers.

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.

David Lewis is a committee member of UK Lawyers for Israel

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