Today, hundreds of Palestinian refugees, following appeals on Facebook and Twitter, marched towards the Lebanese and Syrian borders, through Qalandia checkpoint, and in Gaza. All the protests were in observance of Nakbah Day.
Finally, the Arab Spring had come to Palestine.
Israel doesn't do popular Palestinian protest well. Like usual, they started shooting at unarmed protesters with predictable injuries and fatalities. Time will tell whether this is a one-day protest, or the beginning of something else.
Then came the Israeli spin. Like Saif Ghaddafi in Libya, the Israelis were blaming…the Iranians. Evidence? None. As if Palestinians living in refugee camps need to be motivated to protest the theft of their land.
Here is the drill: The IDF Spokesperson gets rightwing bloggers like Elder of Ziyon on a conference call and feeds them lokshen/noodles. The bloggers, who believe anything the IDF tells them, trumpet the IDF talking points to the blogosphere. Of course, they have been provided no evidence for those talking points. In this case, the lokshen was that "Hezbollah and Syria organized and helped out in the clashes up north." Again, no evidence.
The same talking points are given to the IDF's press lackeys, like Yoni Ben Menachem, who played the Syria card – again without evidence.
You can see how this works in Anshel Pfefer's piece in Haaretz.:
According to initial reports, the demonstrators that broke through the border fence were not Syrians or Druze, but rather Palestinian refugees who reside in camps around Damascus. It is difficult to imagine that these refugees could have reached the border area without the knowledge, approval and perhaps even encouragement of the central government in the Syrian capital.
While attention was given over the weekend to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the events that transpired on Nakba Day on the Golan Heights surprised the IDF and perhaps even gave Assad what he has been searching for over many weeks – an event that will reduce international pressure on him over the suppression of demonstrations in Syrian cities
The only evidence presented? Surely a protest of this sort would have to coordinated with the central government. But so what? I imagine that any Syrian government, authoritarian or democratic, would be happy to let the Palestinian refugees make a protest action.
In fact, the only authoritarian governments that intervened were Egypt and Jordan – in order to stop Palestinian protesters from getting to the border.
Not a single scrap of evidence links these protests with Iran.
But the spin doesn't stop there. Let's look at Israel's spokesperson in the American media (no, not Jennifer Rubin; I haven't seen what she wrote), Jeffrey Goldberg, a liberal hawk with a limited understanding of what is going on in the West Bank and the Golan, links to Andrew Exum, a liberal hawk with no understanding of what is going on in the West Bank and the Golan. Exum writes:
This will shock all some none of you, but Arab regimes have often cynically used the Palestinian cause to shift the focus away from their own failures and abuses. The clashes today are the best of news for Bashar al-Asad, and only the Lord knows how many brave Syrians will now be gunned down or thrown into prison in Homs, Douma, Hama, Baniyas, etc. while everyone's eyes are on the Lebanese, Syrian and Gazan borders with Israel. Just yesterday, we were all talking about terrified Syrians fleeing into northern Lebanon. Now Syria and its allies have either engineered or have been presented with the mother of all distractions from their own wretched and criminal behavior.
One would expect that Exum or Goldberg could point to a single statement emanating from Damascus that provides evidence that they are playing up the Nakba protests as a "distraction." But who need evidence when a classic Zionist trope – the "cynical-exploitation-of-the-Palestinians-sufferings-by-the-Arab-governments" can be appealed to. In fact, the beauty of this dogma is precisely that no evidence is needed, since it is self-evident.
Goldberg and Exum say nothing about Jordan's regime stopping the Palestinian protesters – and why should they? After all, who cares about democracy when the autocrat is your friend?
I say that Exum knows nothing about the West Bank because he writes this drivel:
What happens when the Palestinians in the West Bank start demanding statehood not through violence but through peaceful protests? How will Israel respond? One option they do not have is to bury their heads in the sand and pretend like the call for Palestinian statehood will go away. And good luck whenever some clever Palestinian leader starts organizing peaceful marches on some crazy hilltop settlements in the West Bank, counting on provoking the kind of response that the media in Israel and abroad will eat up.
Where the hell has Exum been in the last five years? Does he know about the Popular Committees on the West Bank? Does he know about the unarmed protests which Israel has suppressed through a combination of force, arresting organizers like Abu Rahmeh, terrorizing minors in the middle of the night so they can testify against leaders, administrative detentions, and Shabak plants?
Would somebody get that man a subscription to the 972mag? Or to Joseph Dana's blog? Ribono shel olam, maybe Exum should stick to things he knows something about…or is this the effect of his stint at WINEP?
And a parting shot at somebody who should know better, Ethan Bronner, who writes here in the Times:
Like those other protests, plans for this one spread over social media, including Facebook, but there were also signs of official support in Lebanon and Syria, where analysts said leaders were using the Palestinian cause to deflect attention from internal problems.
What "signs"? Which "analysts"? Bronner gets around to these several paragraphs later, when he quotes…an analyst for Israeli Broadcasting Authority and an IDF general, and nobody else. And even those guys just speculate.
Obviously, Syria and Hizbollah, and all Arabs everywhere, support the Palestinians. When Egypt and Jordan cease to be regimes run by the military and an autocrat, respectively, the Palestinians will also get support there. But this is, at best, misleading reporting from Ethan Bronner.
h/t to Ali G