A series of rallies across the Arab world that were meant to draw two million participants for a so-called “Global March to Jerusalem,” and which had Israeli authorities heavily deployed at potential border hotspots, fizzled on Friday to localized demonstrations in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
While Israel’s northern and eastern borders remained unthreatened, and the rallies in neighboring countries were largely peaceful, there was violence at the Jordan event: Local media reported that four American ultra-Orthodox rabbis from the extreme anti-Zionist Neturei Karta movement were beaten and verbally abused by local participants at the start of the event. They were rescued by other participants. Neturei Karta members also joined a rally in Lebanon.
The gatherings — of thousands of Arabs and international solidarity activists marking “Land Day” — were kept in check by police forces in Jordan and by the army in Lebanon.
Judging by the Global March’s Facebook page, however, the organizers considered the day a success. “The most beautiful photo of the day,” commented the page administrator on a photo of a youth, masked with a Palestinian flag, next to a burning tire on the road.
One man was reported dead and 37 injured in clashes between demonstrators and IDF forces in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources reported. And there were hours of clashes at the Kalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The Land Day rallies are an annual event marked by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who protest what they say are discriminatory Israeli land policies. In Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the day unfolded as follows:
In Jordan, tens of thousands of demonstrators converged in Maghtis in the southern Jordan Valley following Friday prayers, Petra News Agency reported. The Friday sermon was delivered by Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Hammam Sa’id, who addressed the Jordanian participants as well as solidarity protesters from 80 countries.
“Volunteers from around the world have come to Jordan to demand the end of occupation and returning Palestinian rights to their owners,” he said. “They have sacrificed thousands of martyrs and prisoners so far.”
But not all the solidarity protesters were welcome in Jordan. Local media reported that four Neturei Karta members were attacked by some local participants, then extricated by others.
The Jordanian police were present at the border, and prevented “dozens of youth” from crossing over into Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood mouthpiece A-Sabeel reported. Jordanian media estimates for the number of participants ranged from 30,000 to 55,000.
In his speech to the crowd, former Jordanian prime minister Ahmad Abeidat called on his country to annul the peace agreement with Israel, A-Sabeel reported.
In Lebanon, demonstrators gathered at the Beaufort fortress across the border from the Israeli town of Metula.
Hezbollah official Nabil Qauq, who spoke at the event, told the audience that “the equation has changed” since the first Land Day, marked in Israel in 1976.
“In 1976 the Palestinian people confronted the occupier with stones,” Qauq told the audience, in a speech broadcast on Hezbollah-run TV station Al-Manar, “whereas in 2012 the missiles of the [Hezbollah] resistance threaten the [Israeli] home front in Tel Aviv.”
Local representatives of the Palestinian factions Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad also spoke at the rally.
“We have come today in a peaceful rally for the sake of Jerusalem and Palestine,” said Hamas’ representative in Lebanon Ali Barakeh. “But beware [Israel], of harming our Muslim and Christian holy sites in Palestine. Beware of continuing to confiscate land, settle, and Judaize Jerusalem. Aggression against the Al-Aqsa [mosque], whether by dividing it or destroying it, is aggression against all Arabs and Muslims.”
Islamic Jihad representative Abu-Ali Shakib Al-Ayneh was even more direct in his public message.
“The Palestinian and Lebanese people gather here … to convey a message to the Zionist enemy in all languages of the world: death to Israel, death to all oppressors and conspirators.”
Al-Manar reported that most international demonstrators came to Lebanon from Asia, but a small group of Neturei Karta rabbis also attended the rally, wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs around their necks.
In an interview with pro-Hezbollah daily A-Safir, the six rabbis said that “Israel has no right to the land,” emphasizing the difference between “Israel” and “Judaism.”
The Lebanese Army and UNIFIL international forces provided security for the demonstrators, Palestinian news agency Maan reported.
The exact number of demonstrators in Lebanon was unknown, but A-Safir reported on Friday that no fewer than 120 buses carried Palestinians from refugee camps across the country towards the border.
Despite the ongoing government crackdown against opposition activists, a few hundred Syrians gathered in Damascus to mark Land Day, according to Maan. The demonstrators chanted “millions of Syrians want to return to Palestine,” and “we will regain Palestine, we pledge to every warrior and martyr that we are coming to Jerusalem,” reported Maan.