Global boy­cotters prove their ir­rel­e­vance

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER ANDBENHARTMAN

THE FAIL­URE of the Global March to Jerusalem has not come as a sur­prise to Is­raeli diplo­mats and IDF of­fi­cers.

Pro-pales­tinian or­gan­i­sa­tions had been plan­ning to march hun­dreds of thou­sands of sup­port­ers to­wards Is­rael’s borders and em­bassies last Fri­day but, de­spite clashes on the bor­der of the Gaza Strip and in a few events in the West Bank, the day passed with rel­a­tively lit­tle in­ci­dent.

The Global March was to be held on Land Day, an an­nual day of protests for Is­raeli Arabs which com­mem­o­rates the killing of six Is­raeli Arabs dur­ing protests in 1976 over land rights.

It was her­alded by pro-pales­tinian groups around the world, es­pe­cially those af­fil­i­ated with the BDS (boy­cott, sanc­tion, di­vest­ment) move­ment, as a mass-event in which hun­dreds of thou­sands would march from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the refugee camps in Syria, Le­banon and Jor­dan to the bor­der cross­ings, over­whelm­ing the Is­raeli sol­diers.

Sup­port­ers un­able to reach the re­gion would take part in si­mul­ta­ne­ous protests out­side Is­raeli em­bassies across the globe.

In the event, other than an in­ci­dent in which Pales­tinian medics said a man in the Gaza Strip was shot dead by Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces be­fore Ha­mas mem­bers dis­persed the marchers, the most se­ri­ous ac­tion of the day took place at Ka­lan­dia, one of the main check­points on the bor­der be­tween the West Bank and Is­rael.

The check­point is the lo­ca­tion of rou­tine clashes be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­raeli po­lice and sol­diers and, on Fri­day, Is­raeli se­cu­rity per­son­nel used tear gas, rub­ber bul­lets, stun grenades, and the “skunk” ma­chine — which fires pu­trid water out of a ve­hi­cle-mounted can­non — to dis­perse pro­test­ers, many of whom were throw­ing rocks.

On Is­rael’s other borders there were no marches, with Lebanese and Syr­ian se­cu­rity forces dis­pers­ing small gath­er­ings be­fore they had a chance to get near the bor­der.

Only a hand­ful of pro­test­ers gath­ered out­side a few Is­raeli em­bassies in­clud­ing one small group in London. In­stead of draw­ing the masses, the Global March turned out to be a vir­tual or­gan­i­sa­tion with no grass­roots sup­port or back­ing by any of the re­gion’s gov­ern­ments.

Is­raeli po­lice and army units de­ployed re­in­force­ments along the north­ern bor­der and at other points but, by and large, were not needed.

An IDF of­fi­cer at Cen­tral Com­mand said that while the army had been mon­i­tor­ing the Global March plans since its in­cep­tion, there had been lit­tle ex­pec­ta­tion that it would ma­te­ri­alise as planned.

Over the past year, the Is­raeli se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment has learnt the lessons of the Arab Spring, closely fol­low­ing ini­tia­tives on so­cial me­dia net­works, in an at­tempt to spot mass-protests and ri­ots in ad­vance.

“In many cases, we have seen that even if hun­dreds of thou­sands pledge their sup­port on the web,” said the of­fi­cer, “in the field, at the most only a few hun­dred show up. Ninety per cent of the peo­ple who sup­port these events on the web are not from the West Bank.

“The lo­cal Pales­tinian pop­u­la­tion does not have the ap­petite right now for an­other in­tifada and it’s not in the in­ter­est of the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity ei­ther. That doesn’t mean we are not go­ing to carry on mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion and pre­par­ing for the worst, but we keep things in per­spec­tive.”

An Is­raeli diplo­mat who fol­lows the at­tempt to dele­git­imise Is­rael says: “We are re­con­sid­er­ing our re­sponse to these ini­tia­tives. The BDS move­ment with its Is­rael-apartheid events is fail­ing to con­vince wider cir­cles, be­yond their own ac­tivists.

“The main­stream me­dia, which isn’t known for be­ing es­pe­cially pro-is­rael, does not seem to be pay­ing them much at­ten­tion. We have to ask our­selves whether by re­spond­ing them in a public way we are not giv­ing them un­due public at­ten­tion and mak­ing them into some­thing big­ger than they re­ally are.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

In­ter­na­tional “peace ac­tivists” con­front Is­raeli po­lice dur­ing the Land Day protests at the Ka­lan­dia check­point

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