Juan Cole: The Arab Spring Comes to Israel






Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

Contrary to the line taken by the Israeli leadership, the Palestinian protests on May 15, Nakba Day, were not an Iranian or Syrian plot but rather the grassroots protests of a dispossessed and displaced people that refuses to accept its fate as flotsam of the earth, deprived of their identity and dignity by the great Israeli Expulsion of 1948.

The Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reports that the Palestinians in the south of that country wanted to commemorate the Great Defeat (Nakba) of May 15, 1948, but rather than commemorating it they had to relive it. Thousands left their refugee camps all over Lebanon early in the morning Sunday and joined a lively procession they called “Parade of the Return to Palestine.” When they reached the southern Lebanese village of Ra’s Maroun, a few hundred were able to get past the Lebanese army line and to get near the barbed wire that marks the Israeli border, beyond which their parents or grandparents homes had been. The Lebanese army had tried to prevent them from reaching the barbed wire fence, firing shots over their heads. The Palestinians, undeterred, began throwing stones into the Israeli side, and waving Palestinian flags, and putting posters on the barbed wire. Israeli army troops were just a few yards away from all this.

For reasons that are not clear, the Israeli troops abruptly opened fire at the crowds along the barbed wire, killing 10 persons and wounding 112, some of them severely– according to a communique of the Lebanese army. The Guardian reports only 2 killed and does not mention the wounded. An Israeli general is quoted as saying the Palestinians were “vandalizing” the barbed wire fence, thus attracting the fire, and denied knowledge of Palestinian casualties. The Palestinians seem to have been convinced that the gunfire came in retalitation for the rock-throwing. For Israeli soldiers to fire over the border into Lebanon and kill Palestinians on Lebanese soil was felt by the Lebanese as a violation of their sovereignty....



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