Posted on: May 15, 2011 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 2

I have a few early thoughts on the Nakba Day violence which, to this point, has claimed eight lives. But I want to start with those of a colleague, Mya Guarnieri, a reporter for al-Jazeera and one of my teammates in building the upcoming Babylon Times site.

Mya was at Qalandia checkpoint, between Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. Her tweets illuminate some of what happened, and also some of

Protesters at Qalandia Checkpoint flee IDF fire. Photo by Joseph Dana

how it might be reported…

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

i was in #qalandia, even before the protest began. the protesters were unarmed and approached singing and chanting and waving flags and…

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

…they were met with tear gas. the army will try to tell you that the tear gas was a response to stone-throwing. but it was not..

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

the tear gas was excessive. i retched alongside a CHILD, a little boy…

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

later,i met amazing palestinian-amrcn women who embraced me as an americanisraeli.they wondered aloud why we can’t just build state together

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

and then we ran from the live ammo

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

and just so you know, that hallowed man from the NYT showed up with a fixer/translator three hours into things…

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

…so he’d better not dare say that the tear gas started in response to stones. i was there.

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

and now i will get off my computer and weep for everyone… the israeli kids who have been brainwashed and stuffed into uniforms…

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

…the little boy i retched next to…the woman i met whose mother survived the brutal massacre at deir yassin…those who didn’t survive…

myaguarnieri myaguarnieri

…and i will even cry for that hallowed man at the NYT who seems so blind to what is really happening here and what happened in the past…

I think Mya’s thoughts say a lot, but regarding today’s events, I have more questions than opinions at this point. But I can say a few things.

One, it’s pretty shocking that Israel couldn’t contain this better. Global organizing for May 15 has been going on for months and the scheduling to coincide with Naqba Day kind of makes it hard to forget.

Yet only over the past few days has the IDF seemed to have made any preparations. It is precisely to avoid situations where soldiers are forced to shoot at unarmed civilians (which I’m not saying is what happened here, just positing the kindest possible scenario) that such preparations are made.

Like the Mavi Marmara episode, Israel had plenty of warning about the incident (organizers have been calling precisely for storming the Israeli borders for the past year), yet seems to have been caught off guard.

This may turn out to be most tragic at the Lebanese border, where four people were killed. The civilians coming through there were apparently shot at from both sides, Israeli and Lebanese. Both sides claim they shot in the air and that the other side is responsible for firing at civilians. We’ll see how it comes out, but cooperation beforehand, unusual but not impossible, might have prevented this.

On the other side, the Syrian Foreign Ministry condemned Israel’s “criminal actions.”

I understand that the Syrian government has to say something or risk even more trouble for themselves. But a government that has just killed hundreds of its own citizens (and counting) because they are demonstrating for their rights making this statement is beyond hypocritical and betrays such a cynical lack of morality that even in the ethical morass of Mideast conflict it shines at the top.

No doubt all concerned, in and out of governments, will make as much political hay out of all this as they can. But it’s a tragedy, one that could have been avoided and the kind that will strike peoples of all these countries over and over until we (particularly political leaders in Washington and Jerusalem) decide we’re going to stop the nonsense and seek a practical peace.

2 People reacted on this

  1. It was clear from all I heard and saw prior to today (including from parents of soldiers) that the IDF wanted to avoid deaths as much as possible. The order was “no funerals.”

    It was also clear that there were factions in the Palestinian camp, supported by Iran, Hezbullah and no doubt Syria, that were hoping for martyrs so as to spark a third intifada. They may now get their wish.

    It certainly is in Syria’s interest to heighten tensions on our northern border, perhaps even to try to siphon off some of the enti-government energy and redirecto it towards the eternal enemy: us.

    Also, the statements by Hamas leader’s today calling for Israel to be destroyed (on top of Hamas’ condemnation of the killing of bin Laden), coupled with Abbas’ call yesterday for a full “right of return” just shows the high degree of incitement on the Palestinian side.

    My read thus far from the eye of the hurricane.

    1. Yitz, you ignore the simple fact that this has been an independent, grassroots organizing effort for a year. This was not about any foreign government.
      On the “no funerals” order, I have no doubt that was what they were told, but this speaks nothing to the complete indifference shown to this upcoming event for a year, and that’s why the order the day of did not accomplish the intent.
      Indeed, I don’t doubt that the organizers, at least some of them, hoped to spark something much larger today. That is to be expected, especially when it’s something being put together by the Palestinian diaspora.
      None of this shows “incitement,” which is a rather useless buzzword. No incitement is necessary for Palestinian refugees to want to do something against the occupation and the power responsible for its dispossession. This is precisely why Israel should have been better prepared. they knew this was going to happen and a dispassionate analysis shows it to be an entirely predictable and understandable event. Not doing more than issuing last-minute directives is criminally irresponsible on their part. As a citizen now, this affects you and your security. Giving the government a pass for it does not serve your safety either.
      Having followed the planning of this very closely for a year, I can assure you this was not the work of Syria, Hamas, Iran or any other governmental or quasi-governmental body. Israel needs to realize just how much popular energy is involved here. Indeed, Israel has been amazingly fortunate for decades that said opposition has been so disorganized it could not put actions together. That reality is changing, and focusing on players who may be pleased with it but are not behind it is not going to help.

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