By Sharmine Narwani
On Sunday, around 1,000 unarmed civilians marched to the ceasefire line between Syria and the Golan Heights to protest Israel’s occupation of Arab lands following the 1967 war. Hours later, in the worst bloodshed since the 1973 war between Israel and Syria, up to 23 civilians were dead and hundreds wounded after Israeli troops opened live fire on the protestors.
In the West Bank, fellow protestors were only injured, as Israeli troops used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds that were only a few feet away from them.
In Majd al Shams on the occupied Golan Heights, however, the Palestinian and Syrian demonstrators were many yards away – behind barbed wire fences – never having crossed any ceasefire line.
As was the case with the 11 unarmed protestors in Lebanon killed by Israeli forces on May 15 in Maroun al Ras. Those civilians had not crossed any border either.
Israel’s fears are understandable. The notion that Palestinians and Syrians can “just walk home” to their occupied houses and villages could destroy the deterrence barriers that Israel has worked hard to erect since 1948 and 1967. Which is why it was important for the Jewish State to teach these populations a lesson, even if it meant killing a few dozen.
That makes Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu no different than Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Syria’s Bashar al Assad, Bahrain’s Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh – and other autocrats still waiting their turn.
All fired live rounds at unarmed civilian populations voicing their grievances and exercising their right to congregate in public.
Justifying Civilian Death
Just three weeks earlier, on May 15, Palestinian and Syrian protestors in the Golan Heights broke through the barbed wire fence, poured over the ceasefire line, met up with friends and relatives, and then went home. One particularly determined fellow – 28-year-old Hassan Hijazi who was galvanized by a Facebook group to join the protests – even decided to visit his parent’s old house in Jaffa and hitched a ride alongside some Israeli soldiers to get there. He later turned himself in to authorities and was duly escorted back to the ceasefire line by security agents.
That very recent incident contrasted sharply on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s portrayal of the Golan demonstrators as “extremist elements” who “are trying to break through our borders and threaten our communities and our citizens.”
As the Israeli spin machine went into overdrive, we were subjected to the kinds of drivel we are by now used to hearing from regional dictators on their last legs:
The it-wasn’t-us argument: “A Syrian mine exploded, seemingly because Molotov cocktails thrown at (Israeli) forces started a bush fire which caused the explosion of the mine, a number of mines even,” an Israeli army spokeswoman said – ostensibly blaming the deaths on mines and not IDF bullets.
The deflection argument: “We believe that the Syrian regime is focusing the world’s attention on the border with Israel instead of what is happening there,” said another military spokesperson.
The extremists-are-involved argument: Oops. Netanyahu did that one himself.
Military spokesman Yoav Mordechai called the killings “a measured, focused and proper response.” The only thing that apparently needs “measuring” is his sanity – the videos of the Golan clashes clearly show protestors behind a barbed wire fence being shot at by Israeli sharpshooters. Like target practice. (more…)