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Does ‘Global March to Jerusalem’ Have Iran’s Backing?

Israel prepares for arrival of march calling for its destruction.

by
Jonathan Spyer

Bio

March 25, 2012 - 11:07 am
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The Society for Defense of the Palestinian Nation, the Quds News Agency, and the International Union of Unified Ummah are among the long list of Iran-linked groups that are among the organizers of this campaign. Even the Society of Iranian Jews has been coerced into supporting it.

The Iranian organizations are there alongside more familiar names, such as Mohammed Sawalha, the UK-based former Hamas military commander; the MB-linked Holy Land Trust; the British Muslim Initiative; and the Friends of Al-Aqsa.

Alongside these are both Israel-based far left groups such as the Alternative Information Center, and U.S.- and European-based leftist opponents of Israel, including the Stop the War Coalition, International Solidarity Movement, and a host of others.

How seriously should Israel be taking the threat represented by the Global March to Jerusalem? Firstly, the campaign to delegitimize Israel is a genuinely global project, bringing together Islamists and far leftists from across the world. As the experience of the first flotilla shows, complacency and failure to properly prepare for its activities can end badly.

This said, there is also no need to take the organizers of these protests at their own estimation. The Israeli authorities have made perfectly clear that no-one will be allowed to cross the border illegally. As with the demonstrations from Syria and Lebanon to mark the “Nakba” last year (catastrophe – the popular Arabic term used for the creation of Israel), Israel will seek to prevent loss of life and injury while ensuring the protection of its borders.

But current indications suggest that a far smaller number of participants than the organizers had hoped will be taking part in the march. Scant evidence has emerged of the kind of logistical undertaking which would need to precede a true mass mobilization.

The march is unlikely even to take place in Syria, where a civil war is currently underway. The authorities in Jordan and even in Lebanon evidently regard the Global March on Jerusalem as mainly an infernal nuisance. For different reasons, each of these countries is sensitive to the possibility of domestic unrest, and does not welcome the arrival of unruly crowds at the present time, whatever banners they may be waving.

In Lebanon, it has been made clear that the march will not be permitted to approach the border area. There also appears to be little enthusiasm for the GMJ in the West Bank itself, which is currently experiencing economic growth and relative stability.

The effort to use external political demonstrations and mobilizations to put pressure on Israel has been around for a while now. It has little to show for all its frenetic activity. The second flotilla to Gaza and the “flytilla” were failures that no-one now remembers. The “Nakba” and “Naksa” marches last year produced little of substance other than the loss of life of Palestinian refugees dispatched into border minefields by organizers in Syria.

There is no such thing as being too well-prepared, and Israeli authorities are carefully watching developments in the days leading up to the “Global March to Jerusalem.” This preparation, plus the inherent problems facing this campaign, may well ensure that its impact remains minor and limited.

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Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2011).
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