Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nakba Day Protests: Palestinians, Israelis Must Heed Arab Spring Principles

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nakba Day Protests: Palestinians, Israelis Must Heed Arab Spring Principles

Article excerpt

The Nakba Day protests by Palestinian refugees to enter Israel were supposed to be nonviolent. Both sides failed, and they need to commit to the peaceful, democratic ideals of the Arab Spring.

The world, especially Israel, has once again been surprised by the latest expression of the Arab Spring.

On Sunday, thousands of unarmed Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan tried to cross the military borders of Israel. They were attempting to enter land that earlier Palestinians had been forced to flee, either during the 1948 creation of modern Israel or during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Most of the protesters were peaceful, although some resorted to intifada-style stone throwing. Israeli security forces were caught off guard. The result was that several Palestinians were killed and dozens were injured.

The protests were timed for the anniversary of Israel's founding, or as Arabs call it, Youm an-Nakba, "the Day of the Catastrophe."But the surprise popular uprising also came as the entire Israeli- Palestinian struggle appears headed for a very different phase.

The peace process is broken, as best seen in the resignation last week of President Obama's special envoy for peace, former Sen. George Mitchell. Palestinian leaders have lost faith in the United States as a mediator and plan to ask the UN General Assembly to recognize a Palestine state this September.

And on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before Congress, another example of how he has politically outflanked Mr. Obama and the US attempt to end the expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Now, with the Arab Spring at Israel's doorstep, the dynamics of the Middle East are changing fast.

Many of the roughly 700,000 Palestinian refugees living in Arab states see the potential to use peaceful means to return to their ancestral land, tapping social-networking tools such as Facebook to organize protests such as Sunday's march to the Israeli borders.

But there's one problem. They must stay true to the two basic principles of the Arab Spring, best expressed in Egypt's revolution: the use of nonviolent tactics and the idea that democracy should rise above religious or ethnic differences. …

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