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'Global March to Jerusalem': Israel's borders on high alert as huge protests loom

Menahem Kahana / AFP - Getty Images

Palestinian schoolgirls walk past Israeli border policemen standing guard outside a Palestinian house in the center of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on Thursday after dozens of Jewish settlers took over the Palestinian property overnight, claiming they have legal ownership.

 

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinian organizers are calling for massive demonstrations on Friday to mark Land Day, an annual event that commemorates the killing of six Arabs who were protesting Israeli land policies on March 30, 1976.

Tens of thousands are expected to participate in what organizers have billed a "Global March to Jerusalem." The plan is to have protesters from neighboring countries march up to the Israeli border to "demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians and to protect Jerusalem," according to organizers.

The future status of Jerusalem is at the heart of the Palestinian movement and is the theme for the global Land Day. East Jerusalem is regarded as the likely capital of a future Palestinian state.



Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian activist, explained some of the reasoning for the march to NBC News during a recent interview in Ramallah. 

"In light of the total failure of the peace talks, and given the Israeli destruction of the last potential two-state solution through settlement activities, we realize nothing will change unless we change the balance of power," said Barghouti.  He added that organizers are trying to achieve that through this "non-violent peaceful resistance."

For Palestinian farmer, a constant reminder of Israeli occupation

For many Palestinians, Land Day is an annual opportunity to demonstrate that Palestinians inside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are united and share common goals. 

This year will mark 36 years since Israel’s practice of expropriating Arab land to build Jewish settlements provoked protests by Arab residents in the Galilee and Negev. In addition to the six people who were killed, over 100 wounded during the ensuing violence. Since then Palestinians have commemorated March 30 as Land Day and have turned the day into a general protest against what they see as discriminatory practices by the Israeli government. So it seemed an appropriate date for activists to hold their march. 

Menahem Kahana / AFP - Getty Images

An Israeli settler looks out the window of an occupied Palestinian house as an Israeli soldier stands guard in the center of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on March 29, 2012. Dozens of Jewish settlers took over the Palestinian property overnight, claiming they have legal ownership.

"The Global March to Jerusalem represents three things," said Barghouti. "First of all, the unity of the Palestinian people, and their struggle to achieve freedom and end occupation, for Palestinians in and out of Palestine; second, it affirms the centrality of the issues of land and Jerusalem to achieving Palestinian freedom; and third, it provides international solidarity with the Palestinian cause."

'Absolutely peaceful'
The organizers plan to send convoys of vehicles to approach Israel's borders simultaneously from four neighboring countries: Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. According to organizers, more than 600 institutions from 64 states have been involved in planning the march. Protests are also planned outside Israeli embassies in Europe and Arab countries. Organizers say they are hoping for 1 million people to demonstrate in various protests all over the world.

"The event is meant to be a non-violent protest that will include parliament members, citizens and religious figures from all over the world – including Jews, Israelis will also protest with us," Saied Yaqin, one of the march organizers, told NBC News.

Organizers of the march insist the protests will be orderly.

"This march is absolutely peaceful and non-violent, and we will try everything possible to prevent violence," Barghouti said. "Of course, if they use violence against us, the world should protest. But the march is absolutely peaceful and nobody will try to provoke violence."

But Israeli Defense Forces aren’t taking any chances.

A statement released by the IDF said they are "prepared for any eventuality and will do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli borders and residents."

Israel has also issued a stern warning to Arab countries and Palestinians to refrain from approaching the border.

Soldiers along the border have been instructed to be on high alert and they will reportedly have crowd-dispersal means at the ready and will also deploy marksmen. According to a Haaretz report, a so-called "skunk" device is being prepared that sprays a harsh-smelling substance at demonstrators. 

 

 

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