Al Naksa Deaths Prompt Mourning and Anger [June 5 - June 11]
June 11, 2011

On June 5, Palestinians commemorated Al Naksa, marking the 1967 War and the loss of the remainder of Palestine.

This year, 23 Palestinians who marched to the border with the occupied Syrian Golan Heights were shot and killed by Israeli forces while over 440 were injured. Israeli forces opened fire on hundreds of Palestinian refugees and Syrians who tried to return to their original homes, killing scores.

The scene was reminiscent to the May 15 protests when protesters also broke through the border into Syrian and Palestinian territory during which three people were shot and killed.

While the May 15 protests also included border marches to the Lebanese-Israel border, the Lebanese army banned marches on June 5 to avoid more deaths.

Instead, Palestinian factions called for a general strike in all of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to mark the day.

Also on June 5, hundreds of Palestinians and international supporters of Palestine demonstrated outside the Qalandiya crossing between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Protesters held up placards saying they would march on Jerusalem but were deterred by the heavy presence of the Israeli military. Dozens of people were wounded by rubber-coated steel bullets and suffered tear gas inhalation.

Unfortunately, the bloodletting did not stop at Israel’s brutality. On June 6, during the funeral of eight of those killed during the Golan Heights protests in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria, clashes broke out between the mourners and those loyal to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command under Ahmad Jibril.

The latter group opened fire on the protesters who set fire to the PFLP-GC office, killing 11 and wounding 43. The rage began when mourners took offense to the fact that the PFLP-GC called on refugees to march to the borders with Palestine but refrained from participating themselves.

On June 10, Israeli forces fired stun grenades at worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem following Friday prayers. The clashes took place after Israeli forces broke into the mosque compound and were deterred by Muslim worshippers.

This comes two days after settler groups also broke into the Aqsa grounds through the Magharbeh Gate on June 8, clashing with Palestinian Muslims there.

Apparently, the settlers, who enter without permission, broke wine bottles on the Aqsa grounds in clear provocation of the Muslim faith, which forbids the consumption of alcohol.

Settlers from the illegal settlement of Bait Ayen also set fire to a mosque in the West Bank village of Mughayyir on June 8. Villagers said they headed to the mosque for dawn prayers to find it in flames.

Settlers had apparently thrown burning tires inside and scrawled “price tag” in spray paint on the mosque’s walls. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the act was unacceptable, there have been no punitive measures taken against the settlers. A day later, UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt condemned the arson, urging Israeli authorities to investigate what he called a “provocative crime” and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has since called for the rebuilding of the mosque.

Meanwhile, Palestinians are continuing their campaign for statehood. On June 6, the African countries of Lesotho and Malawi both announced their recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.

Furthermore, while the Palestinian government has accepted the French initiative to re-launch peace talks between Israelis, Netanyahu and the United States have responded coolly to the offer.

“We will study the proposal and discuss it with our friend, the United States,” Netanyahu said on June 5 before his cabinet.

As for the Palestinians’ September bid for statehood, the United States, Germany and Israel are all working to foil the attempt, each in their own way. On June 10, the new head of the US National Security Council for the Middle East and North Africa Steven Simon said that although the Palestinians seem to have accepted US President Barack Obama’s perimeters for a peace agreement, the US will continue to try to stop a UN vote on Palestinian statehood. “…we’ve got basically a month to see if we can work something out with the Israelis and Palestinians on accepting these principles as a basis for negotiations.

If that happens, we are somewhat confident that the Palestinians would drop their action in the UN,” he said. Simon did show some discomfort with the fact that Israel has not yet fully accepted Obama’s offer. “The Palestinians have been fairly forthcoming on this score. So we are kind of comfortable with that, but not completely, and now we are working with the Israeli government to see whether or not they can accept these principles as a basis for negotiations.” Meanwhile, German development minister Dirk Niebel said on June 10 that his government was not supportive of the Palestinians’ move. "We must convince the Palestinians that a unilateral declaration of independence is the wrong way to go," Niebel said in an interview with Der Spiegel.

Israel is carrying out a campaign of its own. Also on June 10, the Israeli foreign ministry said it would launch a diplomatic offensive to foil the September bid for statehood. Apparently, the ministry has established what it calls the “September Forum” in which all of the ministry’s envoys will report in on efforts to persuade other nations to oppose the Palestinian effort. “The goal we have set is to have the maximum number of countries oppose the process of having the UN recognize a Palestinian state," said Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Rafael Barak to Haaretz.