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How Did this Nakba Day Differ from All Other Nakba Days?

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
May 16, 2011
Weekly Standard


This Nakba Day was different because it fell amidst the many recent developments in what we call the Arab Spring. It is probably correct that Palestinians have been feeling left out, as the attention of the world and of their Arab brothers turns to reform, politics, revolts, elections, constitutions, criminal trials—everything but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So, this Nakba Day had to be used to recover the stage and demand attention. With President Obama speaking later this week on the Arab Spring and receiving Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, the timing must have seemed right for putting themselves back on the world's front pages. We are still here, Palestinians were saying.

It is striking that the sum total of demonstrators who got across from Jordan into Israel was zero, while there was violence at the Lebanese and Syrian borders. This fact alone makes it clear that what happened was mostly manufactured by Hezbollah and the Assad regime.  The king of Jordan was opposed to trouble, so there were demonstrations but no border breaches or violence along the Jordan River and its crossings. The Syrian regime and Hezbollah were seeking to use this Nakba Day to divert attention from the revolt in Syria, so they organized trouble. Several days ago Assad's cousin and partner in financial crime Rami Makhlouf issued a threat, saying, "If there is no stability here, there's no way there will be stability in Israel." So this Nakba Day was different because it saw the Syrian regime, fighting for survival, hijacking the occasion to cause bloodshed. The only comic aspect—black comedy, admittedly—of this picture was provided by Bashar al-Assad, who took time from murdering protesters all over Syria to issue a statement condemning Israel for violence against demonstrators.

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