Israeli forces this week are gearing up for the annual "Land Day" marches by Arabs inside Israel and outside its borders. The event, scheduled for this Friday, promises to be a more severe challenge this year after regional powers like Iran, Hizballah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas became actively involved in planning the march.
Thousands of people from the Middle East and other parts of Asia have reportedly arrived in Syria and will begin their trek to the Israeli border in the coming days. Similar marches are planned from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and from within the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories.
Israel has called on neighboring governments, particularly Jordan and the PA, to help prevent an escalation of violence by not allowing the marchers to storm Israel's borders. Just in case the mobs do manage to penetrate the borders, Israeli forces are being outfitted with a variety of non-lethal crowd control tools.
Israel is concerned about a repeat of last year's "Nakba Day" marches from Syria into northern Israel. Hundreds of Arab rioters protesting the "catastrophe" of Israel's rebirth as a nation-state managed last May to infiltrate northern Israel and clash with Israeli soldiers, leading to the deaths of 13 demonstrators and harsh international criticism of Israel.
The Land Day marches are a protest of Israel's sovereignty over lands the Arabs claim as their own. This year, the international effort is focusing on Jerusalem amid claims that Israel is increasingly trying to "Judaize" the city. Most Arabs deny the Jews' historical and religious connections to Jerusalem.
"Our aim is to end the Zionist policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and Judaization, which all harm the people, land and sanctity of Jerusalem," read a statement on the official Global March to Jerusalem website. "The GMJ is comprised of a diverse coalition of Palestinian, Arab and international activists who are united in the struggle to liberate the holy city of Jerusalem (the city of peace) from illegal Zionist occupation."
The Muslim Brotherhood and other Arab groups have promised that the demonstrations will be non-violent, but these things have a way of quickly spiraling out of control. And, of course, there is no way Israel can allow the huge number of foreign marchers to actually reach Jerusalem.