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Update – 6 June 2011

Posted by Emily Gian on 6 June 2011 at 5:17pm:

Dear All,

A few weeks ago I wrote about the “Nakba Day” protests that took place on Israel’s borders with Lebanon, Syria and in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. The Syrian protests, where many attempted to infiltrate the border with Israel, were of particular worry, and now it would appear that there was reason to be worried as it has happened again. 

On Sunday over 500 pro-Palestinian Syrians stormed the ceasefire line between Syria and Israel to commemorate “Naksa Day”, the anniversary of the start of the 1967 Six-Day War. The IDF is said to have first cautioned protesters to stay away from the border, and when these calls were not heeded to, they fired warning shots into the air. When this did not deter the protesters, the IDF allegedly fired shots aimed at the protesters legs (see more).

Regrettably, there were casualties. While the IDF has not commented on the number, Syrian media claims that ‘between six and 20 protesters were killed, with 227 others wounded’ (see more).  The IDF has said that these figures are inflated.

It is also believed that four landmines exploded from within Syrian territory after protesters hurled Molotov cocktails which started a fire. Several protesters were injured and I wonder if the casualties or injured factor in to the Syrian figures.

What is happening in Syria at present and the way it is being reported in our local press is, in some senses, quite bizarre.
More than 1,100 people have been killed in Syria over the past few months as demonstrations against the government take place all around the country. The number of deaths on a daily basis is becoming difficult for our local press to ignore.

While the story of pro-Palestinian Syrians storming the Israeli border rated only a short piece in the Australian a slightly larger amount of space was dedicated to the number of deaths in Syria in various attacks over the weekend.
The first story curiously did not rate a mention at all in the Age today, but an article by Jason Koutsoukis entitled ‘Syrian uprising shows no sign of abating’ finally seemed to dedicate some space to the violent regime in Syria. Strangely enough. If you follow the same article (which has nothing to do with Israel) online, you will see that it is accompanied by video footage of the border incident. Neither the article nor the caption makes any sort of reference or connection at all between the border protests and the internal violence in Syria.

There is a connection in fact although it would be the opposite one to what the Age seems trying to infer. Reports are coming through that each Syrian protester may have been paid up to US$1,000 to take part in the anti-Israel protests (see more) and this would be in line with the last riots, which also seemed to have an official stamp on it and were entirely premeditated (see more).

There is another connection between the Syrian government’s role in the internal protests and the protests against Israel. The final sentence of this morning’s article reads: “Iran, meanwhile, is purported to be supporting Mr Assad’s crackdown on protesters” (see more). Meanwhile, News Limited published a story about the border incident and the final sentences read: “In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees staged a day of mourning but the Lebanese army banned any gatherings at the border to avoid a repeat of the violence… But an Iranian delegation toured the border area and a parliamentary official from Iran waved a Palestinian flag at Israeli soldiers watching from the other side” (see more).
Iran’s fingerprints seem to be all over these border provocations. Interestingly, the Australian printed a similar article online, without the last sentence about Iran (see more). 
I doubt somehow that people would be so nonchalant about the breach of the international borders of any other nation in the world, let alone of the borders of an enemy country.

I will watch with keen interest what the Age might report on the border incidents tomorrow and whether there is any difference between Syrian snipers firing on their own citizens (see more) and Israeli snipers attempting to stop people from infiltrating a border. In any event, it is unlikely that you will see the following stories in your local broadsheet tomorrow: ‘Druse express anger at Assad for exploiting Palestinians’ and ‘Palestinian youths charged with slaughter of Fogel family’.

Tonight’s Q&A on ABC will feature Green’s senator Lee Rhiannon and Fairfax Reporter Paul McGeough, the former renowned for her stance on BDS, the latter known for his supposed “eye-witness” account on last year’s flotilla. I recommend you watch the program and perhaps even submit some questions to the panellists that should certainly interest advocates for Israel (see more).
Best wishes,

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