Total IDF closure of West Bank for Israeli holidays, followed by IDF build-up in preparation for Palestinian demonstrations this weekend

The tension is thick enough to cut with a knife.

The Israeli Defense Ministry declared a total closure of the West Bank from Sunday just after midnight until Wednesday just after midnight, to allow Israelis to commemorate Remembrance Day on Monday, in honor of those who have died in Israel’s wars, which segued immediately into Independence Day on Tuesday, to celebrate the creation of the State of Israel [according to the Jewish calendar].

Many visited the West Bank for picnics and barbeques, in ease and comfort. Checkpoints all around the northern West Bank town of Nablus were shut down to give extra reassurance to Israeli settlers and their friends and families. Israeli flags were everywhere, flying from windows, balconies, lampposts, and from plastic holders fixed on the front windows of both sides of their cars, like dogs’ ears.

The holidays passed uneventfully, apart from a mini-demonstration staged by the brother of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit at the important televised official ceremony on Mount Herzl during the transition from Monday’s sadness in Israel to Tuesday’s joy.

On Wednesday, as Israelis returned to work, the IDF began to deploy in watchtowers along The Wall, in preparation for demonstrations called by Palestinians for Nakba Day on March 15, to mark the catastrophic dispossession — much of it forced — of an estimated 750,000 Palestinians in the fighting that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

The return, or right to return, of those Palestinians and their descendants is something that has been under discussion for the subsequent 63 years.

Most Israelis are adamantly opposed.

Some say, with emphasis, that this would mean war.

Others say they cannot allow any deterioration of their own lifestyle, which they are convinced would be in jeopardy with any significant Palestinian return.

Most Israelis say they don’t want to even see any Palestinians.

Proposals discussed at the unsuccessful Camp David peace talks in late July 2000 envisaged the return of Palestinian refugees only to a future Palestinian state, with strictly limited and symbolic “family reunification” of between 10,000 and 100,000 Palestinian refugees who would be allowed to enter Israel.

The recent Israeli Peace Initiative, signed by a group of some 70 Israeli ex-military, ex-security, and other officials, contains a distinctly ungenerous proposal to recognize “the suffering of the Palestinian refugee since the 1948 war, as well as of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries”.

This would apparently creates an accounting balance [of zero] on both sides of the ledger.

The Israeli Peace Initiative also notes “the need to resolve the Palestinian refugees problem through realistic and mutually agreed-upon solutions”.

The demonstrations planned this weekend by Palestinians and their supports are scheduled to take place globally — and some, perhaps many, will be on the internet.

There has been intense speculation in recent weeks about these demonstrations — which could be the first large-scale direct confrontations between demonstrators who have declared their dedication to non-violence and Israeli forces at checkpoints in the West Bank and in Gaza, as well as at the Egyptian, Lebanese, and Jordanian borders.

No one knows how many will turn out, how sustained their effort will be, or what will be the response…

On Friday 13 May, a coalition of Palestinian youth groups has announced they will be holding a training session in non-violence in Qalandiya refugee camp ahead of a planned demonstration at the massive and monstrous checkpoint on 15 May, during which time, they say, they intend to enter Jerusalem and “1948 areas” — peacefully, of course.
Also on Friday 13 May, marches were scheduled along Israel’s borders with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

UPDATE: clashes between Israeli military, police, and private security for Israeli settlers (on the one hand) and adolescent male residents of Silwan, on the south-eastern edge of the Old City of East Jerusalem escalated quickly on Friday afternoon. A 16 or 17-year-old, Mourad Ayyash, was shot in the abdomen, and suffered massive blood loss while medical care was delayed due to a police cordon around the area; he died later in hospital after hours of surgery. According to an email from Jonathan Pollack for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, the bullet came from a pistoMinor clashes were contained on Friday afternoon — with dozens of protestors detained — in an arc of East Jerusalem neighborhoods from Silwan to the Mount of Olives to Issawiya to Shuafat Refugee Camp to the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. On Saturday at mid-day, there were what Israeli media reported were “violent” clashes at the boy’s funeral procession from his home in Ras al-Amoud to a cemetary outside the Old City Wall (just north of Silwan).

On Saturday 14 May, a demonstration is scheduled to be held in Walajee, ajacent to the north/western edge of Bethlehem, to protest the imminent completion of The Wall and further loss of Palestinian land there. Demonstrators may also be intending to enter Jerusalem — without permits — but peacefully.

UPDATE: There is a demonstration on Saturday afternoon in Yaffa, an Israeli coastal city once home to tens of thousands of Palestinians who fled in 1948, south of Haifa.

On Sunday May 15, the main anticipated demonstration will be at Qalandia checkpoint, which will certainly be shut down for most of the day.

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