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Demonstrations and Violence at Israel's Borders

In the days following Israel's Yom Ha'Atzma'ut celebrations, thousands of Israel's neighbors marked Yawm an-Naqba (meaning "Day of Catastrophe") by mourning Israel's creation with demonstrations and violence.

Confrontations occurred when groups stormed Israel's boarder from Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza and Syria. The Jordanian government stopped protesters from trying to infiltrate the Israeli border. Some Israeli officials believe that Iran may have orchestrated the attacks from Syria and Lebanon. Other Middle Eastern analysts have said that the Syrian and Lebanese governments used Naqba Day to divert attention away from their internal conflicts.

"I regret that there are extremists among Israeli Arabs and in neighboring countries who have turned the day on which the State of Israel was established, the day on which the Israeli democracy was established, into a day of incitement, violence and rage," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a publically released statement. "There is no place for this, for denying the existence of the State of Israel. No to extremism and no to violence. The opposite is true."

The IDF and police clashed with violent protesters in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including in Isawiyah, the Palestinian village next to Hadassah Mt. Scopus. Hadassah Director of External Affairs Ron Krumer announced that protesters from Isawiyah threw stones and Molotov Cocktails into the Hadassah Hospital's back yard, which started two fires. However, no one was hurt and the fires were put out by hospital security officers.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received criticism from the Jewish community for commending the demonstrators, saying "their blood was not spilled in vain" and that "they died for the Palestinian people's rights and freedom." Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released the following statement:

"By his statement, President Abbas is encouraging these dangerous and life-threatening actions. These are not the words of someone committed to a peaceful resolution through negotiations. He once again has demonstrated that he seeks to achieve Palestinian statehood through unilateral and unacceptable means. In a speech to thousands of Muslim worshippers on Sunday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for 'an end to the Zionist project in Palestine' [Israel], underscoring that Hamas has not changed its stance and position calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. These statements underscore the need for clear declarations by the United States, European countries and others that they will not provide assistance to a Palestinian Authority that encourages or approves violence, refuses to negotiate and does not live up to its commitments in previous agreements.

"Such declarations cannot be allowed to go unanswered. These words lead to actions by their followers that will exacerbate tensions and continue to take a heavy toll. We cannot dismiss or ignore the ongoing incitement and anti-Israel statements."

These attacks come on the heals of the newly-announced agreement between Hamas and Fatah to create a unified Palestinian government, a key component of the possible unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood this fall.

Date: 5/17/2011 12:00:00 AM

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