This Friday, Israel’s tear gas and tanks will confront Palestinian marchers — but brute force isn’t the answer

A Palestinian demonstrator hurls stones at Israeli troops during clashes along the border fence near Khan Yunis in Gaza, Mar 23, 2018. (photo: Said Khatib / AFP)

Israel has flagged the drones, tear gas, sniper fire, even tanks it will employ against thousands of Palestinians planning to approach the Gaza border. But confronting a PR campaign with the language of force only invites disaster.

By Peter Lerner | Haaretz | Mar 25, 2018

Israel needs to prepare for the coming celebration and marching season with an extensive public diplomacy effort, not only to celebrate our own independence, but to give those that wish to mourn, the room to do so.

The Palestinians are planning and producing a huge PR event. The stage is set, and the curtain will be drawn this Friday, March 30th. Organizations in Gaza are initiating a series of events that will challenge Israel on the ground, physically and militarily, but their real intended target is the public arena.

As Israel organizes its own public relations opportunities in celebration of its 70-year anniversary, complete with a bonus additional PR event, the opening of the new American embassy in Jerusalem, the Palestinians plan to march.

Palestinians in Gaza intend to kick off their series of events by erecting “return camps,” tent campsites along the area bordering Israel. Some assessments have suggested Hamas is going to rally around 100,000 people along the border area in a huge show of force. . . .

Over the last few days, reports in the Israeli media have multiplied about how the security forces will confront the oncoming demonstrations and riots. Various means of riot dispersal, dropped from drones; tear gas; water cannons; targeted sniper fire against the main instigators; and even reports of tanks being deployed along the Israel-Gaza border. . . .

What appears to be lacking from the Israeli preparation is the response to the political challenge.

The months of April and May leading up to Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate their national tragedy as a consequence of the establishment of the State of Israel, are speckled with dates and historical anniversaries, Jewish, Israeli and Palestinian.

Passover, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, Israel’s Independence Day and the historical symbolic move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem — all are bound to be magnets of global attention and global politics, but also riots, protests and attempted attacks.

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