A debate has emerged in the wake of Sunday’s tragic border killings, turning on the question of whether the commemoration of Nakba Day (which led to a fence breach in the Golan Heights [check the video out here] and at least ten people killed in Southern Lebanon) was orchestrated by the Assad regime and its allies in order to draw attention away from the protests in Syria.
That was more or less the gist of the Western press’s coverage of the event, as summed up by Radwan Ziadeh in this NYT piece by Anthony Shadid, but many Israeli commentators are wondering whether this isn’t actually a sign that the fervor of the Arab Spring has reached Palestine.
I’d recommend reading the following bits of commentary:
- Andrew Exum weighs in here, here, and here.
- Sean, at The Human Province, was actually in South Lebanon on Sunday and witnessed the demonstration firsthand. He takes Andrew to task in a well-reasoned essay here.
- Not on the subject of Nakba Day, Sami Moubayed argues that Syria should ratchet up its diplomatic efforts to re-ingratiate itself with Turkey and France by playing nice in Lebanon and fast-tracking reforms. (Too little, too late?)
I have to admit that my first reaction to the events was, like Exum’s, a cynical one. However, based on what Sean and others have said about their experiences on Sunday, it does look like the high turnout was much more the product of a genuine swelling of popular sentiment and political participation in the wake of the various regional revolts, rather than a carefully hatched plan by Damascus, Hizbullah, and Hamas.
On the other hand, who couldn’t help but notice the sad juxtaposition of the two marches scheduled for last Sunday in Beirut? A few hundred people marched in support of secularism and brandished some cute slogans, while thousands made the trek down to the border with Israel and braved bullets to commemorate a decades-old struggle.
A friend of mine regularly chides me for imagining that any of Lebanon’s problems will ever be solved before the Arab-Israeli conflict is settled. On days like yesterday, I think he’s probably right.