Anti-Israel protesters
Anti-Israel protestersIsrael news photo: Wikimedia Commons
The first anniversary of Israel's counterterrorism Operation Cast Lead in Gaza is set to be a catalyst for a series of anti-Israel protests worldwide. A mass march to the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel is to include several Western VIPs.

From December 27 through early January, the dates of Operation Cast Lead last year, international pro-Palestinian groups are set to hold "Gaza Freedom Marches" in North America, Europe and Israel. The Gaza Freedom March in Hamas-controlled Gaza itself is slated for December 31. Organizers of the latter event are expecting around 50,000 local participants, with over 1,000 from more than 40 countries, to converge on the Erez Crossing and demand it be opened to free movement by Palestinian Authority residents into Israel.

According to the Gaza march organizers, participants will include: French legislator Alima Boumediene-Thiery; author and Filipino parliament member Walden Bello; former European parliamentarians Luisa Morgantini from Italy and Eva Quistorp from Germany; Japan's former ambassador to Lebanon Naoto Amaki; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker; President of the US Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Michael Ratner; and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. Among the marchers will be various sectoral groups as well, including a women's delegation, a Jewish contingent, NGOs, a veterans group and Arabs from abroad with family in Gaza.

The marchers leaving from a point in northern Gaza are to meet up with a group of Arabs and Jews on the Israel side of the Erez Crossing. In what they are billing as a nonviolent event, the protesters will call on Israel to open the border to unfettered travel.

Researchers from the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) expect "protests and marches by anti-Israel, Islamist and far-left activist groups in various population centers worldwide." Additionally, ITRR analysts cautioned, everything from petty vandalism and "direct action" sabotage, through armed "lone-wolf" attacks on Jewish and Israeli institutions may be inspired by events during this period.