Extremists Chant Racist Slogans as Thousands of Israelis Rally in Jerusalem
Israeli nationalists celebrate reunification of city 55 years ago
Thousands of flag-waving, drum-beating Israeli nationalists marched through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday in a procession that infuriated Palestinians and threatened to spark a war.
The annual Flag March event is planned by right-wing Jewish groups to celebrate what Israel calls Jerusalem Day, the annual commemoration of the unification of the city after Israel conquered east Jerusalem in 1967.
Many of the participants chanted “Death to Arabs” while others shouted as they entered Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, that “an Arab is a son of a whore.”
“May your villages burn,” one flag-waving Jewish man screamed.
“This is our eternal capital,” a young Jewish Israeli told The Media Line as he waved a flag and walked down the steps to Damascus Gate.
“The whole world must know this is our country,” he added.
A young Palestinian man who was not allowed by the police to enter the Damascus Gate area told The Media Line that, despite the heavy police presence, he was not intimidated.
“This is our city; we have the right to raise our Palestinian flag, we will not be broken,” said Ahmad.
While the main clashes were at Damascus Gate, many participants entered the Old City through Jaffa Gate and other gates. An estimated total of 70,000 participants ended the march at the Western Wall.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid angrily responded to extreme-right Jewish groups whose members insulted Arabs − specifically the Lehava anti-assimilation organization and the La Familia group of Beitar Jerusalem Football Club supporters – describing them as a “disgrace” who “aren’t worthy of holding the Israeli flag.”
The police were on high alert as more than 2,000 officers were deployed throughout the city, making several arrests for disorderly conduct.
At least 79 people were injured as a result of being hit with rubber bullets or sprayed with pepper gas, including 28 who were transported to local hospitals, the Palestinian Red Crescent reported.
There were clashes between Jews and Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, north of the Old City, soon after the march concluded.
The Palestinian Prisoners Club issued a statement saying that 56 Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank.
Palestinians view Sunday’s march as a provocative act and an attempt by the Israeli government to impose its sovereignty on east Jerusalem and bolster the Jewish presence across the city.
Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital, while Palestinians want the eastern section as the capital of their future state.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett refused to change the route of the march, saying it had become an annual event. “Waving the Israeli flag in the capital of Israel is perfectly acceptable,” he said on Sunday.
There were also counter-rallies in the West Bank, with Israeli security forces clashing at several sites with Palestinians, who set tires alight.
The parade comes a year after violence erupted when the 2021 march got underway; Palestinian factions in the blockaded Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets into Israel, triggering an 11-day war.
The short conflict between Israel and Hamas saw 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, killed, while one soldier and 14 civilians, including one child, were killed in Israel.
This year, Hamas and other factions in Gaza warned that marchers must not pass through the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound/Temple Mount, saying it would use all means to confront them.
Israel said the march would, as in years past, end at the Western Wall Plaza, below the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The Palestinian Presidency accused Israel of “playing with fire irresponsibly and recklessly.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned the march and “attacks on Palestinian citizens in the occupied city of Jerusalem,” the Wafa news agency reported.