Israeli crowds chant racist slogans, taunt Palestinians during Jerusalem march

AP , Ahram Online , Thursday 18 May 2023

Thousands of Jewish nationalists, some of them chanting “Death to Arabs” and other racist slogans, paraded on Thursday through the main Palestinian thoroughfare of Jerusalem’s occupied Old City, in an annual display that caused new friction between Jews and Palestinians in the tense city.

Occupied Jerusalem
Israelis dance and wave national flags during a march marking Jerusalem Day, an Israeli holiday celebrating the capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, in front of the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem s Old City, Thursday, May 18, 2023. AP


The boisterous crowds danced and chanted Jewish religious songs outside Damascus Gate as scores of Israeli police stood guard. In several cases, groups chanted slogans such as “Death to Arabs,” “Mohammed is Dead” and “Burn Your Village” as they stared at Palestinian onlookers. Some of the youths wore clothing identifying themselves as members of Lehava – a far-right Jewish supremacist group that opposes assimilation or romantic relationships between Jews and Palestinians.

The marchers, who were overwhelmingly male Orthodox teens and young men, were celebrating “Jerusalem Day,” which marks Israel’s occupation of the Old City 56 years ago. The Palestinians see the event as a provocation. Two years ago, the parade helped fuel an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas resistance group in the Gaza Strip.

Throughout the afternoon, dozens of groups hoisting blue and white Israeli flags streamed through Damascus Gate – the entry to the area’s Muslim Quarter – as they made their way across the Old City to the Western Wall. The area is normally bustling on Thursday afternoons with Palestinians doing their errands ahead of the weekend.

The Israeli settlers assaulted and beat up at least three of Palestinian civilians, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Since the early morning, over 2,500 of Israeli occupation forces were deployed in and around occupied Jerusalem and its old city disrupting normal life of the Palestinian population.

Old City shops were ordered to remain shuttered for the day to allow free and easy access for the settlers to the Old City and marchers occasionally threw water bottles at nearby journalists, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

Israeli police kept the sides apart but did little to stop the chants or the attacks.

The annexation by Israel of east Jerusalem is not internationally recognized and the Palestinians consider the city as the capital of a future state.

Israel decided to allow the marchers to take the traditional route through Damascus Gate, instead of an alternate path circumventing the Muslim Quarter, despite an uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence over the past year and last week’s heavy fighting between Israel and Palestinian resistance group in Gaza.

Extremist and right-wing cabinet ministers and members of parliament from the government coalition, led by the fascist Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has joined the march in past years, are participating in the march. Other politicians participating include Minister of Transport Miri Regev, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and a number of Knesset members.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian president in the occupied West Bank, said allowing the march to snake through the Palestinian areas of the Old City “will only lead to a rise in tension and could lead to an explosion.”

On Wednesday, Gaza’s ruling Hamas group called on Palestinians to oppose the parade.

Ahead of the parade, about 900 Jews visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site early Thursday, according to Beyadenu, an activist group that promotes Jewish visits to the site. Police were seen escorting groups of Jewish visitors walking through the compound and several coalition lawmakers also arrived at the site.

Jordan, which acts as a custodian of the Jerusalem shrine, condemned the Jewish visits there and the trajectory of the march.

Egypt also condemned the parade as well as the storming by the Israeli government officials, parliamentarians, and settlers into the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Under longstanding agreements, Jews are permitted to visit the site but not pray there. But an increase in such visits, along with scenes of some Jews quietly praying, has raised concerns among Palestinians that Israel is trying to alter the status quo.

The parade comes as fighting in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem is at its highest level in two decades. It also comes just days after a cease-fire took effect ending five days of heavy fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad resistance group in Gaza.

* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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