What is ‘flag day’ in Jerusalem and why is it so controversial? | Occupied East Jerusalem News


Jerusalem – Days earlier than the far-right Jerusalem “flag day” march, tensions are excessive throughout Israel, the occupied West Financial institution, and the blockaded Gaza Strip, threatening to disrupt the ceasefire reached between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel on Saturday after no less than 33 Palestinians have been killed in a four-day Israeli bombardment. One Israeli was additionally killed by Palestinian rocket fireplace.

March organisers count on report numbers – as many as 100,000 – to take part within the parade, which celebrates the seize in 1967 of East Jerusalem and its subsequent occupation, or what the Israeli authorities refers to because the “reunification” of Jerusalem.

1000’s of younger Orthodox Jewish males are anticipated to provocatively parade by means of the Outdated Metropolis’s Muslim Quarter – prior to now, this has led to repeated assaults in opposition to Palestinians.

Right here’s a more in-depth look:

Historical past and symbolism

The Jerusalem flag march “is likely one of the strongest examples [worldwide] of racist nationalistic and state-sponsored celebrations”, in keeping with Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher on the human rights organisation Ir Amin.

Whereas the route of the march has modified over time, initially designed to recreate the trail of the Israeli troopers who captured the Outdated Metropolis on June 7, 1967, the present route winds its means by means of the Damascus Gate and the closely populated Muslim Quarter.

Members of Israeli security clear people away from Jerusalem's Damascus Gate
Israeli safety forces clear individuals away from Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, as Israelis mark Jerusalem Day, Might 29, 2022 [File: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP]

Despite the fact that coming into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound will not be a proper a part of the march itself – and the march route intentionally enters the Outdated Metropolis through the Zion and Damascus gates, and never the Lions’ Gate close to Al-Aqsa Mosque – varied teams calling for the institution of a Jewish temple on the location hope to encourage a report variety of Jews to enter the Al-Aqsa compound on Jerusalem Day.

Many of the contributors belong to the “Spiritual Zionist” camp of Orthodox Jewry – who see messianic which means to Israel’s seize of Jerusalem in 1967. However, regardless of the havoc that has been brought on by attendees throughout the previous few years, one of many youth organisers, Yekutiel Epstein, says the march “has little interest in dispersing racism, however slightly is about love and thanking God for returning us to the Land of Israel after 2,000 years of exile”.

One of many non-religious teams taking part is La Familia, a far-right supporter group related to the Beitar Jerusalem soccer membership, which is notorious for advocating that the membership stay “without end pure” with none Palestinian or Muslim gamers.

In line with David Mizrahi, a Jerusalem native and co-founder of La Familia: “Jerusalem day was, for a few years, about going to the [Western Wall] and praying … in some unspecified time in the future, it grew to become a nationalistic celebration.”

Mizrahi, who has since left the group and lectures in opposition to racism at Israeli faculties, admits that he and La Familia used the march to intimidate households within the Muslim Quarter. “We’d knock on the doorways … to ship the message [that] ‘We’re the [true] house owners.’”

Why is the march allowed to go forward?

In 2015, noting the elevated presence of far-right teams directing hate in the direction of Palestinians, a number of Jerusalem human rights organisations petitioned the Supreme Courtroom of Israel to re-route the parade away from the Muslim Quarter.

Itay Mack, who represented the petitioners in opposition to the Metropolis of Jerusalem, the police, and the organisers of the march, describes the Israeli Supreme Courtroom justices being “shocked” on the proof of racist violence he collected.

“The Supreme Courtroom is used to being offered proof of violence in opposition to Palestinians” within the West Financial institution, mentioned Mack. “The courtroom mustn’t have been stunned by the violence within the march [even in Jerusalem] since these are the identical teams of the acute proper and the ‘hilltop youth’ who commit terrorism within the West Financial institution that the judges are aware of however are inclined to ignore.”

A Palestinian woman walks past a house in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem
A Palestinian lady walks previous a home within the Muslim Quarter of the Outdated Metropolis of Jerusalem on December 4, 2018 [File: Thomas Coex/AFP]

Though the courtroom determined for the appropriate of Jewish organisers to march by means of the Muslim Quarter, the petition resulted in some minor modifications on the bottom.

Previous to 2015, “ultranationalist organisers would harass Palestinian shopkeepers from early within the morning of the march nicely into the night time”, Mack mentioned, whereas presently “the Israeli police enforces a time limitation for the march within the Outdated Metropolis”.

The courtroom additionally dominated that inciteful chants, resembling “loss of life to Arabs” are a “pink line”, although Mack notes that little effort is made to cease them. “With the courtroom choice [ruling against us], we’re out of authorized choices to oppose the hateful march.”

The courtroom justified its ruling beneath the pretext that the occasion might be held safely with enough policing – a reported 2,000 cops will likely be on responsibility with 1,000 different safety personnel. That perspective, Tatarsky mentioned, “[looks] at violence as an final result of the march … [while] the march itself is extraordinarily violent in opposition to tens of 1000’s of Palestinians within the Outdated Metropolis and the environment” who’re pressured out of their metropolis for the day.

Palestinian views

Palestinian shopkeepers and residents within the densely populated Outdated Metropolis Muslim Quarter react with exasperation and frustration when requested concerning the “flag march”.

A number of, who declined to talk on the report concerning the topic, view it as a “unnecessary provocation” and listed examples of vandalism that weren’t adopted up on by the Israeli police, regardless of the presence of “cameras in every single place”.

Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, mentioned the march was inciteful, and would drive the group to reply to the “[Israeli] try to vary and implement a Jewish identification on the town of Jerusalem … which incorporates Muslim and Christian holy websites”.

Whereas it stays unknown if the “flag march” will set off a brand new spherical of preventing between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad or Hamas, there are few seen efforts to calm tensions.

As an alternative, it’s being reported in Israeli media that the far-right ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich will attend the march, as they’ve executed in previous years.

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