Saturday, 26 May 2012

Jerusalem Day rife with racism

Photos by E. Van R and Lazar Simeonov. More

May 20th marked the annual Israeli celebration of the ‘reunification’ of Jerusalem that came with the establishment of Israeli control and occupation over the old city in the June 1967 six day war. One of the biggest events to mark Jerusalem Day is day is the massive parade through the streets of the city itself.

According to international law the occupation of East Jerusalem, which includes the old city, is illegal. The international community rejects the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and treats it as Palestinian territory. Meanwhile the policies of the Israeli government is to expand their presence in East Jerusalem, which is evident from the thousands of Jewish only settlement housing units being built, the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes, and demolishing Palestinian houses.

The Israeli authorities declared a state of emergency for the entire city of Jerusalem. Shops in the Old City were ordered to close. Some shop owners followed this order, others stayed open until around four o’clock. As one shop owner explained, “It is my right to open the shop, and if I do close I’ll be accused by other Palestinians of being a normalizer.” By around 5 pm almost every shop was closed out of fear from getting vandalized by Israeli settlers as they passed by.

According to the Israeli National Police spokesman, approximately 35,000 extremist Jews participated in the parade which passed through Palestinian quarters. Almost every Jew was dressed in the white and blue national colors, and thousands of Israeli flags filled the streets of Jerusalem. Nationalistic and Zionist songs were sung.

Before the parade started, two Israeli Knesset members along with 20 other extremist Jews entered the Al-Aqsa compound, but were removed by security forces. Meanwhile Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed that “Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a heart. Our heart will never be divided again.”

During the afternoon Zionist Jews showed up in front of the Damascus gate while on the other side of the street 150 Palestinians gathered for a counter demonstration. Some Palestinians were waving flags as they sang songs for freedom.

The situation quickly became tense. In addition to the presence of the Israeli police and border control soldiers, a huge amount of special forces, known as the Yassam, were also there. Yassam are known for their very aggressive and violent behavior toward Palestinians. The Israeli police spokesman said that the large amount of soldiers and police were to prevent any provocation from the Palestinian side.
However, the small protest by the Palestinians was completely peaceful. The Israeli soldiers tried to suppress the protest and began pushing people back. Every once in a while police mounted on horses drove full speed into the crowd, chasing Palestinians, and beating up or arresting some.

Meanwhile on the other side of the road, more and more Israeli Jews were gathering to taunt the Palestinian counter demonstration. Every time the soldiers harassed Palestinians the crowed would burst into cheers and applause. An Israeli settler family stood behind the fence watching the other side while the mother explained to her three children what was happening.

“See, these are the Arabs who want to throw rocks at us, but the police are taking them down one by one like this.” She made the hand gesture as the father, wearing a gun on his belt, agreed with a smile.
Israeli youth gathered at the fence with only the width of the street separating them from the Palestinian youth and yelled racist slurs at them. Both sides were screaming “This is our land!” It was disconcerting to see young Israelis, who used their larger number to scream racist slogans at Palestinians with such hatred, such as “Death to the Arabs!” and “Muhammad is dead!”
As the sun set and darkened the streets of Jerusalem, the Israeli soldiers violently pushed the Palestinians further away from the Damascus gate. Thousands of Jews were celebrating at the Western wall.

By the end of the day, five Palestinians were arrested and accused for throwing object at Israeli’s and/or soldiers. Another ten Israelis were arrested for racist slurs and attacking Palestinians.

Although this year’s Israeli commemoration of Jerusalem Day was less violent than last year’s, it were again the Palestinians who had to suffer from another Israeli army backed provocation by Jewish extremists in their own city, which illustrated in another tell tale sign of who really wields the power and authority when it comes to the rule of law.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
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