Thousands of Israelis marched in Jerusalem to honor the Parade of Flags and chanted racist slogans against Arab Palestinians and Prophet Mohammad.
Like every year on Jerusalem Day, thousands of religious and ultra-nationalist Israelis came to the streets of Jerusalem to hold the controversial Parade of Flags and commemorate the conquest of the eastern part of the city in 1967 after the Six-Day War.
During the march, Israelis chanted racist slogans several times, citing “Death to the Arabs” and “Your villages will burn”. They even chanted slogans against the Prophet Mohammed.
But that was not all. During the parade, the marchers also mocked and insulted the recently-killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, who was shot dead while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank this month.
“Do we own this? If so, let’s get rid of them,” one Israeli participant in the march told The Times of Israel, referring to Arabs and Palestinians. “This is our country. Palestinians are guests on our land,” he added.
Due to a large number of participants in the march and the potential violence, many Palestinians living in the area chose to close their businesses and stay home until the parade is over. “You never know what they might do, maybe they might attack the shop, so we close earlier,” one Palestinian told the Spanish daily newspaper, El Mundo.
Besides the many protestors, thousands of Israeli security forces were also deployed to the area, raising the alert to the highest level in Jerusalem.
On the day of the march on Sunday, 18 Palestinians were arrested on suspicion of rioting and assaulting officers during the arrival of Israeli protesters at the Esplanade of the Mosques or Temple Mount.
The place is indeed the holiest site for Jews and the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. Moreover, according to Palestinian Red Crescent figures gathered by AFP, at least 79 people were injured, including 23 who needed hospital care
According to the 1967 convention between Israel and Palestine, Jews are only allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not to pray on it. However, many of them do not respect the rules and even visit the site with the Israeli flag. Some of the Israelis even got tough on Palestinians present there. For example, videos of an ultra-orthodox Israeli man spatting on and kicking an elderly Palestinian woman got viral on social media.
Israeli officials’ reactions to the violent march
The Israeli government has condemned these actions, as well as insults against Palestinians and racist chants. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the nationalist groups “a disgrace” and said they “are not worthy of holding the Israeli flag”. Among the best-known radical anti-Arab organizations are La Familia, made up of supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem football team, and Lahava.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz expressed a similar view. “We will hold any kind of march we want in our capital,” he stressed, addressing Hamas, a group that, according to Gantz, “will not threaten our sovereignty”.
Last but not least, Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also ordered the police to show “zero tolerance” against any racist behavior. However, Bennett had previously approved and endorsed the holding of the march, saying that “raising the Israeli flag in the capital of Israel is self-evident”.
But even then, the prime minister called for “responsibility and respect”, something that no sign of which we saw on this year’s Parade of Flags.