Journalists attacked as Israeli nationalists march in Old City

Israeli nationalists wave flags and make obscene gestures towards Palestinian and foreign journalists outside Damascus Gate, an entrance to Jerusalem's Old City (18 May 2023)

Thousands of Israeli nationalists have marched into the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, with violence directed at media covering the event.

The flag parade is part of Israel’s Jerusalem Day, marking its capture of the east of the city in the 1967 war.

A group of marchers threw stones, sticks and bottles at Palestinian and foreign journalists at the Damascus Gate entrance.

They also cheered and chanted racist slogans, including “Death to Arabs”.

Far-right Israeli cabinet ministers joined the procession. One of them, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, declared: “Jerusalem is ours for ever.”

Palestinians along the route in occupied East Jerusalem earlier shuttered homes and shops over fears of abuse.

The march has increasingly become a show of force for Jewish ultranationalists, while for Palestinians it is seen as a blatant provocation undermining their ties to the city.

Racist, anti-Arab chants are often shouted by nationalist marchers. The event has in the past sparked much wider violence.

Israeli police vowed to stop law-breaking, but blamed regional “terrorist elements” for “wild incitement” about the march on social media. They also said it was only “a small minority on both sides [who] try to agitate”.

Palestinian Authority leaders called the East Jerusalem events a “provocative act”, saying far-right cabinet ministers Mr Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich – staunch supporters of the parade – were “planting seeds of conflict”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the event would go ahead as planned.

Journalists use a door for protection (18/03/23)

Along the route in the Old City, Samir Abu Sbeih pulled down the shutters of his sweet shop, saying that police had advised Palestinian businesses to do so by mid-afternoon.

“It’s not their land to celebrate,” he said of the march. “We live under occupation and that’s why we have to accept it.”

Jerusalem Day events have been marked by Israelis for decades, but in recent years, parts of the route have been the focus of spiralling tensions.

In the late afternoon, tens of thousands of Israelis headed from the west of Jerusalem to the Old City, ending with a so-called flag dance at the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jewish prayer.

Before that, marchers went their separate ways and thousands of mainly men and teenage boys headed into East Jerusalem.

They walked through Damascus Gate, which Israeli forces usually clear of Palestinians in advance, and then into the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

Israeli police officer intervenes as Israelis beat two Palestinians (18/05/23)
Israeli police intervened when two Palestinians were beaten after a confrontation with marchers

Previous years have seen groups of marchers chant “death to Arabs” and “may your village burn”, while others banged the shutters of Palestinian shops.

Palestinian militant group Hamas warned Israel this week that it would reignite conflict, were it to cross “red lines” in Jerusalem during the event.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s