Participants in the Flag March in Jerusalem on May 18, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Michael Katz)
Participants in the Flag March in Jerusalem on May 18, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Michael Katz)

Right-wing Flag March in Jerusalem’s Old City features arrests, racist chants

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(JTA) — At a right-wing parade celebrating Jerusalem Day, police arrested both participants and protesters, while marchers assaulted Palestinians and once again chanted racist slogans.

The parade is an annual event that takes thousands of mostly religious Jewish marchers through Jerusalem’s Old City, including its Muslim Quarter. It celebrates the reunification of Israel’s capital following the Israeli capture of the city’s eastern district in the 1967 Six-Day War. The march is known to attract groups of far-right participants, and police ask Arab Jerusalemites to shutter their shops along the parade route.

Outbreaks of violence have often accompanied the event. In 2021, clashes surrounding the parade, and a subsequent rocket attack by Hamas, preceded an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, as well as riots and violence in Arab-Jewish cities within Israel.

This year, hundreds of Palestinians along the Gaza border protested the march, and the Israel Defense Forces said some threw explosive devices toward the security barrier. Israeli forces responded with live fire and tear gas.

During the march, two participants were arrested for throwing stones and water bottles at Palestinian journalists covering the event, some of whom were injured. There were additional scuffles between marchers and Palestinians. As in past years, marchers also chanted racist slogans, such as “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn.”

Ahead of the march, 10 left-wing protesters were arrested, including some who blocked Route 60, a central West Bank thoroughfare used to travel from Israeli settlements to Jerusalem. American Jews were among the group that blocked the highway, according to a statement from the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, which was one of the protest organizers. The statement said the activists “are supporting Palestinian communities across Jerusalem through participating in protests, documenting anti-Palestinian state-settler violence in the streets of the Old City, and providing a supportive presence to our partners.”

A dozen politicians participated in the march this year, including far-right government ministers such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, and members of their parties. Yuli Edelstein, a lawmaker and former minister from the Likud Party, also attended, and wrote on Twitter, “There’s nothing more exciting and right than celebrating 56 years since the liberation and unification of Jerusalem together with tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters.”

Ben Sales
Ben Sales

Ben Sales is news editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.