Israeli Jewish extremists marching through the Old City of Jerusalem to celebrate its occupation and colonization, on 29 May 2022. (Mustafa Bader, ZUMA Press Wire)
Tamara Nassar, The Electronic Intifada, 30 May 2022
Tens of thousands of Israeli Jewish ultranationalists marched through Jerusalem on Sunday to demonstrate their hatred towards Palestinians and assert dominance over the militarily occupied city.
Many attacked Palestinians and chanted for genocide.
This was part of the annual “March of the Flags” on Jerusalem Day, a holiday invented by Israel to celebrate its occupation and colonization of the city in 1967.
Over 2,600 extremists entered the al-Aqsa mosque compound on Sunday, an unprecedented number, according to Israeli media.
A large crowd also gathered at the iconic Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City, waving the flags of Israel and the anti-Palestinian Jewish nationalist group Lehava:
Israeli Jews began their provocations early in the day. Reporters noted that they were more violent and confrontational on Sunday than in previous years.
Footage shared by Haaretz journalist Nir Hasson shows Israelis throwing a chair and other objects at Palestinians, who throw objects back:
Another widely shared video shows an Israeli youth pulling out pepper spray and using it on a Palestinian woman at close range:
Many in the mob chanted “death to the Arabs,” “May your village burn,” and “Muhammad is dead” – a denigrating reference to the prophet. These are common chants heard year after year.
Israeli Jews can even be heard chanting “Muhammad is dead” while paramedics carry a wounded Palestinian on a stretcher through a narrow street in the Old City. It is noticeable that all the shops, typically owned by Palestinians, are closed – unable to do business because of the invasion.
Another video shows a mob, which appears to include children, chanting “A Jew is a soul, an Arab is a son of a whore.”
In this clip, one of the Jewish extremists, laughing and clapping, tells journalists “there is no Shireen, Shireen is dead.”
This is a reference to the killing of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh by all indications at the hands of an Israeli soldier earlier this month.
Ateret Cohanim – a settler group heavily involved in the ethnic cleansing of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood – set up a free food stand in the Old City.
Other videos show flags of Lehava, a Jewish extremist group whose focus is preventing mixing of Jews and non-Jews.
Lehava and its ultra-radicalized youth are a regular presence at Israel’s frequent “death to the Arabs” marches.
In this video, a Jewish extremist brandishes a handgun at a group of Palestinians, which included journalists, near Damascus Gate. Another marcher pepper sprays a Palestinian woman in the face for no apparent reason:
Backed by current and former Israeli political leaders and under the protection of the Israeli police, Jewish extremists took a deliberately provocative route through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, as they have done in previous years, ending the march at the Western Wall.
The march was larger than in previous years but like earlier occasions, it included many children.
An estimated 25,000 people participated, far exceeding the 16,000 limit supposedly imposed by Israeli police.
The march is intended to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, after Palestinian resistance groups last year launched a major military operation from Gaza, the first specifically intended to respond to Israeli aggression in the city.
In response to Israel’s refusal to end its ethnic cleansing and other attacks in Jerusalem, Hamas fired rockets toward the city on 10 May 2021, when that year’s “March of the Flags” was originally scheduled, but quickly had to be canceled.
This was viewed as a significant defeat for Israel, which responded by intensely bombarding Gaza for 11 days, killing more than 250 Palestinians.
The march did eventually go ahead last June, but the police did not approve a route through the Muslim Quarter.
In spite of warnings this year by Hamas that Israel’s constant provocations in Jerusalem could escalate into a full-scale war, Israeli authorities allowed the march, fully aware of the possible consequences.
No rockets were fired from Gaza on Sunday, in what can be interpreted as an effort by resistance groups to avoid a full-blown war.
Nonetheless, starting early in the day Jewish nationalists roamed through the Old City and the al-Aqsa mosque compound under heavy police protection, waving flags and chanting.
A number of former and current Israeli leaders joined in provocations on Sunday, including former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and extreme right-wing Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir.
“Us or them”
The annual march generally draws the most openly racist and fanatical segments of Israeli society, but the settler-colonial attitudes they represent are widely shared.
An exchange between a hairdresser and her client on Sunday reported in The Jerusalem Post reflects the casual genocidal racism prevalent in Israeli society.
“But, you know, Corona wasn’t the real virus here. You know what the real virus is? Arabs,” the hairdresser reportedly said.
“You know, I think that the police would come after me if they knew what I was thinking.”
“They are a virus and they need to be rounded up and put in extermination camps,” the stylist added. “There’s no way that we’re going to be able to live together. It’s us or them.”