Saturday, May 19, 2012

Today is "Jerusalem Day"

More on the activities planned for today to mark Jerusalem Day - Haaretz reports (my translation, I couldn't find the article in the English version of the paper online):
A group of Knesset members from the right are expected to go up in the morning to the Temple Mount, in order to mark Jerusalem Day there. Among the Knesset members: Zeev Elkin (Likud), Aryeh Eldad (National Union), and Michael Ben Ari (National Union). Also Knesset members Otniel Schneller (Kadima) and Uri Ariel (National Union) confirmed that they were coming, but at this point it’s not clear if they will take part in this.

The ascent of the Knesset members this morning to the Mount is being done at the initiative of the members of the “Foundation for the Heritage of the Temple Mount.” “From our perspective this is the repair of a historical injustice,” Yehudah Glick, one of the heads of the Foundation, said to Haaretz. “The paratroopers who conquered the Temple Mount went up to the Mount, and then returned to the Kotel. We ascend today in order to remain.”

Later on, a different group for the Temple Mount is expected to go from Ammunition Hill in a march of flags – the “Temple Mount Faithful.” “We call this a ‘March for the liberation of our holy hill and for the wholeness of Jerusalem and the land of our fathers,” says Gershom Solomon, one of the initiators of the march tomorrow. “The emphasis, of course, is on the Temple Mount in the context of our fight to change the status quo, for Jewish rule over the Temple Mount.” Solomon expects several hundred to participate in the march.

In contrast to the central parade of flags which is expected to occur much later, the march of the “Temple Mount Faithful” did not receive police permission to enter through the Damascus Gate. Despite this, the route that was allowed for them did not entirely omit east Jerusalem, and the marchers were permitted to go by way of Sheikh Jarrakh. From there they will return to Bar-Lev Road and enter the Old City through Jaffa Gate. “The difference between us and the parade of flags is that they end at the Western Wall and we object to this,” Solomon continues. “We would like to arrive at the Temple Mount itself.” Nonetheless, according to the approved route for the “Temple Mount Faithful,” the march will end at the plaza next to the Jaffa Gate, where the marchers will hold a rally to mark Jerusalem Day.

The other event that draws much attention is the “Dance of flags,” in which tens of thousands of youth march, most of them from the religious Zionist (camp), into the Old City with flags. Last year hundreds of participants in the march took advantage of the occasion to make racist cat-calls against the Palestinian residents, and 24 youths were arrested, Jews and Arabs. In light of this, the Israel Police sought to change the path of the march, but after negotiations with the organizers a route that goes through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter was permitted. The organizers, on their part, promised to act to prevent a repetition of the images from last year. Against the march a demonstration by leftist activists is being organized.
In addition to the provocations from the Israeli right wing, inciters from the Palestinian side have also been stirring the pot of strife. Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post reports:
The Palestinian Authority mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, warned against attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinians, especially in the Old City. He also voiced concern that Jews would try to storm their way into the Temple Mount during Sunday's celebrations.

The mufti said that the Israeli authorities would be held fully responsible for clashes that could erupt between Palestinians and Israelis during the "provocative" marches, especially inside the Old City.

Another senior Islamic religious official, Sheikh Yusef Idais, warned that Israelis were preparing to perpetrate "massacres" against Palestinians during Jerusalem Day celebrations. Idais urged Palestinians to converge on Jerusalem Sunday to "confront the extremist settlers."

He pointed out that in previous years settlers who took part in celebrations inside the Old City had chanted "Death to Arabs" and insults against Prophet Mohammed. Idais predicted that Jerusalem would witness "violent confrontations" during the celebrations and called on Arab youth in the city to put up "strong resistance."
Other east Jerusalem Palestinians expressed more rational fears:
Palestinian shopkeepers in the Old City rejected instructions from the Police to close down their shops on Jerusalem Day on Sunday....

Representatives of the Palestinian merchants in the city issued a statement in which they said that the purpose of the Sunday celebrations was to "make Jerusalem a Jewish city and provoke the feelings of Muslims and Christians."

Fakhri Abu Diab, member of the Committee for Defending Silwan, condemned the authorities' decision to block several roads and neighborhoods during Jerusalem Day, noting that this would disrupt normal life and prevent people from going to work and students from attending school.

Abu Diab said he expected Sunday to be a "dangerous and difficult" day for Arabs in the city.

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