Israelis chant ‘Death to the Arabs’ in Jerusalem

Israeli extreme-right Knesset member Ben-Gvir participates in march organized by Israeli Jewish supremacists in Jerusalem (Jeries Bssier - ZumaPress)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  April 21, 2022

Hundreds of Israeli Jewish nationalists marched through Jerusalem on Wednesday chanting anti-Palestinian slogans as Israeli police tried to block their route to the Damascus Gate.

The event appeared to be part of the yearly “March of the Flags” organized by Israeli Jewish supremacists to celebrate Israel’s occupation and colonization of East Jerusalem.

The march is traditionally held on “Jerusalem Day,” an Israeli-invented holiday to mark the start of the 1967 occupation, which falls in late May this year, so it is unclear why the march went ahead on Wednesday.

It took place despite a lack of approval from Israeli police and warnings from Palestinian resistance groups that they would respond to the continued assault on Palestinians and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

Later on Wednesday evening, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open area near Sderot, a Jewish settlement near the besieged territory.

Israel then carried out air raids in Gaza early Thursday, which were followed by another rocket and gunfire from Gaza. Israel’s emergency medical service said that several people suffered “panic attacks” or were “lightly injured” while running to shelters, according to Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

Israel, claiming to have hit a facility used to manufacture rocket motors, called its attack on Gaza “the most significant” since last May, when its 11-day bombardment of the territory left 250 Palestinians, including almost 70 children, dead.

Video showed massive explosions lighting up the night sky in Gaza.

It is unclear who fired the rockets from Gaza. The exchange highlighted the danger that Israel’s constant provocations in Jerusalem could escalate into a full-scale war at any moment.

“Next prime minister”

Earlier on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had tried to prevent extreme-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir from passing through Jerusalem’s iconic Damascus Gate.

Ben-Gvir is one of Israel’s most notoriously racist politicians, and is often at the center of provocations by settlers in the occupied city.

hero of his is Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish settler from Brooklyn who murdered 29 Palestinian men and boys while they prayed at the Ibrahimi mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron during Ramadan in 1994.

Ben-Gvir did make it to the march, where he was warmly greeted by the mob as their “next prime minister.”

Bennett may be trying to avoid a full-scale confrontation with the Palestinian resistance in Gaza while not alienating his far-right Jewish nationalist base, especially as the fate of his fragile coalition government hangs in the balance.

Israel’s Shin Bet secret police reportedly warned the government that allowing Ben-Gvir to participate could spark a full-scale confrontation with the resistance in Gaza.

Hamas has signaled in recent days that it is not seeking such a confrontation, but that the resistance would respond to continued Israeli aggression.

Israeli occupation forces, however, are continuing their daily attacks on Muslim worshippers during the month of Ramadan.

On Thursday morning, occupation forces once again assaulted worshippers and attempted to raid the al-Aqsa mosque’s main prayer hall. Occupation forces then allowed Jewish settlers to enter the compound.

And while Bennett’s government may be trying to distance itself from the extremist mob, Yair Lapid, Israel’s supposedly moderate foreign minister, made a similarly provocative visit to the Damascus Gate earlier this month, further increasing tensions.

‘Death to the Arabs’

The mob on Wednesday tried to force its way into the Old City’s Muslim Quarter despite Israeli police efforts to stop it:

In keeping with tradition at such marches, many in the mob which included children – chanted mavet la aravim – “Death to the Arabs.”

Videos from the march show the presence of 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 “death to the Arabs” marches.

While there were some confrontations between Palestinians defending Damascus Gate and Israeli occupation forces, the tensions on Wednesday were concentrated between extremist settlers and Israeli police.

Notably – and in keeping with Israel’s apartheid policies – Israeli forces apparently refrained from using against Jews tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, live fire, skunk water and other forms of extreme violence they routinely use to attack Palestinians.

Yet the effort by the Israeli state to halt the march was seen by some as a victory for Palestinian resistance. Last May, the intervention of Gaza-based Palestinian resistance groups in response to Israel’s violence against Palestinians in Jerusalem sent a clear message that the occupation forces do not have free rein in the city.

A similar planned march by Jewish nationalists in Jerusalem last year was one of the catalysts that ignited the full-scale confrontation between Israel and Palestinians across historic Palestine.

Originally scheduled for 10 May 2021, the march was postponed due to Palestinian resistance, which forced Israel into an embarrassing retreat.

Israel had to cancel the march.

It did take place the following month, when mobs of extremist Israeli Jews marched along a highly restricted route chanting racist and genocidal slogans.

Israel has attacked Palestinian Ramadan worshipers at the al-Aqsa mosque compound nearly every day since last Friday.

An hours-long assault by Israeli occupation forces on one of the holiest days in the Islamic calendar left more than 150 Palestinians wounded that day.

On Tuesday this week, thousands of extremist settlers marched in the occupied West Bank to the site of an evacuated settler-colonial outpost.

Homesh was cleared of its Israeli residents in 2005 as part of Israel’s supposed “disengagement” from Gaza and several West Bank villages. That land, which belongs to the village of Burqa, was declared a closed military zone in the 1970s.

Student dies from gunshot wound

While the focus of attention has been on Jerusalem, Israeli occupation forces have continued their raids throughout the occupied West Bank, arresting and shooting Palestinians.

An 18-year-old Palestinian student died from wounds on Monday that she sustained earlier this month when Israeli occupation forces invaded the Jenin area in the occupied West Bank.

According to her family, Hanan Mahmoud Khudour was heading home to her village of Faqua east of Jenin when she was shot in the abdomen. She was not involved in resistance against the occupying army.

The staff at the hospital where she underwent numerous surgeries believe the wound was caused by Israeli fire, as it resembled other injuries they had treated.

Khudour’s father said that his daughter had hoped to pursue her education.

“She was the light of my life, now extinguished,” he told media.

University attacked

Meanwhile, Israeli occupation forces twice last week attacked the Palestine Technical University – Kadoorie campus in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, injuring students and staff with live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets.

Israeli soldiers wearing plainclothes arrived in a civilian car on 13 April and opened fire on two 21-year-old students and a security guard, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).

Ahmed Majed Katana was shot in the head by Israeli forces, while Odai Zaghal al-Akhras was wounded in the shoulder by live fire.

A day earlier, Israeli forces stormed the campus, shooting live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and firing sound bombs and tear gas, injuring four people.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting