Report: Israel arrested no Jews over violent, racist march

Joseph Federman

AP  June 2, 2022

JERUSALEM — Israeli police arrested dozens of Palestinians but no Jews during a nationalist march through Jerusalem this week in which crowds of Jews chanted racist slogans, assaulted Palestinians and vandalized Palestinian property, an Israeli newspaper reported Thursday.

Israeli police had said after Sunday’s march that over 60 people were arrested, but have refused to give a breakdown, despite queries by The Associated Press. The Haaretz daily reported Thursday that it checked arrest records name by name, and found that no Jews were among those detained. It said two Jews were arrested in a separate, related incident.

Tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists participated in Sunday’s parade — an annual march that celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians consider the event a provocation.

Israeli police cleared out the area for the marchers, who passed through a Palestinian neighbourhood before proceeding to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City to pray at the Western Wall.

Large crowds, many of them young Orthodox Jewish youths carrying Israeli flags, gathered at the entrance to the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, dancing and chanting slogans such as “Death to Arabs,” before continuing on their way.

Inside the Old City, the marchers pounded on the gates of Palestinian businesses and scuffled with angry Palestinian residents. Videos captured on social media showed marchers spitting, beating and spraying pepper spray at Palestinians and journalists.

Fights broke out along the route, as police mainly intervened to protect Jews and forcibly disperse Palestinians.

According to the Haaretz report, nearly all of those arrested Thursday were Palestinian. Two Jewish suspects were arrested after the parade in the beating of a Palestinian journalist during unrest outside the Old City, it said. The newspaper compiled the statistics by going through court records in the days after the parade.

Israeli police did not respond to a request for comment. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said only a small minority of the flag marchers was responsible for the bad behaviour and vowed to prosecute anyone who broke the law.

Several other journalists were physically assaulted while covering the march, according to the Foreign Press Association, which represents international media outlets operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

It said Israeli participants verbally and physically assaulted a BBC team, and assaulted a France 24 reporter on air. It said Quique Kierszenbaum, a freelance photographer and producer covering the march for foreign media, was pepper sprayed by an Israeli participant and punched in the face by an Israeli Border Police officer.

“It is unacceptable for a police officer to attack a clearly identified photojournalist who was wearing the wristband police distributed to identify accredited journalists at the event,” it said.

The association called on police to take action against the officer and Israelis who attacked reporters.

 “Those who attack reporters should be arrested, not protected, by police,” it said. “Unfortunately, such violence against journalists has become routine. We expect Israeli authorities — who profess to respect freedom of the press — to put their words into action.”

Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem have long complained of a double standard in which Palestinian crowds are frequently arrested and violently dispersed by police with clubs, tear gas and rubber bullets, while Jewish settlers often carry out attacks and vandalism with virtual impunity. Israeli police deny such charges, saying they are merely enforcing the law.

The Old City is part of east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in a move not recognized internationally and considers part of its capital. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.

Human rights groups say that discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in east Jerusalem is part of a broader system that amounts to apartheid. Israel vehemently rejects that label as an assault on its legitimacy rooted in antisemitism.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek all three areas for a future independent state. The last round of substantive peace talks broke down over a decade ago.