On its day of reunification, Jerusalem is more divided than ever
Israelis march to mark the conquest of the city’s eastern section during the Six Day War. Police stopped Israeli activists and Palestinians who tried to stop the march. Clashes break out in and around the Esplanade of the Mosques. For Peace Now, using the Temple Mount for political reasons is another form of colonisation. Most Israelis oppose these celebrations.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Clashes broke out in Jerusalem between right-wing and left-wing Israeli activists – for and against the occupation – and police a day after ‘Jerusalem Day’, which marked the 50th anniversary of what Israelis consider the "reunification" of Jerusalem, when Israeli forces seized the eastern part of the city from Jordan during the Six-Day War (June 5-10 1967).
According to police estimates, some 60,000 took part in the traditional march waving flags as they walked through Damascus Gate towards the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Hundreds of Israeli activists and Palestinians tried to stop the march, calling for an end of violence and hate, but were dispersed by police.
IfNotNow, an anti-occupation organisation, said in a press release that about 50 of its activists from around the world participated in the act of civil disobedience, with some protesters injured.
"I'm here because it's important to show that there is a difference between supporting Israel and supporting the occupation," said one leftist protester. "When the police clear the area to let them march and shout 'Death to Arabs,' I cannot identify with the Jewish people."
In a related incident, there were moments of great tensions on the Esplanade of the Mosques (Temple Mount for Jews) when ten young activists with the Jewish fundamentalist Returning to the Mountain group went to the esplanade to pray, which is banned under the terms of the status quo, which recognises the area as an exclusive Muslim site, the third most important for Muslims.
Police stopped the youth. But the group issued statement calling on the government to take full control of the mosque compound and assert Jewish prayer rights.
"Fifty years after freeing the Temple Mount, Israel police act like a Jordanian regime and arrest Jews for daring to bow at the most sacred spot to the Jewish people," the group said on its Facebook page.
In another incident, a group of Jews on their way out of the compound began singing the Israeli national anthem. Officers began ushering them away when a number of guards for the Islamic endowments organisation, or Waqf, which administers the al-Aqsa compound, tried to attack the visitors and the officers. After police scuffled with guards, the visitors were removed and three Waqf guards arrested.
“As much as the government wants to accelerate the so-called reunification, Jerusalem is completely divided. These is an occupied, not liberated territory,” said Anat Ben Nun, director of Development and External Relations at Peace Now, who spoke to AsiaNews.
Peace Now plans a rally for 27 May for ‘Two States - One Hope: A demonstration against 50 years of occupation’. "We will show that Israelis are opposed to this kind of celebration, that they see the 1967 victory as a bitter victory that has resulted in the deterioration of Israel’s democracy and values”.
"Those who marched (in Jerusalem’s Old City) are a small fraction of the people of Israel. People want the two-state solution," she added.
For the activist, Temple Mount is a delicate and hot issue. "Using it for political reasons is another form of colonisation, rather than a religious question. The Israeli government must act responsibly, rather than in ways that can set fire to the city and the region."