On Jerusalem Day last month, tens of thousands of youngsters active in the religious Zionist movement marched from the city's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to the Western Wall Plaza in what is known as the Flag Parade. Some turned the march into a frightening demonstration of nationalism, racism and violence.
Today, this route will be followed in reverse by another march that is the opposite of the rightists' march. Instead of calling for death (to the Arabs ), it will raise a joint cry for life - for an end to the occupation and recognition of Palestinian independence.
The march is a joint venture of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which emerged from the weekly protests against the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, and the popular committees of the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. It is meant to be neither a Palestinian demonstration in which some Israelis participate, nor an Israeli demonstration in which some Palestinians participate. Rather, it is meant to be a joint demonstration by the peace-seekers of both nations.
This Jerusalem March has special importance because of its timing. When the Knesset is legislating more and more laws aimed at restricting the right to protest, this march will be an important challenge to them. When the government is insisting that Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and thereby thwarting any chance of holding peace negotiations, this demonstration will challenge the stasis.
After citizens of Arab states proved how correct and effective nonviolent protest can be, today's march will try to apply this principle to the battle for the rights of the Palestinian people as well. And at a time when Israel is closing itself off to a world that is growing ever more condemnatory of its behavior, this march can demonstrate that, in spite of everything, there is also another Israel from which other voices can still be heard, voices different from those of the anti-democratic nationalists who have lately been producing a vociferous, almost unanimous chorus.
It must be hoped that this march will pass peacefully, and that right-wingers will not try to sabotage it. Responsibility for ensuring this happens rests with the police. It must also be hoped that the march will indeed serve as a milestone for all those who seek peace and favor nonviolent protest, Israelis and Palestinians alike.