The High Court of Justice has rejected a petition to bar the annual Jerusalem Day flag march from passing through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.
The petition, filed by the left-wing organization Ir Amim, had argued that letting the march pass through the Muslim Quarter would be even more offensive than usual to residents, because the holiday falls during the final days of Ramadan this year.
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Jerusalem Day marks Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in 1967, and every year tens of thousands of religious Zionist youths march through the Old City, including its Muslim Quarter. Since the anniversary is marked according to the Hebrew calendar, it will fall on June 2 this year.
But Justices Noam Sohlberg, Yael Willner and Ofer Grosskopf said they would not interfere with the police’s decisions on route marchers will take. “The current situation correctly balances between freedom of expression and the rights of those marching in the flag march, on one hand, and the collective and individual interests of Old City residents on the other,” the justices wrote in their ruling.
The decision, issued on Sunday, noted that there will be a large police contingent to protect both the marchers’ safety and Muslim Quarter residents’ daily routine. Police promised to prevent acts of violence and indictment by either the marchers or Old City residents, it added, but if any occur, legal steps will “obviously” need to be taken against the perpetrators.
In an unusual move, the justices also imposed court costs of 10,000 shekels ($2,800) on Ir Amim. The money will be paid to the police, the Jerusalem municipality and the march’s organizers.
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The march is organized by the Am K’Lavi organization.
The march traditionally runs through the western part of the city until it reaches IDF Square, at which point it splits in two: Women go through Jaffa Gate and the Jewish Quarter, while men go through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter. For the past two years, some marchers have also been allowed to circle the Old City walls.
Ir Amim has repeatedly petitioned against the march over the last few years, as well as against what it claims is the police’s laxness against incitement and displays of racism on the part of some of the marchers. Last year, the High Court sharply criticized the police over this, and the march went off relatively quietly, although some marchers chanted racist slogans.