High Court Allows Jerusalem Day Parade to March Through Muslim Quarter

In recent years, the parade has been characterized by numerous acts of racism and violence against Arabs.

Jerusalem Day flag parade 2013.
Participants in Jerusalem Day parade, a show of strength for the religious right. Tali Mayer

The High Court of Justice on Monday rejected a petition filed against the planned route of the Jerusalem Day parade, and permitted the participants to march through the Old City's Muslim Quarter. At the same time, however, the justices declared that the police must arrest and indict any participants that shout racist slogans.

"With a heavy heart, we reject the petition," said Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, adding that he had a hard time viewing the videos sent along with the petition by the Ir Amim organization, videos that documented racism during the parade from previous years. The justices added that there "was no information provided about indictments issued in the past, and it was promised that enforcement efforts will be stepped up."

Justice Isaac Amit said during the petition hearing that the "time has come for zero tolerance for 'death to Arabs' chants, a slogan that has flown under the radar. Zero tolerance, including detainment, arrest and indictment." Justice Rubinstein added that those who chant death to Arabs can do so "behind bars." Justice Amit also recommended to the parade organizers that they call on rabbis to instruct their followers that shouting "death to Arabs" is an affront against God, and will result in expulsion for yeshiva students.

Jerusalem district police commander Maj. Gen. Moshe Adery was invited to the hearing and said that the police intend to document participants shouting racist slogans, arrest them and indict them as necessary. "There will be balance in terms of freedom of movement," said Adery, adding, "we will document, photograph, make arrests and hand files over to prosecutors. We denounce any and all racism and incitement, and are investing vast resources to ensure that the procession goes on peacefully."The petition was filed by attorney Itay Mack on behalf of Ir Amim, and Tag Meir (“Spreading the Light”), a coalition of organizations combating racism. The petition targeted the license given by the police to the parade, authorizing it to pass through the Muslim Quarter despite the fact that the procession disrupts the lives of residents who are forced to remain in their homes. In recent years, the parade has been characterized by numerous acts of racism and violence against Arabs, as well as damage to property at the hands of marchers.

"The respondents have found an unprecedented method here," said Mack during the hearing, "not to let people return to their homes. They are aware of the legal problems, and in the past, the police have opposed the parade route through the Muslim Quarter and agreed only after a campaign that claimed the Israel Police were dividing Jerusalem. The recommendations made to merchants their close their shops are familiar to us from similar recommendations made in American movies – it's an offer they can't refuse. They're told that they're responsible for the consequences if they don't close their shops."