Israeli High Court Petitioned to Reroute Jerusalem Day March to Bypass Muslim Quarter

Racist chants and vandalism by right-wing marchers have marred controversial 'flag parade' in recent years.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Israeli youths hold their national flag as they take part in the 'flag march' through Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City during celebrations for Jerusalem Day on May 17, 2015.
Israeli youths hold their national flag as they take part in the 'flag march' through Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City during celebrations for Jerusalem Day on May 17, 2015.Credit: AFP
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The Ir Amim non-profit group and Amir Cheshin, the former Arab affairs adviser to Jerusalem’s mayor, have filed an urgent petition with the High Court of Justice, calling on the court to prohibit next Sunday’s flag parade from passing through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

This annual parade is held by religious Zionist youth every Jerusalem Day and is always a source of tension, with tens of thousands of marchers passing through this part of the Old City.

In previous years there were documented instances of racist insults hurled by marchers at Arabs, as well as cases of vandalism. Tensions are even higher this year since the march may clash with Muslim prayers on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. Two days ago, march organizers and the police agreed to hold the march earlier in the day in order to reduce the risk of clashes, if Ramadan begins on that day (only on Sunday will Muslim clerics decide whether the fast will commence the following day, based on the time of appearance of the crescent moon).

Human rights attorney Itay Mack filed the petition, writing that “this decision [on the route] is extremely unreasonable and seriously impinges on basic rights that have long been recognized by this honorable court, such as the freedom of worship and the movement of worshippers, of residents and merchants within the Muslim Quarter and outside it.”

Last year a similar petition was filed and rejected. The court noted at the time that the police must show zero tolerance toward racist calls, particularly “Death to the Arabs,” which has been increasingly heard in recent years.

According to the present petition, despite efforts made by parade organizers, marchers last year did cry out “Kahane lives” and “Mohammed is dead,” as well as sing a song of revenge against Palestinians. The plaintiffs admit that very few cries of “Death to the Arabs” were heard.

“For Palestinian families locked up inside their homes during the parade it doesn’t much matter whether the chants relate to their death or to revenge and the expunging of their memory,” reads the petition.

The petitioners are asking the court to instruct the police to reroute the parade so that it passes through the Jewish Quarter, through which female marchers walk in any case.

The Am K’lavi non-profit group, which has been organizing the flag parade for 25 years, responded that “the petitioners are extreme leftists whose only goal is to create divisions and exclude Jews from the Old City of united Jerusalem. We’re sure that as in previous years this provocative petition will be denied. We deal in positives, not negatives. We’ll continue to rejoice on Jerusalem’s day of celebration by dancing with flags throughout the city.”

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