Every year, Israel’s far-right nationalist religious camp, currently headed by Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, celebrates Israel’s 1967 conquest of East Jerusalem by parading through Palestinian neighborhoods.
After militarized police units clear the parade route of Palestinians, even from the Muslim Quarter, thousands of Israelis assert their territorial and religious claims to the city with a massive march, dancing and singing victory songs.
The “Jerusalem Day Flag Parade” has long been an annual excuse for Jewish dominionists – those who seek to transform Israel from a democratic ethnocracy into a theocratic ethnocracy – to treat the Palestinians of Jerusalem as they generally treat Palestinians in the rest of the occupied West Bank. That is to say, as detested temporary guests whose eventual planned expulsion is openly discussed.
This year, the flag paraders were bolder about their plans for ethnic cleansing than ever before.
Stickers saying “Kahane was right” – a reference to the late Israeli lawmaker Meir Kahane – are a regular sight at the parade, but this year they were more popular than in previous years.
In the 1980s, when few talked about it openly, Kahane evangelized for the idea of total expulsion of the Palestinians.
It has long been common for marchers to belt out racist songs, including “Zachreni Na,” with its call for ethnic cleansing: “Palestine – May their name be wiped out!”
This year, however, it seemed as if that song was the official anthem of the parade, repeated ecstatically countless times.
As usual, Palestinians who protested the provocations were quickly ejected from the area with force. This year, a small group of liberal Jews tried to block the parade route by linking arms and sitting down at the entrance to the Old City’s iconic Damascus Gate.
Israeli occupation forces removed them from the area with force as well, after first expelling the press, so that the bulk of the violence could occur off camera and go unrecorded.
As in the past, the march ended at the Western Wall plaza – created by Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem’s ancient Moroccan Quarter in the first days of the occupation – where Bennett and other Israeli leaders heaped praise on guest of honor, US businessman Simon Falic.
The Falic family was ostensibly honored for their financial contributions to the so-called Western Wall Heritage Foundation. But they could just as easily have been feted for having been the top funders of Lehava, an anti-miscegenation group that works to prevent mixed marriages between Jews and Palestinians.
The far right’s vanguard group, Lehava’s presence at the march notably increases each year.