Israeli government officials including far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir joined tens of thousands of ultra-nationalists participating in Thursday’s inflammatory “Flag March” in occupied East Jerusalem, an event at which police and demonstrators attacked Palestinians and journalists while chanting slogans including “death to Arabs” and “your village will be burned.”
Ben-Gvir, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Transport Minister Miri Regev were among the Israeli officials who took part in the annual march, which celebrates Israel’s conquest and illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Marcher Limor Son Har-Melech, a lawmaker from Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, told The Times of Israel that she was participating to celebrate “our victory over the Arabs.”
When referring to the upcoming “Jerusalem Day” or flag day march, this is what we’re talking about: an anti-Palestinian hate fest that includes attacking homes, businesses & Palestinians. It is an exhibition of unadulterated hate and racism. Beyond inflammatory. Video from 2021 pic.twitter.com/A3y941NBUs
— Nour Odeh ???? #NojusticeNopeace (@nour_odeh) May 17, 2023
In Gaza, Israeli forces used live and “less lethal” munitions to break up a Palestinian demonstration that took place along the besieged strip’s border with Israel, according to Al Jazeera.
“We will not surrender and we will continue to demand our rights and defend our occupied lands and our sanctities in Jerusalem,” Palestinian protester Osama Abu Qamar told the Qatar-based news network.
The Jerusalem-based NGO Ir Amim called the Israeli demonstrations a “display of incitement, Jewish dominance, and racism.”
Israeli marchers threw rocks at journalists, hitting at least two reporters in the head and wounding them, Middle East Eye reports.
Us journalists are under attack by participants in the flag march in #Jerusalem.
They cheer every time they hit us with projectiles. pic.twitter.com/7XhEycalib
— R???????? ???????????????? (@rosiescammell) May 18, 2023
Middle East Eye said that marchers in Jerusalem’s Old City beat Palestinian residents, and when Israeli police intervened, they assaulted Palestinian victims under attack instead of protecting them.
March participants stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque – one of the holiest sites to both Muslims and Jews – and insulted the prophet Mohammed, who Muslims believe was the messenger of God.
Ofer Cassif, an Israeli lawmaker from the left-wing Hadash coalition, called the flag march a “violent parade presented as a joyous dance.”
“Rioting gangs backed by Ben-Gvir and the fascist government are bullying Arabs to show them who’s in charge, “Cassif told Haaretz. “This is disgusting Kahanism in its peak.”
Israel's right wing uses Flag Day to violently remind Palestinians each year that Israel will stop at nothing to kick them out of their own homeland.
They fly Israel's national symbol as a symbol of Palestinian exclusion.
— IMEU (@theIMEU) May 18, 2023
Cassif was referring to the Jewish supremacist movement once led by Meir Kahane, the Orthodox rabbi convicted of terrorism before being assassinated in 1990. Ben-Gvir was convicted in 2007 of incitement to racism and supporting the Kahanist terror group Kach after he advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
There were other Israeli marches in cities and towns including Lod – known to Palestinians as Lydda – site of a 1948 massacre and death march as Jewish militias seized control of the area.
Thursday’s marches came three days after, and stood in stark contrast with, Palestinians’ commemoration of Nakba Day, a remembrance of the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Arabs from over 400 villages – sometimes by massacres – during the foundation of the modern Israeli state in 1948. For the first time ever, the United Nations officially commemorated the Nakba.
Brett Wilkins is is staff writer for Common Dreams. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CommonDreams and is reprinted with the author’s permission.