What happens if you accidentally find yourself in the middle of a mob of angry, chanting Israeli settlers?
The Jerusalem resident who runs the Instagram account Zalameh and the Twitter account @BDS4Justice (I’ll just call my correspondent “Zalameh”) found himself in that situation yesterday on Israel’s annual so-called “Jerusalem Day.”
He took the video above of a Palestinian man running from angry settlers who were chanting “Am Yisrael Chai” (“the Jewish people lives”) and throwing stones at him.
Each year, Israel celebrates what it calls the “unification” of Jerusalem – when Israeli forces conquered the eastern half of the city in 1967 and began subjugating its population to military rule and colonial settlement.
Israel considers Jerusalem Day a national holiday: several events are organized during the day culminating with the so-called “dance of the flags,” a parade of thousands of chanting Israelis marching from the west of the city, entering the Old City through the Damascus Gate, across the heart of the Arab quarter and ending at the Western Wall.
In 2011, for instance, video recorded settler mobs chanting such things as “Let your village burn,” “Death to Muhammad” and “Death to all leftists.”
Meanwhile, as Israelis dance, Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem have little to celebrate. The human rights group B’Tselem reported this week that up to 80,000 Palestinians have been without regular supplies of running water since March.
“The fact that tens of thousands of people have been cut off from the water system is but another outcome of the severe and ongoing neglect of the residents of Jerusalem neighborhoods separated by the Separation Barrier from the rest of East Jerusalem,” B’Tselem said. “The construction of the barrier and the isolation of these neighborhoods have led to a state of neglect even more severe than that endured by east Jerusalem neighborhoods for decades.”
“Fascism and bigotry”
Zalameh, who has witnessed the parade for several years, notes that from early in the morning buses arrive in Jerusalem carrying Israelis from across the country, including settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Occupation forces seal the city, establish flying (temporary) checkpoints and confine Palestinians to designated areas. A general curfew is imposed in the Old City for Palestinians only, as the parade passes through. This photo by Zalameh shows such a checkpoint in operation yesterday:
Only two years ago, Zalameh says, the route of the parade was changed to march through the Old City and the Arab quarter, another measure he sees as part of the wider escalation against Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Some compare Jerusalem Day to the worst days of the triumphalist marches held by Protestant loyalists through predominantly Catholic nationalist areas of Belfast that were for years major provocations and flashpoints for violence in Ireland.
Zalameh calls Jerusalem Day a “state-sponsored festival of fascism and bigotry.”
This week, fearing that Israel would use the marches to “escalate threats against Al-Aqsa Mosque, the shabab [young men] had barricaded inside the mosque the night before, anticipating the daily armed incursions of Jewish zealots into the compound,” Zalameh says.
“Clashes had taken place in the morning as the army invaded (once again) the Al-Aqsa compound and arrested a number of youth.”
“Spot the Arab”
This “Jerusalem Day,” Zalameh says, “I found myself inside the parade, something I did not expect.” This is what happened:
Having been minutes earlier in Salah al-Din Street, where heavily armed Israeli soldiers were attacking a protest by Palestinian youth opposing the occupation, I decided to head towards Damascus Gate to witness the parade passing. As expected, the roads were fully blockaded and it was impossible for me to reach the parade. I then decided to take a less direct route only to be stewarded into the parade, seemingly being confused for an Israeli. I went along not knowing exactly what to do.
Being the only non-Jew in the middle of what I can only describe as a Jewish supremacist hate-fest made me realize firsthand just how far to the right Israeli society is. The people around me were not a fringe in Israeli society – they were Israeli society, representing all walks of life, from the very young, to the older generation, from the ultra-Orthodox, to nationalist religious and seculars, intoxicated with the nationalist zeal which is typically reflected in Israeli daily life and culture, in the Knesset and routine pronouncements by elected Israeli leaders. I saw a society which is drunk with power and capable of inflicting the worst against “the other” – the Palestinians – should that need arise.
While inside the parade, I kept thinking what could happen to me if they realized that I was not “one of them,” such was the mood. Moments later I realized that that they were playing what it seemed to me the “spot the Arab” game – if one Arab was seen, a call was made to the crowd and the mobs moved to charge against the person, with no reaction whatsoever from the Israeli forces.
This is what happened on two occasions where passing Palestinians were charged against and attacked. I documented and posted on my instagram one such instance [the video at the top of the post], filmed from the perspective of the attackers as I was inside the parade itself. As you can see from the video the crowd move mercilessly against the terrified man who managed to run away.
As I was leaving the Old City at 10pm, the Israeli army was conducting house-to-house searches and arrests in the Bab Hotta neighborhood, while lobbing sound bombs at resisting residents. In the background were the deafening sound of the “celebrations” at the Western Wall. Such is Jerusalem, a city of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
In this image by Zalameh, Israelis carry a sign reading “The Temple is the heart of the nation.” Many Jewish extremists want to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and build a Jewish “Third Temple” in its place.
Images of hate and violence
There are more traces of the hate and violence of yesterday’s “Jerusalem Day” on social media.
A video shows a crowd of young Israeli men in the Old City of Jerusalem chanting “Muhammad is dead” – an expression of religious hatred against Muslims:
Another video posted on “Jerusalem Day” shows Israeli occupation forces dragging a young Palestinian woman along the ground:
This brief report by EuroNews shows says “scuffles broke out” between Israeli forces and Palestinians after the settlers entered the Old City. It apparently shows the same woman moments before she was dragged on the ground. It also shows an occupation soldier holding a Palestinian youth in a choke hold:
Video of a Palestinian man identifying himself as a doctor trying to reach a sick patient arguing with occupation forces preventing him and other Palestinians from entering Salah al-Din street, the main thoroughfare in eastern occupied Jerusalem:
Man attacked at Al-Aqsa
This video from YouTube shows Israeli occupation forces roughing up and throwing to the ground an elderly man outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque on 27 May, the day before “Jerusalem Day,” when tensions were already high:
The Instagram account almasjidalaqsa shows what appears to be the same man being taken away by medics and being treated for injuries. It names him in a caption as Abu Hani al-Sharif: