May 18, 2023 –Today, tens of thousands of Jews in Israel took part in the Jerusalem Day Flag March, a disgusting explosion of ethnonationalism and hatred that occurs every year in Jerusalem / Al-Quds.
As participants march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, they create havoc as they wave Israeli flags, sing messages of hateful violence, assault Palestinians, and destroy property. In order for this march to pass, the Israeli police enact what they call a “sterilization” of Palestinians from the Old City, shuttering their businesses, obstructing their movement, and removing as many Palestinians from the area as they can. It is a prime example of how Israel’s systems of apartheid and occupation affect Palestinians in Al-Quds / Jerusalem.
40 Jewish activists with CJNV took a variety of coordinated actions to combat the racist violence of the day and offer our support to our Palestinian partners in the Old City.
Photo credit: Emily Glick
Part of the delegation joined Free Jerusalem and All That’s Left for a direct action blocking settlers from accessing the city via an apartheid highway. We stopped settlers in their tracks for nearly an hour, before the police arrested 10 activists and dispersed the protest. An impressive number of journalists reported on this action across Israeli, Arab, Jewish, and international outlets. Oren Ziv, a journalist with +972, recorded a video of one of our delegates, Rabbi David Cooper, who said. “Fascism and racism are not my Judaism. I felt that I have a responsibility—a mitzvah—not to stand by idly. I want to be herein support of Palestinians, but I also want to be here in support of Judaism.”
Another group of CJNV activists walked around the Old City and Damascus Gate, documenting scenes of state-settler violence. At one moment just outside of Damascus Gate, the crowd erupted with celebratory song as fascist politician Itamar Ben-Gvir arrived. Marchers chanted in Hebrew, “Ooh, ahh! Who’s that coming? It’s the next prime minister!” as Ben-Gvir smiled and waved to the crowd.
Others joined a vibrant and powerful counter-protest near the Flag March parade route. They held signs supporting Palestinian liberation and opposing Jewish supremacy. When a number of activists at the protest brought out Palestinian flags, the police immediately rushed to them, confiscated their flags, and arrested them. While there is no official comprehensive ban on the Palestinian flag, displaying them is criminalized in practice, as Israeli police and military have far-reaching rights to remove them and often arrest activists for displaying them. This is the first of many examples we witnessed yesterday that demonstrate how Israel—on Jerusalem Day and at all times—seeks to criminalize and erase Palestinian identity from everyday life.
Other delegates documented state-settler violence near the African Community Society, a community of Afro-Palestinians that we visited and learned from earlier this week. As the police locked the community in an alley between two barriers, settlers stopped along their route and chanted in Hebrew, “May your villages burn!” Whenever this happened, police turned their back to the settlers and toward our direction so that they could continue to intimidate and surveil the Palestinian community. At one moment, the police threatened Palestinians in the community with violence and arrests solely because they were singing joyously and peacefully in Arabic. This is another example of how the state—working together with settlers—promotes a vision of Jewish supremacy where Palestinian identity is both criminalized and erased from everyday life.
Amid the terror of the day, Jewish delegates and Palestinians from the African Community Society also experienced deep feelings of joy, connection, and solidarity in each other’s company. People shared personal stories with each other, children played and drew and laughed a lot with our delegates, and the neighborhood cat immediately accepted and fell in love with everyone there. Members from the African Community Society told us how meaningful it was to spend time with Jews that stand with Palestinians in their struggle. And CJNV delegates commented on how powerful it was to witness the community’s resilience and be welcomed into their space. It was a day that was simultaneously horrific and beautiful—a day that illustrated with overwhelming clarity of the two paths that lay before us. At CJNV, we know that the only path to peace and justice for all is through collective solidarity.
On this particularly hateful day in Jerusalem / Al-Quds, it’s important for us to leverage our privilege, oppose Jewish supremacy, and provide solidarity and support to our Palestinian partners who are fighting for a life with dignity that is free from the injustices of Israeli apartheid and occupation.