Friday, May 26, 2017

More than 50 Jewish anti-Occupation activists from around the world joined with Israelis on Wednesday in a non-violent demonstration in opposition to the annual March of the Flags, a violent event that celebrates the Israeli capture and occupation of East Jerusalem following the Six-Day War in 1967. During the course of the protest, ​several Israeli and international Jews were injured — including at least one person who suffered a broken arm — after refusing to allow the police to force Palestinian shops in the Old City to close.
​The activists intentionally formed a blockade as right-wing Israeli marchers began assaulting Palestinians outside the Damascus Gate. Once the blockade was formed, the protestors were stormed by a group of right-wing Israeli extremists. The Israeli authorities violently dispersed the activists. At least one American Jewish activist may have a broken arm and is en route to the hospital.
This year’s March of the Flags was especially symbolic, coming exactly 50 years after the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian territories began and just one day after President Trump visited the region. The activists were members of IfNotNow, Free Jerusalem, and All That’s Left, different organizations that are part of the growing anti-Occupation movement in the Jewish community.
“Over the past 50 years, the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian territory has become more and more entrenched, making the daily existence of Palestinians harder and harder. Today we acted to urge our community back home to shake off its complacency and join Jews around the world calling for an end to the Occupation,” said Talia Kravitz, an IfNotNow member who lives in New York.
The demonstration started in the early afternoon as dozens of Jews joined together to shop in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, knowing that just hours later these same shops would be forced closed by the Israeli authorities in order to clear the path for the right-wing extremists later in the day. They wanted to put their money where their hearts were. In the weeks leading up to Jerusalem Day, they canvassed stores in West Jerusalem and got more than 20 to put up signs in their windows opposing the forced closure of Palestinian shops. Two Jewish-owned stores in West Jerusalem even went as far as to strike, closing their own shops in solidarity with their Palestinian counterparts.
Following this act of economic solidarity, the activists used their bodies to block Israeli security forces from entering the Old City via the Damascus Gate. The organizers intended to stop one of the clearest ways that the Israeli state uses violence against Palestinians in service of right-wing Jewish extremists — a trend seen across the Occupied Territories.
Before it was ripped from their hands, they held a banner that read “End the Occupation” in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. They also sang songs in Hebrew and chanted slogans like “Now, now is the time; Jews must stand with Palestine.”
“Trump’s supporters are eerily similar to the sort of right-wing Jewish extremists who march through the Old City every year, chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’ and assaulting any Palestinian that happens to be in the area. Our community has seen that sort of racism and nationalism before, and we know how devastating the costs can be.” said ​Zoe Rudow, an IfNotNow member from Oakland.
There are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, and, according to the activists, the claim of a “unified” city hides the deep legal, economic, and political disparities between the Palestinian and Jewish residents of the city.
“For 50 years, Palestinians in Jerusalem have lived under an oppressive, unequal system. The illusion of ‘unification’ on Jerusalem Day makes the Palestinians living in the city invisible, and comes at the expense of their freedom of movement and livelihood,” said Uri Agnon, a member of Free Jerusalem and lifelong resident of Jerusalem.

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