Some 30 right-wing activists marched in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Sunday morning, carrying flags of Israel. They were accompanied by members of a special police unit armed with tear gas. The march ended about an hour after it began, with no injuries.
Moments before the march began, some 20 masked men hurled stones at the dozens of policemen deployed in the area. Jerusalem District Commander Aharon Franco arrived in the neighborhood as well and told Ynet that the police had deployed there with massive forces.
Two policemen were lightly injured from stones hurled at them during the march. A policewoman hurt in the shoulder was evacuated to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. One of the stone throwers was arrested.
Several of the neighborhood's Arab residents stood on the rooftops, some chanting, "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and "police, this is our Palestinian village". They were joined by children banging pans and pots. A Palestinian flag was waved by one of the residents.
Police officials said two Molotov cocktails were thrown at a protest tent in the neighborhood, without causing any injuries.
Marching under tight security (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Dozens of left-wing activists arrived in the neighborhood to support the Arab residents. They chanted, "Fascism won't work", "Jerusalem will not turn into Hebron" and "Judaizing Silwan –a crime against human beings".
Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer, who also arrived in the area, said that the march was "a dangerous provocation which may put the lives of the residents and police officers in danger."
He added that "both the mayor and the prime minister are adopting the Right's policy – and therefore this march is unnecessary."
Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir told Ynet, "We won't be deterred by the Arabs' stone throwing. We demand that the police handle the stone throwers highhandedly and not give those thugs a reward." Baruch Marzel said that "Arabs will not prevent Jews from marching legally in Jerusalem."
Veiled men throw stones (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Faraj Sufian, a neighborhood resident whose house was built illegally, told Ynet that "the residents of Silwan are eating their hearts out seeing their streets being trampled. Our illegal homes were built this way because the municipality won't let anyone build in this city, and the criminals are acting instead of the mayor."
After the right-wing activists left the area, a number of left-wing activists tried to march to the nearby Givati parking lot but were stopped by the police, who directed them to the Shiloach Springs, where a tire was set on fire. Police forces arrived in the area to prevent an escalation.
PM tries to delay march
On Saturday evening, the Prime Minister's Office asked the Internal Security Ministry to postpone the march by a few weeks due to US special envoy George Mitchell's visit to the region, but Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said there were no legal grounds to delay the parade.
The march has been postponed several times since being approved in principle last month, for fear that the riots in Jerusalem would repeat themselves.
The police gave permission to 70 right-wing activists to march 700 meters (about half a mile) for an hour, from the Givati parking lot to the center of the village. They were asked not to march with weapons.
Dozens of policemen deployed in the neighborhood, together with Border Guard officers. The police vowed to address any attempt to create a provocation with "zero tolerance". The Jewish residents of Beit Yehonatan, a building located in the heart of the neighborhood, asked the Jerusalem District commander last week to call off the march for fear of bloodshed.
"This rally was organized by extremist elements that are looking to provoke the Arab population in Jerusalem. Such activity at this time may ignite the city and hurt diplomatic efforts being led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assist the Americans in jumpstarting the peace process," the PM's Office said in a statement issued Saturday evening.
Other right-wing politicians criticized the march as well. "It's a shame that such provocations are taking place," Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu) told Ynet. "We shouldn't pay any attention to it. It's only 100 people engaged in a provocation. They should not be limited, but we must understand that it means nothing."
"Those conducting this parade want to divide Jerusalem," said Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima). "This is a cooperation of the extreme Left and the hallucinating Right, which seek to set the city on fire and divide it. Because I am a rightist I object to this bizarre parade."
Roni Sofer contributed to this report