Left plans ‘vigils’ against Silwan march

Activists want to counter east J'lem march organized by Marzel on Sunday.

By ABE SELIG
March 18, 2010 03:12
3 minute read.
A resident protests plans to build a park in Silwa

silwan poster left 311 AJ. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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A contingent of left-wing activists will hold a series of vigils in Jerusalem’s southeast Silwan neighborhood beginning on Thursday, to counter a protest march that has been scheduled on Sunday and will be led by right-wing activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

One of the vigils, which one left-wing activist told the Post were part of an effort to “prevent the outbreak of violence” between the right-wing activists and residents of the mostly Arab neighborhood, will also take place on Friday with a few dozen participants, before culminating in a large counter-demonstration on Sunday, in which hundreds of people are expected to take part.

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Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco on Wednesday said that despite the violent clashes that rocked east Jerusalem again on Tuesday, the police decision to permit Marzel and Ben-Gvir’s protest march, which was announced last week, would stand, although this was “subject to change.”

Marzel himself told the Post on Wednesday that “at this point, yes, we are still planning on going ahead with the march, and we plan to arrive in Silwan on Sunday to tour the neighborhood and take note of the illegal construction in the area.”

Brushing off the scheduled left-wing protests, Marzel said they would “in no way affect our plans to march. However, if the police decide to cancel it [the right-wing march], we’re not worried. Sunday is not written in stone for us, and we will march there sooner or later.”

He added that the marchers – police authorized up to 70 people to participate when issuing the permit – were demanding the “equal enforcement of construction laws for Jews and Arabs” in the neighborhood, where the are hundreds of building violations and dozens of pending demolition orders.

While the vast majority of those demolition orders have been issued against Arab homes constructed without the proper permits, the Jewish-owned Beit Yehonatan complex also faces a court order to evacuate and seal the seven-story structure.

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That court order was the subject of a recent struggle inside city hall between Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and his legal adviser Yossi Havilio, who together with State Prosecutor Moshe Lador demanded that Barkat implement the order against Beit Yehonatan.

Marzel said the absence of similar pressure to carry out demolition orders against Arab-owned homes was “unfair” and that the march was meant to draw attention to the situation in Silwan.

“We want the same law to be applied to all people,” he said.

Left-wing activists on Wednesday denounced the march as “dangerous,” saying it was sure to spark violence given its “provocative nature.”

“These are people who are already terrified of demolition orders being carried out against their homes,” one activist said of Silwan’s Arab residents.

“And to march through the neighborhood and essentially declare that their homes should be demolished would be like marching through Gush Katif before the [2005 Gaza] disengagement and shouting, “Yes! Evict these people from their homes!” the activist said.

Members of the Elad Association, which operates the Ir David archeological center at the entrance to Silwan, have announced that they are against all such demonstrations in the neighborhood – Left and Right – and will ask MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) to intervene with Marzel and Ben-Gvir, who are his Knesset aides.

“We ask that activists from the Right and the Left avoid such activity and let us live in peace, as good neighbors, and without unnecessary provocations,” a statement from Elad Association read.

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