Waving a flurry of Israeli flags and chanting “Am Yisrael Chai!” some 30 right-wing activists led by Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir marched through the capital’s southeast Silwan neighborhood on Sunday morning, past a gauntlet of locals and left-wingers who had turned out to “greet” the marchers with flags and slogans of their own.
The police were present in force, both to escort the marchers and to “prevent any and all attempts to disturb the peace,” Jerusalem police spokesman Shmulik Ben-Ruby said before the march began.
But as the marchers made their way down Wadi Hilweh Street – a main thoroughfare through the predominantly Arab neighborhood – residents and left-wing activists, who had positioned themselves behind police barricades along the sides of the road, let out a barrage of drum beats, boos, slogans and the intermittent clanging of pots and pans.
“No, No, fascism won’t work!” they yelled. “Free Silwan! Silwan is not Hebron!”
Marzel and Ben-Gvir said their goal for the march was to “draw attention to the racist discrimination against Jews in the neighborhood” with regards to building rights.
Marzel and Ben-Gvir have been critical of a court order to evacuate and seal the Jewish-owned Beit Yehonatan building in the neighborhood, which was built without the proper permits, while, they say, hundreds of illegally built Arab homes there have escaped such scrutiny.
On Sunday, those claims resurfaced, as the two, backed by their crowd of supporters, declared that “illegal building in Silwan must be addressed,” and that “Arab stone-throwing will not prevent us from marching in Jerusalem.”
Marzel and Ben-Gvir, who successfully petitioned the High Court of Justice for the right to march in Silwan, also compared their efforts to those of left-wing activists in the northeast Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, where protests take place each week against Jews who have moved into houses that had been home to Palestinians before they were evicted by court order from the properties in favor of their Jewish owners, after lengthy lawsuits.
“These are the same people who demand freedom of speech when they want to protest, yet when I do it, they go crazy,” Marzel said of the left-wing activists after the march had concluded.
While the march lasted less than 30 minutes, clashes between Palestinian youths and security forces after it had concluded continued into the afternoon.
One Silwan resident was arrested and two police officers were lightly injured during those clashes, which saw scores of rocks and other debris scattered in the street near a protest tent that had been erected by locals and left-wing activists at the bottom of the neighborhood.
One policewoman was hit in the shoulder and taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, while a policeman was treated at the scene.
Earlier, dozens of masked Arabs had stoned cars in the neighborhood as police gathered there in growing numbers ahead of the march. Police also reported that Molotov cocktails had been hurled at the protest tent, which is dedicated to solidarity with the Arab residents.
Left-wing activists harshly criticized the marchers, whom they labeled “Kahanist bullies” and “thugs,” but said they hoped the march would put the spotlight on the neighborhood and the tensions there.
“We hope the Kahanist march in Silwan will raise awareness to the distress of Palestinian residents of the neighborhood, who are subjected to incessant violence at the hands of the settlers in the neighborhood and abused by the authorities,” demonstrators said.
They added that they were protesting “in order to stand with the residents throughout the provocation and ensure that police are defending the Palestinian residents from the Kahanist bullies.”
Two members of the extreme anti-Zionist haredi group Natorei Karta were with the left-wing activists, waving Palestinian flags and signs that said: “Not all Jews, only Zionists are the racists.”
“We’re here to show our support for the Palestinian people,” one of the Natorei Karta members told The Jerusalem Post. “And to say that without Zionism, none of this would be happening.”
Left-wing activists tried to conduct their own march toward the Givati parking lot at the entrance to Silwan, but were stopped by police and escorted back to the Shiloah pool. The protesters then threw a burning tire at the security forces.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked the Interior
Ministry to postpone the march, which coincides with US Middle East
envoy George Mitchell’s three-day visit to the region in hopes of
starting US-mediated “proximity talks” between Israel and the
However, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and Public Security
Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch turned down Netanyahu’s request on the
grounds that the High Court would not have granted it.
The right-wing activists, whose demonstration was postponed in March,
were asked to refrain from carrying weapons even if they had the
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.