Flag March: ICJP statement condemning ‘reckless’ and ‘racist’ event in Jerusalem

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) deplores the racist chants and harassment aimed at Palestinians and Arabs, plus the threats and attacks against journalists by Israeli settlers partaking in yesterday’s ‘Flag March’ in occupied East Jerusalem. The march took place as planned through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The flag parade is considered the main celebration of ‘Jerusalem day’ which marks Israel’s occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war, a move that is considered illegal under international law.

Palestinian and international journalists covering the event were targeted with threats and physical attacks. Israeli settlers threw projectiles including rocks, sticks and glass and plastic bottles. At least two journalists were hit in the head and wounded, while images and videos were circulated of journalists being forced to hide behind a wooden plank for protection. The systematic targeting of journalists is a key concern of the ICJP and events like yesterday feed into the hostile and toxic environment that journalists are forced to operate in. Thousands of Israeli police and paramilitary officers were deployed in the Old City to protect Israeli settlers, yet none intervened to protect journalists when attacked.

Racist anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab slogans were also chanted during the event, such as ‘Death to Arabs’, while a video of an Israeli settler shows her screaming “this is a Jewish country only, we don’t need Muslims here”. Additionally, Israeli settlers have also been captured on video physically attacking Palestinians. The provocation is intentionally orchestrated to create a culture of intimidation, superiority and domination by settlers over the city of Jerusalem. Through social coercion and police presence, Palestinian people living along the route in Occupied East Jerusalem were forced to shutter their homes and shops over fears of abuse.

These actions come less than a week after an uneasy ceasefire and it is particularly disappointing that the Israeli government is actively encouraging the provocative march, thereby recklessly stoking tensions and undermining the fragile ceasefire. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that the march was to go ahead along the original route, going through the Muslim Quarter. The annual march has grown in violence in recent years, with eighty-one Palestinian people injured during the 2022 event.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Miri Regev and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir participated in the march and the latter appeared on a stage, leading songs and chants. The current far right political leadership are committed to stirring up animosity and feeding into a politics of hatred, which is playing fast and loose with Palestinian lives.

The British consulate in Jerusalem expressed alarm at anti-Palestinian racist chants, as well as attacks on journalists, but calling on ‘all’ sides to ‘refrain from incitement and violence’ shows a complete divorce from reality. We at the ICJP are disappointed by the British consulate’s failure to draw a distinction between perpetrators and victims. Without substantive and meaningful action from Third States such as the United Kingdom, Israeli violence and subjugation of Palestinians will continue.