When the police officer wrenched back my arm I couldn’t tell if it was breaking. Now I am more sure than ever of the need for more direct action for equality between Jews and Palestinians.
By Ori Weisberg / Haaretz
May 31, 2017
“At the fall of your enemy, do not rejoice; at his stumbling, do not gladden your heart” (Prov. 24:17)
No day of the year demonstrates the division of Jerusalem like Jerusalem Day, which was marked last week. Most Israelis see it as marking the city’s “liberation” and “unification,” but Palestinians, who make up a third of the population, and a minority of Israelis, see it as the beginning of its occupation.
The Jerusalem municipality annually authorizes a march through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, shutting it down for the protection of its residents. These Jerusalemites are forced to sacrifice a half day’s revenue, which many of them sorely need, while marchers punctuate their songs with chants like “Death to Arabs!”, “Mohammed was a pig!”, “Burn the villages!”, and “Burn the mosques!” Residents are locked into or out of their homes for the duration while marchers bang on the metal shutters of their closed storefronts, often causing damage that they must repair at their own cost. Even if such a march proceeds peacefully, it would be still be experienced by Palestinians as a form of violence.
The Muslim Quarter was never part of biblical Jerusalem, but was included by Suleiman the Magnificent’s 16th-century expansion of the walls. It has no religious or historical significance for Jews looking to connect with antiquity. The march could easily proceed around to enter the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall to celebrate its liberation. Life in the Muslim Quarter would continue apace. Shopkeepers might even benefit from increased revenue due to the traffic. But instead, they are closed down for their own safety.
This closure is justified by a tacit acknowledgment that the marchers are a threat to the residents. In order to protect them from what might very well escalate into a pogrom (a term I do not employ lightly), they are penalized, their neighborhood sealed off, and incarcerated inside their homes, while others, many of whom don’t live in this city or even in this country, can celebrate the city’s putative unification and liberation.