Hundreds of Jewish supremacists march toward Jerusalem’s Old City chanting ‘death to Arabs’
Earlier, in Zion Square, police attempted to prevent members of the anti-assimilation Lehava group and other right-wing activists from attacking Israelis who came to protest the march
Nir Hasson | Apr. 22, 2021 | 10:27 PM - Haaretz.com
Hundreds of Jewish far-right activists have begun marching from Jerusalem’s Zion Square on Thursday’s night toward the Old City in what the anti-assimilation group Lehaava called a march to “restore Jewish dignity.”
The march comes after a week of violent assaults on Arab Israelis and Palestinian residents of central Jerusalem. The assaults began after a number of videos of Palestinians assaulting Jews in the area of Damascus Gate were posted on TikTok.
Police also arrested five Jewish suspects for suspicious behaviour - three minors and two adults - who were armed with tools, a hammer and a keffiyeh.
Police attempted to block the far-right activists, who were screaming “Death To Arabs” as they walked down Jerusalem’s city center, from reaching Damascus Gate, where Palestinian counter-protesters have gathered. They have since started using riot dispersal methods at both demonstrations, using smoke grenades and tear gas against Palestinians, while utilizing mounted officers to push back far-right activists.
Police have since started using stun grenades on Jewish protesters after they ignored a two-minute warning to scatter.
Despite police so far succeeding in staving off right-wing protesters, several violent incidents occurred Thursday night. A Palestinian woman was maced in her face by a Jewish man, and a man driving by in a car bearing an Israeli flag fired off a few rounds from a firearm near the Justice Ministry.
In the Old City, ultra-Orthodox youths were filmed throwing rocks and sticks at a Palestinian family’s home.
Earlier, in Zion Square, police attempted to prevent Lehava and other right-wing activists from attacking Israelis who came to protest the march as well.
Meanwhile, Palestinian social media posts called on people to come to Nablus Gate in order to defend themselves from “settler thugs." Police have since begun clashing with Palestinians who gathered near the Nablus Gate and in the Old City.
Police have also said that they arrested four Palestinian suspects near the Jaffa Gate who allegedly attacked a passerby. According to police, the person who was attacked left the scene and his identity remains unknown.
The Palestinian Red Crescent has also reported that one man was evacuated after suffering a head wound from Israeli Border Police gunfire. So far 25 have been wounded, their condition unknown, according to the Red Crescent.
Some Jewish far-right organizations posted instructions in WhatsApp groups on how to avoid arrest, while inciting violence and calling on members to carry arms.
At the same time, left-wing groups called on their supporters to come to an anti-violence protest, while lawmakers from the left beseeched the police to prevent the march from taking place.
Earlier in the evening, police said they trying to prevent young Palestinians from moving around the city center and are asking them to return to East Jerusalem.
Shin Bet operatives also called Palestinian activists in Jerusalem and warning them against taking part in Thursday’s counter-demonstration.
On Tuesday evening Arabs were once again attacked by dozens of young Jewish men. Several journalists were also assaulted by Jews, among them Suleiman Maswadeh of Kan broadcasting, and Yossi Eli from Channel 13. Eye-witnesses said that the police were too few to deal with the rioting and slow to respond.
Meanwhile the police continued cracking down on Palestinians in the area of Damascus Gate, dispersing groups with water cannons despite the absence of violence or provocation from the Palestinian gatherers. The entrance to Nablus Gate has been blocked by police since the beginning of the Ramadan earlier this month, preventing Palestinians from gathering in the area.
Far-right activists incited to violence and called on arming themselves in social media posts. In a message group, operated among others by far-right Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir, included a text saying: “The biggest nightmare of the Arabs, the only thing they won’t want to happen is that the Arabs will come up against a group of Kach supporters with clubs,” referring to the outlawed racist party.
Ben-Gvir later issued a statement, saying “We have made it clear, more than once and unambiguously, that Otzma Yehudit utterly opposes any kind of violence and I reiterate; we are against violence and must act according to the law.”
The Otzma Yehudit leader added that he does not have time to review all the texts posted to the groups he admins.
Another chat included the text: “Who needs clubs? We need Krav maga to hit them in sensitive enough places.” Another group posted: “If they don’t hang one of the attackers (one of the Palestinians who attacked Jews and filmed it) in the town square of Jerusalem, it won’t end.”
A text in a group of which Ben-Gvir is not a member of also had instructions on how to avoid arrest, saying “It’s best to come wearing a white shirt and black pants. Jerusalemites don’t bring your cellphone. Coming from outside Jerusalem? Best not to bring a cellphone if possible, or find a different cellphone. Don’t bring your own phone. Are you organizing via Telegram? Still, be careful and don’t write things that are too criminal or inciting. Did you already do that? Erase it…be careful when you pass the (Central Bus) Station with all kinds of self-defense means. Try to go around with a mask on your face, even in places were masks are not needed.”
Another text from far-right group La Familia’s chat said: “Burning Arabs today, Molotov cocktails are already in the trunk…the way I see it, an Arab dies today.”
MKs Mossi Raz of Meretz, Ofer Cassif of the Joint List and Gilad Kariv of the Labor party wrote the public security minister and the police commissioner, demanding that the police prevent the march from taking place and protect the Palestinian residents.
Jerusalem city council member Yossi Havilio called on earlier Jerusalemites to come to the city center to protest the violence and call the police if needed. The left-wing group Free Jerusalem and some of the activists in protests near the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street also said they intended to come to a protest against right-wing activists.