Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Jerusalem has always been the capital “of the Jewish people alone, not of any other people” at a Jerusalem Day ceremony on Ammunition Hill, in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem on May 17.
“Jerusalem won’t become once again a wounded and bisected city,” he continued. “We will forever keep Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.”
Netanyahu pledged to “continue to build and nurture [Jerusalem], to expand her neighborhoods.”
The prime minister has long insisted that Israel must control East Jerusalem. In the same celebration in 2010, he maintained that “We cannot divide or freeze a city as vibrant and creative as Jerusalem – we will continue to build and be built by it” and averred “We are the generation which was lucky enough to see our holy sites liberated and returned to our hands, and it is upon us to transfer this right to our children.”
Jerusalem Day, celebrated every year on the 28th day of Iyar, the second month in the Jewish calendar, commemorates what Israel calls the “reunification” of Jerusalem.
Extremist Israelis mark the day every year by marching through the Old City of occupied Jerusalem chanting racist and anti-Muslim slogans like “Death to the Arabs.”
Journalist Charlotte Silver, reporting from the 2015 commemoration for The Electronic Intifada, interviewed Israelis who proclaimed “May they all [the Palestinians] die today, all together.” A young Israeli applauded Israel for liberating Jerusalem from “the donkeys.” Another expressed hope that the memory of the Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from Jerusalem will be “erased.”
Several hundred Israeli leftists protested the march, chanting slogans such as “Jerusalem will not be silent, outlaw racism.” The activists, largely from the left-wing organization Jerusalem Won’t Tolerate Racism, dubbed the demonstration a “march of hate,” and held signs reading “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” (red sign in Hebrew above) and “We are against incitement. We are against racism” (purple sign in Arabic above).
Decades of Illegal Occupation
Israel militarily occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. For decades, the United Nations has insisted that this occupation is illegal. “Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem and the surrounding West Bank hinterland contravenes international law. It is not recognized by the international community which considers East Jerusalem an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory,” the UN maintains, citing Security Council resolutions 252, 267, 471, 476, and 478.
“Since 1967, Israeli measures have altered the status of East Jerusalem and affected the residency status of Palestinians, their access to basic services, and their ability to plan and develop their communities,” the UN continues.
“Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem is illegal and occurs at the expense of land and resources for Palestinian construction and development, placing residents at risk of forced eviction, displacement and dispossession,” the UN also notes. “As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for administering the occupied territory for the benefit of the protected Palestinian population.”
Israeli police assaulted and broke the cameras of Palestinian journalists who were filming the Jerusalem Day protests. The reporters say they had the proper accreditation to film the march, but were attacked anyway.
A journalist reported that Israeli police evacuated the area and refused to allow anyone except Israeli settlers in.
Just a few days before, on 15 May, Israeli occupation forces shot a Palestinian journalist in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet. The man had been photographing a Nakba Day protest. He was wearing a gas mask, the glass of which the bullet shattered, wounding his left eye.