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Palestinians asked to close their shops for Jerusalem Day

Jerusalem Day is not a celebration of a unified city, but rather a show of Israeli power, a reminder for the Palestinians that Jerusalem is an occupied city where non-Jewish residents don’t count.

Every year, Jerusalem Day brings a depressing shadow over East Jerusalem. While Israelis celebrate the “liberation” of the city, Palestinians mourn the beginning of a long journey of oppression and occupation. On Jerusalem Day, tens of thousands of Israelis right-wing activists are allowed to parade in the streets, Palestinians are told close their shops, remain in their homes and not bother the celebration.

An announcement distributed by the police in East Jerusalem requested that shop keepers (voluntarily) close down their shops by 5 pm on Sunday. The same document requires that all products viewed outside the shop be removed by 4 pm. The justification for these requests is justified by an attempt to “reduce potential tension” between the shop keepers and people “celebrating.” However as usual, the cost of reducing tension is paid for by the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.

Every year’s celebration of Jerusalem Day is full of provocation and attacks on the local Palestinian population. In the video below, you can see an example of what happens. First comes the famous slogan “Mavet Le’Aravim” (Death to Arabs), then physical attacks such as stone throwing. The police often tries to calm things down but Palestinians are often arrested even if beaten by the extremist marchers.

Imagine for a moment that Palestinians decide to celebrate their heritage in West Jerusalem and march through Jaffa and Ben Yehuda streets! Would they be given full police protection? Would the police dare to ask shops in West Jerusalem to close their doors to reduce tension?

I remember a few years ago I was in West Jerusalem when the “celebration” of Jerusalem Day started. Somehow, I forgot that I was supposed to return home early on that day to avoid harassment. Everyone knows you shouldn’t be on the streets on this day if you are a Palestinian, but I screwed up. The streets were closed to cars so I had to walk towards East Jerusalem only to be stopped by a policeman. After he checked my ID, frisked me, and asked a few questions he told me that I cannot walk to East Jerusalem. How pathetic, I thought. You are celebrating the unification of Jerusalem but you are stopping me from crossing the street to my home?

“There is a celebration and you are not allowed there,” he told me and then tried to convince me that it was for my own safety that he is preventing me from walking home.  So, I had to spend my evening sitting on the road in West Jerusalem unable to go home because this is the day that Israel celebrates Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital. Yet, I am being told to believe that I have equal rights, to believe that there is no difference between me and a Jewish resident of Jerusalem.

This is the reality for East Jerusalem, a poor and desperate place where its Palestinian residents find it harder and harder to make a living or travel freely.  In a recent report from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI),  78 percent of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and 84 percent of children are living below the poverty level. This is a deterioration from 2006 when 64 percent of Palestinians and 73 protest of children lived below the poverty level.

Jerusalem Day is not about a unified city but is about a show of power. It is a reminder for the Palestinians that Jerusalem is an occupied city where non-Jewish residents don’t count. Jerusalem Day is a sad day because Jerusalem ought to be a city of peace and not of conflict. Perhaps it is appropriate to end this post with this Psalm for the peace of Jerusalem:  “May those who love you be secure.”

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    1. David K

      Wow. Very sincere and real read. I feel for you, and I thank you for expressing this so eloquently. Labels are childish and hurtful, and false pretense by whole nations and international communities is confusing, and oppressive. What is the difference from Hitler, Polpot, Ghaddafi, and other dictators while today’s dictators do so with a velvet glove? I hope one day a nation shall not be called a national unless every other nation can be called so without provision and malice.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Jack

      Thanks for brining us these news.
      If world media would dare to present these despicable actions, the support for Israel would go rock bottom. Sanctions WOULD have been imposed.

      Reply to Comment
    3. max

      Thanks, Aziz, for a calm and sad reminder that the current daily situation shouldn’t be tolerated. Israel is failing where it has no reason to, as fair cohabitation does exist elsewhere.
      I join you in your closing remark, and hope for a unified Jerusalem with equal rights, duties and involvement to and by all its residents.

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      It doesn’t matter whether it’s unified or not; what’s important is that it should be peaceful. You only have to see it once to know that Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem strips all pretense off Israel. I’m so sorry, Aziz.

      Reply to Comment
    5. caden

      And before 1967 when the Jordanians were busy eradicating Jewish religious sites it was shangri la. Not to mention all residents of the Jewish quarter in 1948, or wiping out the doctors convoy on Mt Scopus. Yo uwant to go back in history you open it all up

      Reply to Comment
    6. This is not what Judaism means, to me, this is not what Zionism means to me. This is sheer moral corruption that must not be allowed to continue, even Ehud Olmert the former Likudnik says Jerusalem must be divided, let the madness stop. East Jerusalem is a Palestinian city and I will look forward to visiting the capital of Palestine soon

      Reply to Comment
    7. Rafael

      The Fascism checklist applied on Israel.
      1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – YES.
      2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – HELL YES.
      3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – YES. Palestinians, Africans, Iranians — you name it. There’s definitely no dearth of scapegoats.

      4. Supremacy of the Military – YES. They’re privileged in government resource allocation and soldiers are glamourized.
      5. Rampant Sexism – NO, not for now. But things are worsening for the women.
      6. Controlled Mass Media – NO.
      7. Obsession with National Security – DEFINITELY YES.
      8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – YES, and increasingly so.
      9. Corporate Power is Protected – IDK.
      10. Labor Power is Suppressed – IDK.
      11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – YES.
      12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – YES. At least when the crime is perpetrated by non-Jews.
      13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – YES. Israel’s score on the Transparency Index has deteriorated more than any other industrialized country’s — it is perhaps in the top 10 countries who’ve seen corruption worsen in the last 20 years.
      14. Fraudulent Elections – NO.

      Reply to Comment
    8. I found three stories on this today in the english-language Israeli online press. Oddly enough, the Haaretz story (by Nir Hasson, Oz Rosenberg, and Yair Ettinger) was the worst. The Jpost story (by Melanie Lidman) was better, and the best one was in the so-called ‘Times of Israel’ (by Mitch Ginsburg). Both Haaretz and JPost had small subsections on Ben-Ari & Co’s antics on the Mount. Haaretz said: “Ben Ari and two other right-wing figures prostrated themselves on the Temple Mount, where the Muslim Waqf does not allow Jews to pray.” JPost said: “Ben-Ari and a number of the other activists started praying out loud. Due to status quo agreements, Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount during certain hours but are not allowed to openly pray.” See the difference? Also, ‘Times of Israel’ was the only one of the three to make it clear that this whole jamboree is organised by Bnei Akiva.

      Reply to Comment