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The one day Jerusalem's Palestinians fear the most

I remember the nightmare of Jerusalem Day as a child in the Muslim Quarter: the right-wingers rampaging through the alleyways, the racist slogans, the police standing by, and my father staying home from work to guard our home.

By Suleiman Maswadeh

Israel youth walk during Jerusalem Day March held by Israeli nationalists that celebrate 48 years for the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, in Jerusalem's old city, May 17, 2015. The march is termed by the nationalists the Flag March. Activestills.org

Israel youth walk during Jerusalem Day March held by Israeli nationalists that celebrate 48 years for the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, in Jerusalem’s old city, May 17, 2015. The march is termed by the nationalists the Flag March. Activestills.org

Jerusalem Day is approaching, and with it my anxiety. Since I was a young boy, Jerusalem Day, in which Israelis mark what they call the “reunification” of West and East Jerusalem, is a difficult and strange day for me. A day of rage, grief, and lack of security.

In my childhood I witnessed right-wing Israelis violently rampaging through the Old City, and especially in the Muslim Quarter where I lived. These rampaged only intensified over the years, due to the security situation as well as the leniency of the authorities. Those who celebrate Jerusalem Day know full well that these kinds of actions are an outright provocation toward the city’s Muslim inhabitants. This is especially felt in the Muslim Quarter.

Take the day off

The violence usually takes place right under the nose of Israeli security forces. Right-wing extremists provoke us by aggressively banging on our doors and target young Arabs. The reason is simply: they know that the young are easily riled up. And if anyone dare think of responding, we all know who the police will believe. The rampages end with a giant march through Damascus Gate, during which Israelis are accompanied by a large police presence. The truth is they don’t need the police; most of them are armed with automatic rifles, and can eliminate any threat. After all, they already have permission to do so.

50 Years Too Many in-text banner

My parents would forbid me from leaving the house on Jerusalem Day. They told me that the intense heat could give me heat stroke. I do not know how my mother thought that this was going to convince a child like myself; after all, it was clear to me as a young kid that the weather was perfect for, say, a family outing. I know that there was something wrong with their claim, and the Hebrew songs being sung under our home, along with a dramatic increase in traffic in our neighborhood, was enough of a reason to understand that this was far more serious that a “hot day.” Over time I understood that my family forbade me from going outside because they wanted us to protect our home. It was no coincidence that my father took a day off on Jerusalem Day, spending all day in front of the television and the window with a newspaper and cup of coffee.

Today I try to avoid Jerusalem on this day. I do my best to go places that can help me forget the fact that I live in Jerusalem. Two years ago, I spent the day with a Hebrew book on the beach, reading and translating all the new words I was learning. But now I developed a new habit that has changed my life: I take my computer, go to the beach, and write every thought that comes to mind.

Like a cancer

Israeli policemen arrest as Palestinian youth, outside Jerusalem's old city, as Palestinians protest against the flags march, May 17, 2015. The march marks 48 years for the occupation of East Jerusalem.

Israeli policemen arrest as Palestinian youth, outside Jerusalem’s old city, as Palestinians protest against the flags march, May 17, 2015. The march marks 48 years for the occupation of East Jerusalem.

I know that the demonstrations, the racist marches, the anti-Arab slogans (“Jews have a soul, Arabs are sons of bitches”) will never end on this day. The police is not interested in confronting the extremists, meanwhile the government doesn’t want to be seen as sympathetic to Arabs. Thus, no one takes any proactive steps to stop the incitement, which only causes the situation to worsen. In fact, at the end of Jerusalem Day, the police set up a giant, blue human wall to prevent confrontations between Palestinian residents and the celebrants, who paralyze an entire city to celebrate this day.

On Jerusalem Day, you will be able to hear politicians on both the right and the left who pretend to celebrate this day, emphasizing that Jerusalem is a special city, despite those who don’t see it as a unified city. I, on the other hand, invite all these politicians to take a short tour of Jerusalem to show them the obvious: that Jerusalem is not unified — it is shattered to pieces. One side enjoys modernization, while the other is the victim of deliberate policies of neglect, poverty, and crime that take over the Arab neighborhoods like a cancer in the body.

Suleiman Maswadeh is an activist who studies political science and communications. This article was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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    1. Firentis

      Banging on doors and screaming incendiary slogans? I believe here in these parts it is called non-violent protest.

      The presence of Jews in the city is an “outright provocation toward the city’s Muslim inhabitants”. Get used to it.

      Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      (1) Anyone who harasses the Arab residents of the area should be arrested. In recent years the organizers now have people to make sure such incidents do not occur.

      (2) Having said this, I have two comments. First of all, individual Jews who more around the Arab-populated areas of the Old City have been frequently assaulted and sometimes murdered. Thus, the problem of violence in the area more is much more directed AT Jews than comes FROM Jews.
      Secondly, the Jordanians controlled the Old City from 1948-1967. In the armistice agreement they signed with Israel they promised to allow Jewish access to the Western Wall. They never honored that agreement and, in fact, destroyed all the yeshivot, synagogues in the Old City and the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. They really blew their chance to prove how “tolerant” they are and how much they respect Jews and Judaism (if not “Zionists”). So I don’t see how they are in a position to lecture us Israelis about tolerance.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Firentis and Ike52, you know as well as I do that absolutely no Jewish harasser of Arab residents is going to be arrested, or if they are, that it will be anything but cosmetic or that any charges will be made to stick. We know about Israeli impunity and overlordism, we know about the demeanor of masters. Firentis, your portrayal–of a massive column of invading men aggressively parading through neighborhoods and backed up by a massive army and police, yelling and screaming and banging on doors like a torchlight parade from 80 years ago, as the equivalent of protesting peace activists (facing troops with rifles and grenades and gas, troops who come in the night and violently tear down protest camps)–is ludicrous. All the dishonesty of the right wing efforts in these pages is therein encapsulated.

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          It is the equivalent of one of those 972mag venerated Palestinian “non-violent protest”, except you know, actually non-violent, with no rocks or molotov cocktails being thrown and no lynching attempts. But wait! Oh my god! Will there be yelling and screaming? Oh that is so horrid. How can yelling and screaming be tolerated!?!? They might even scream or yell something that Ben disagrees with or something that might actually be incendiary. Not, mind you, as incendiary as ‘Kill the Jews’ but still how dare they yell or scream anything! Their very presence is a provocation to Ben. And the mere thought they might actually have voices and might use them to say something loudly!? Inconceivable. There might even be dancing in the streets! Dancing! Don’t they know that is a provocation?!?! Oh these Jews. How dare they?

          Apparently marches and protests are great when it comes to Palestinians marching anywhere, but heaven forbid Jews actually march in their holiest city. Double standards much?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The marching right wing Jews in Jerusalem are not protesting anything.
            They are masters come to intimidate and strike fear and humiliate. It is an exercise in sadism. It is quite disgusting that these same people expect the United States to support this, and these same people would be the first people to be outraged at neo-fascists marching similarly through Skokie, Illinois.
            The West Bank protesters are protesting. Genuinely. Against a powerful, totally dominating overlord. There is simply no comparison if one is honest.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            They are protesting and demonstrating. The Palestinians demonstrate and protest to insist on their claim to all of ‘historic Palestine’. The Jews demonstrate and protest to insist on their claim to Jerusalem and ‘the Land of Israel’. The Jews protest and demonstrate to bring attention to the following issues: (1) Jews are still prevented from praying at their holiest site – the Temple Mount (2) Jews are prevented from building in their holiest city – Jerusalem (3 The US and most of the international community hasn’t recognized Israel’s claim to Jerusalem (4) There are many countries that insist that Israel hand over the Old City of Jerusalem to Arab control.

            If one is honest one accepts that both sides have reasons to demonstrate their presence and resolve because there is an ongoing conflict. But no one expects you to be honest.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Jews are prevented from building in their holiest city – Jerusalem”

            What an absurd reversal of the truth. Really perverse. I repeat: The tenor and spirit of the Jerusalem marches are to intimidate and strike fear and humiliate. With the demeanor of the overlord. Of the master. To show who’s boss. To call this a “protest” is then to reveal exactly how Israeli Jews view their dominion over Jerusalem and the West Bank–as lords and masters who have the “right” to subjugate and push out and discriminate at every turn against non-Jews. In a racist state, a Feiglinist “truly Jewish popular democracy,” a nationalistic Judaistic tyranny. The Jerusalem marches are the precise expression of that:

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Construction has been frozen for Jews and only for Jews in many Jerusalem neighborhoods for the past 8 years. It is pretty perverse that people that rail all day about human rights and against discrimination support keeping Jews out of certain neighborhoods and are angered by the idea of Jews buying and living in some neighborhoods of Jerusalem. It really shows how their activism is driven by their hatred of Jews and Israel rather than any actual real commitment to human rights and equality.

            All protests and demonstrations are a political display of power. The Palestinians quite often march with slogans such as “Kill the Jews”, “Khaybar Khaybar oh Jews, the army of Mohammed will come back”, “With soul and blood we will redeem you Palestine”. But all those aren’t meant to intimidate, strike fear or humiliate.

            Ben, like the author of the article has a problem with Jews marching. It isn’t what they say or do that bothers him, but the fact that they are there in the first place.Their presence and existence in Jerusalem is the “provocation”. It is a “provocation” to the author and to Ben because it is a forceful demonstration of the fact that Jews are in Jerusalem, they intend to stay in Jerusalem, and that the Arabs have failed to dislodge them. In the mind of the author the only kind of Jerusalem that wouldn’t “trigger” him is one that is entirely Judenrein.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Firentis: I think that very sentence here drips with a multilayered dishonesty. Every sentence warrants a thesis in what is said and not said.
            This summarizes only one layer of that dishonesty:
            Just the base of the pyramid, really.
            Oh how the occupier plays the victim! But you know, that’s been an essential and routine part of the Israeli tool kit of oppression, dispossession and denial. “It’s because we’re Jews.” Routine entitlement, manipulativeness and self-deception.

            I’m with Nina: “I’m here because it’s important to support Israel, not the occupation,” said leftist protester Nina Morris-Evans. “When the police clears the area to let them march and shout ‘Death to Arabs,’ I cannot identify with the Jewish people.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            You are obsessed with occupiers and victims. There are individuals marching as a group as an expression of their religious and political beliefs. You would support such a march/demonstration if they were Arabs even if their slogans were more provocative and even if they turned to violence. In the case of Jews your reaction is the opposite — that their marching is illegitimate. So, yes, your problem with them is that they are Jews.

            And no I am not going to click on the link of European-funded pro-Palestinian propagandists or trust absolutely anything they have to say. They are not going to mention that Israeli construction in Jerusalem was frozen and/or curbed during the past eight years. They are not going to mention the harassment that Jews go through to go up to their holiest site. They are not going to mention the massive amounts of illegal Palestinian construction that goes unchecked in Jerusalem on a daily basis. They are not going to mention Palestinians buying and moving into apartments in Jewish neighborhoods. But suffice it for a Jew to buy and move into a house in Jerusalem in an Arab neighborhood and they will put out a report dripping with hatred and condescension. Everything that comes out of B’tselem is pure propaganda created for the purpose of pro-Palestinian activism and paid for by the Europeans.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Willem Sassen

      The author is absolutely correct. Jews in Jerusalem are a cancer

      Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        You do not understand anything in Judaism. It is our beloved capital. We prayed for it thousands of year. Now it is united and we celebrate this week the 50th anniversary of its liberation.

        Reply to Comment
        • Willem Sassen

          peace will only come when Jews are resetled in Eastern Europe. Perhaps Soros can fund it

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Eastern Europe…perhaps Soros can fund it”

            Dead giveaway. ‘Willem Sassen’ is a right wing troll who appears here from time to time under the guise of a leftist anti-Semitic nutcase or notorious Eastern European war criminal or some such nonsense. His purpose is to smear the left by “agreeing” with +972 authors using a sick, twisted, extremist pose.

            ‘Sassen’ I would advise you to apply for a job with a Russian fake news dezinformatsiya outfit and you could get paid for your efforts but I think they would correctly judge you a hopeless amateur.

            Reply to Comment
          • Willem Sassen

            Every comment I make here is pre-approved by 972 before it is posted. The fact that my comments are posted is because the editorial staff feels that I contrbute to the conversation. Too bad you are not man enough to refute me, and instead spin conspiracy stories and call me a troll. Come out to the battle of wits and refute me, pajama boy

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “because the editorial staff feels that I contrbute to the conversation”

            As I was saying. Way too transparent. It’s interesting how it’s the right not the left that feels the need to engage in these utterly cheesy Oren Hazan-goofball-like slander operations. Bordering on slapstick. It says something about the right wing that it does stuff like this. Meanwhile, +972’s sterling record continues uninterrupted.

            Reply to Comment
          • Willem Sassen

            This is the type of thing you are- truly pathetic so it is no surprise you are universally loathed
            In the chapter titled “Judaism” in his book Sex and Character Ben Otto Weininger writes:

            The Jewish race has been chosen by me as a subject of discussion, because, as will be shown, it presents the gravest and most formidable difficulties for my views.
            I must, however, make clear what I mean by Judaism; I mean neither a race nor a people nor a recognised creed. I think of it as a tendency of the mind, as a psychological constitution which is a possibility for all mankind, but which has become actual in the most conspicuous fashion only amongst the Jews. Antisemitism itself will confirm my point of view.
            …Thus the fact is explained that the bitterest Antisemites are to be found amongst the Jews themselves.
            The true concept of the State is foreign to the Jew, because he, like the woman, is wanting in personality; his failure to grasp the idea of true society is due to his lack of free intelligible ego. Like women, Jews tend to adhere together, but they do not associate as free independent individuals mutually respecting each other’s individuality.
            As there is no real dignity in women, so what is meant by the word “gentleman” does not exist amongst the Jews. The genuine Jew fails in this innate good breeding by which alone individuals honour their own individuality and respect that of others. There is no Jewish nobility, and this is the more surprising as Jewish pedigrees can be traced back for thousands of years.
            The familiar Jewish arrogance has a similar explanation…
            Later, in the same chapter he writes:

            The faults of the Jewish race have often been attributed to the repression of that race by Aryans, and many Christians are still disposed to blame themselves in this respect. But the self- reproach is not justified. Outward circumstances do not mould a race in one direction, unless there is in the race the innate tendency to respond to the moulding forces; the total result comes at least as much from a natural disposition as from the modifying circumstances.
            The Jew is not really anti-moral. But, none the less, he does not represent the highest ethical type. He is rather non- moral, neither good nor bad.
            So also in the case of the woman…
            …In the Jew and the woman, good and evil are not distinct from one another.
            Jews, then, do not live as free, self-governing individuals, choosing between virtue and vice in the Aryan fashion…
            Accordingly, Weininger’s views are considered an important step in attempts to exlude women and Jews from society based on methodical philosophy, in an era declaring human equality and scientific based thought.[15]

            Reply to Comment
    4. Joshua Fisher

      Some people like a pogrom mood, as long as they’re not on the victim side. Sick.

      Reply to Comment