A protest against the occupation, racism and political incitement was held in West Jerusalem on Saturday night, April 24, in the wake of week-long tensions that erupted into clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police on Thursday night, April 22, at the Damascus Gate in occupied Jerusalem’s Old City. The same tensions also manifested themselves in renewed rocket fire from the Gaza Strip towards southern Israel and responses by the latter’s military, ending 14 months of relative quiet attributed by observers to the coronavirus situation.
The Saturday night protest, organized by Peace Now, Hadash, Free Jerusalem and other groups, was held at Zion Square in West Jerusalem in response to the increased dissemination of racist ideology across the city in recent days. Hundreds of persons of all ages took part in the protest, hoping to voice a clear opposition to violence, racism and incitement, chanting “There’s no such thing as democracy with occupation” and “Jerusalem has no place for Lehava,” the Jewish fascist group that had fomented the confrontation at the Damascus Gate two days earlier. The rally called on Jews and Arabs to unite in the face of extreme racist ideology, a phenomenon which has recently resurfaced in Israeli discourse, in particular after Itamar Ben-Gvir, an active supporter of the racist ideology of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, entered the Knesset with PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s support.
Later, the Jerusalem protesters joined the weekly demonstration outside of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence on the city’s Balfour Street amidst his ongoing trial for corruption charges. There, at least three people were detained by police on suspicion of public disorder, according to multiple reports in the Hebrew-language press. Activists also accused the police of stopping and diverting buses carrying protesters at the western entrance to the city earlier Saturday, but the police later said in a statement that they had stopped only two buses and detained but two persons while all others were allowed to proceed to the weekly protest on Balfour Street.
The anti-Netanyahu protest group Crime Minister, one of the main organizers of the weekly demonstrations, said in a statement that the premier was “entrenched at the Balfour residence, refusing to accept the election results.” The group called Netanyahu “a corrupt leader at the end of his journey who feeds on the chaos and, for him, the world could burn as long as he escapes justice.”
Palestinians in West Bank and Israel Protest Jerusalem Violence
Protests by Palestinians in solidarity with their East Jerusalem compatriots were reported at a number of different locations throughout the West Bank on Saturday, April 24. The protests spread spontaneously following clashes that erupted late Thursday night, April 22, between police and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who had confronted a group of some 300 extreme-right Jewish activists, mostly from Lahava, who arrived at the scene chanting “Death to Arabs.” The Israeli police intervened to keep the two sides apart, but caused the injury of more than 105 Palestinians in doing so and arrested dozens. Earlier Saturday, police said they were gearing up for continued unrest following the Thursday night incident. By Saturday night, the Palestinian Red Crescent organization reported that six Palestinians had required medical care, including one taken to hospital for treatment, following renewed violence at the Damascus Gate, but did not specify how they were injured.
Saturday’s demonstrations by Palestinians included marches towards various Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. Near the Qalandiya crossing between Jerusalem and Ramallah, a spokesperson for Israel’s Border Police said its forces were confronting “about a hundred rioters brandishing firebombs, stones, and fireworks” and were responding using riot control gear. According to Palestinian media, in the northern West Bank, demonstrators hurled stones and burned garbage cans near Jenin’s Jalameh checkpoint, while close to Nablus’s Huwarra crossing there were also demonstrations. In the southern West Bank, protests were reported at Hebron’s Bab al-Zawiyeh checkpoint.
Inside Israel on Saturday, more than a two hundred persons protested far-right incitement and police violence in Umm al-Fahm in the north of the country, where they blocked the entrance to the Arab city and the main traffic artery running through it, Route 65. Additional demonstrations were held at Taybe and Jaffa on Saturday evening.