Over 100 Palestinians and 20 Israeli police were injured in a far-right Israeli protest in occupied East Jerusalem.
Israeli demonstrators were seen chanting “death to Arabs” and carrying banners that read “death to terrorists”. Sky News reports that this was the worst incident of violence in 2015 with Israel’s police responding by arresting over 50 protesters, both Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian Red Cross has reported having treated 105 protesters with over 20 needs to be hospitalised.
— Oren Ziv (@OrenZiv1985) April 23, 2021
Al Jazeera reports that tensions have escalated since the start of Ramadan on 13 April, with Palestinians complaining that Israeli police were blocking access to the promenade around the walls, which was a popular meeting space for Palestinians. Whilst Israel’s police maintain this was to ensure safe access to the main Islamic prayer site in the Old City, known as the Noble Sanctuary; Palestinian residents have disagreed.
Palestinians love to relax in this area after evening prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, but the occupation [Israel] doesn’t like it. It’s a matter of sovereignty,” said Jerusalem resident Mohammad Abu al-Homus.
This latest spate of violence was reportedly incited by the circulation of a Tik-Tok video showing a Palestinian slapping a Jewish passenger on a Jerusalem train in an apparently unprovoked assault.
Responses to the violence
In responding to the violence, global communications chief for the American Jewish Committee, Avi Mayer, stated on Twitter:
In 2014, Mayer attended a similar anti-Arab protest in Jerusalem and defended the demonstrators claiming they were merely “protesters demanding stronger action against terrorism.” Mayer had previously served as a spokesperson for Israel’s military.
The 2014 protests were led by Israeli politician Michael Ben-Ari and footage showed them yelling “Death to the Arabs”.
The Palestinian president’s office has condemned the “growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups” and urged “the international community to protect the Palestinian people from the ongoing settler attacks”. Hamas similarly condemned the violence, and called “it an Israeli plot against the Al-Aqsa Mosque – one of Islam’s most revered sites”.