Every year thousands ascend on Jerusalem on June first to celebrate the
Israeli occupation of the city in
the 1967 war. This year Jerusalem Day
was organized by the municipality and saw hundreds of thousands of
young people from all over Israel march along the Green Line. The path of
their march was organized to go through the Palestinian East Jerusalem
Neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. It was built by the UN with the assistance
of the Jordanian government (that ruled East Jerusalem before the
occupation) for Palestinian refugees from 1948. Sheikh Jarrah has also
been on the forefront of a settler fight to evict the Palestinians living there
based on documents they claim show that nearly a century ago the
Ottoman empire sold some of the land to Jewish owners. Once the Israeli
court ruled in the settlers favor and the first family was evicted in the
middle of the night at gunpoint, a joint Palestinian-Israeli struggle began
organizing weekly demonstrations. The night before Jerusalem Day
thousands of American Jewish youth studying in religious yeshivas in
Israel marched through the Muslim Quarter in the Old City, chanting and
celebrating. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke with them in front of
the Western Wall, known as “The Kotel” in Hebrew.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The [Jewish] nation of Israel lives! Our forefathers live!
LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of Israelis gathered in Jerusalem for the annual June 1 march. Known as Jerusalem Day, it is known to celebrate the day on which the Israeli army occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. This year, the march was organized by the municipality. The celebration was planned along the Green Line, which divides the city. And the march was organized to pass through the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
YITZHAK ZE’EV PINDRUS, SEN. DEP. MAYOR OF JERUSALEM (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): [Jerusalem] is the capital of the Jewish people and the capital of the state of Israel. And I’m telling you today, on this joyous day, in the name of the municipality of Jerusalem, the municipality will continue to develop the Shimon Hatzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood.
TARACHANSKY: While youth marched through the neighborhood, they chanted “Muhammad is dead” at the Palestinians.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Muhammad is dead!
TARACHANSKY: Sheikh Jarrah was built by the United Nations with the help of the Jordanian government, which ruled East Jerusalem before the occupation. The neighborhood houses Palestinians who were made refugees in the 1948 war, the result of which was the creation of state of Israel. For years, settlers attempted to expel the Palestinians living in the neighborhood, based on a claim that before the neighborhood was built, the Ottoman Empire sold some of the land to Jewish owners. After the Israeli court ruled in the settlers’ favor and the first family was removed from its house at gunpoint in the middle of the night, weekly protests were organized by a joint Israeli-Palestinian campaign. Nabil Al Kurd is a Sheikh Jarrah resident, half of whose home was taken by settlers. In protest, he established a tent on his property where activists monitor the settlers’ frequent violence against his family and other Palestinians in the neighborhood.
NABIL AL KURD, RESIDENT OF SHEIKH JARRAH: I live in Sheikh Jarrah, from 1956, in this house. They take half of my house. I fight to return my house to myself. Because of them, everybody in the area here are arrested from the police, and all of them outside of Sheikh Jarrah between two weeks to three months, and they always pay fees for the government. Jerusalem is outside of West Bank. Nobody from West Bank can come to Jerusalem. Because [of] this, they are make this march. This march says 40 years, not like them, like this march, because–I think because the government are weak they make it like this.
TRNN: What do you mean, exactly?
AL KURD: To tell the Palestinian in Jerusalem we are many people here, we can kill you if you do anything.
TARACHANSKY: The night before the massive march, settler youth assembled in the neighborhood.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): This country is ours forever, and we won’t give it up for anyone. We won’t give this country to no one.
SETTLER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): You’re a Jew, and my sister, and I love you, I really do. And it’s really sad that we’re like this.
ACTIVIST (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Why? What am I doing? I’m just filming.
SETTLER: It’s just that I see your anger.
ACTIVIST: I’m not angry at you. I’m angry at the state of Israel that–.
SETTLER: Yes, exactly, but you’re always yelling “thieves” and “extremist settlers” at us. We are just following the laws. I grew up in a house that taught me to obey the country’s laws.
ACTIVIST: A family lived here, and you stole their home.
SETTLER: That’s the laws of this country.
ACTIVIST: No, you’re following racist laws.
SETTLER: Excuse me, but I’m not responsible for that.
ACTIVIST: The law that allows you to take their home discriminates against these people who have properties from before 1948.
SETTLER: One second. I want to explain the laws to you.
ACTIVIST: You’re following racist laws. You live in an apartheid nation, and you are the apartheid’s ambassador. You’re standing at its front.
TARACHANSKY: At three o’clock in the morning, thousands of American-Jewish youth marched through the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Their march ended at the Western Wall, where two hours later, just before sunrise, they were joined by Israeli youth.
MARCHER: Go Israel!
MARCHER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Long live Israel!
MARCHER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Happy Jerusalem Day! I hope this city will remain in Jewish hands forever for all the religions.
MARCHER: It’s probably the most amazing day of the year.
MARCHER: This parade is out of control.
MARCHER: This is the Israel experience right here. This is the Israel experience.
TRNN: Where are you guys from?
MARCHER: I’m from Seattle.
MARCHER: Miami, Florida.
MARCHER: Miami, Florida.
MARCHER: Massachusetts, baby.
MARCHER: [incompr.] for one year.
TRNN: What exactly are you celebrating today?
MARCHER: We’re celebrating that in 1967 we took our city back. And that’s why we’re here right now [incompr.] to celebrate, celebrate the fact that we’re Jews, this is a Jewish state. And we’re here to show our support.
TRNN: But when you say you took the city back, who did you take it from?
MARCHER: We took it from–that’s a little bit of–we’re getting into a lot of politics right now. We–I’ll just–.
MARCHER: We deserve this country. We need to be here. We need to stand for our country.
MARCHER: We took it from the rest of the world. That’s what we took it from.
MARCHER: Let’s just say it was returned to its rightful owners, regardless of who it was taken from.
MARCHER: I don’t want to single out anybody.
MARCHER: It’s now back where it belongs. And there’s still a lot left to go. But we’re working on it.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The messiah is coming.
MARCHER: I’m a bit uncomfortable with, you know, going through the Arab Quarter at 3 a.m. in the morning singing love songs. It’s–.
MARCHER: Our message would be not to walk through there. That would be our message for next year.
MARCHER: I think there could definitely be sufficient celebrations right here in front of the Kotel, rather than through the Arab Quarter.
MARCHER: Right now you can see the tremendous unity that all the Jewish people have right here. You can see everyone’s unified. They’re dancing. They’re singing together. It’s a tremendous unifying experience, which–it’s unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced in my life before. I think it’s extremely powerful.
MARCHER: The problem is that most people don’t understand what’s really going on here. What’s really going on in this country is that there are 2 native peoples both being oppressed by Western powers, Western imperialist powers from the United Nations and from the European Union. The Arab Quarter was part of the liberation. We want to dance on as much of our land as we possibly can. I don’t have any problem with them–obviously, I don’t have any problem with them being there. They’ve lived there for hundreds of years, possibly thousands of years. But I still want to express myself as a native Jew. People are taught from a very young age one side of the story. They never see the other side. And it’s very hard to see behind the lines.
TRNN: Since you’ve been here, how have you educated yourself about the other side?
MARCHER: As I said, I’ve taken classes. I’ve talked to people. I’ve–.
TRNN: What sort of classes?
MARCHER: Israel advocacy classes, from a different perspective.
End of Transcript
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