Hundreds of Israelis marched through downtown Jerusalem Saturday night, May 12, to protest against the politically volatile moves of the United States next week that will increase tensions with the Palestinians and the Arab World. The protesters marched from King George Street downtown to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate. Along the way, they chanted slogans: “We oppose an escalation [of the security situation],” “Jerusalem capital of two states – Israel and Palestine,” “End the occupation of east Jerusalem,” and “Netanyahu – resign! Peace is worth more [than the embassy move].”
The demonstration organized by Peace Now, Standing Together, Hadash, Meretz and peace groups specifically denounced the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, as well as the upcoming annual Jerusalem Day celebrations which will include, as every year, a right-wing and religious politically charged march through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. The protesters called to “stop escalating tensions, spreading hatred, and provocations that undermine a chance for peace.”
The official ceremony opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem will be held today (Monday), in the city’s Arnona district, and coincides with the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the State of Israel (May 14, 1948, several hours before the official expiration of the British Mandate at midnight, May 15) a day before the date that Palestinians traditionally commemorate as “Nakba Day” marking the “catastrophe” of the uprooting of at least 700,000 indigenous Arabs from their homes and land, during the internal hostilities and war that took place in the period between late 1947 and the first months of 1949.
The Higher Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Community, which represents Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, said it has coordinated a demonstration with Palestinian groups in occupied East Jerusalem to be held on the day of the embassy’s opening, under the motto: “No to the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.”
Head of the Follow-Up Committee and former Hadash MK, Mohammad Barakeh said: “We have decided to hold the demonstration at the same time and location so as to raise our voice against US policy that supports Israeli occupation and settlements in a desperate American-Israeli effort to kill all chances for the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.” Barakeh added: “We will emphasize that this American aggression is being forced upon poor nations to follow suit.”
There have also been calls for demonstrations in the Gaza Strip (near the frontier with Israel), Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, and other cities across the West Bank to mark Nakba Day as well as the relocation of the US embassy.