For the third year in a row, a Jerusalem-based left-wing group on Sunday called to keep the annual Jerusalem Day parade out of the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.
Beginning at sundown on May 23, Israel will commemorate the capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. As part of the Jerusalem Day celebrations each year, hundreds of Jewish Israelis parade through the Old City, including the Muslim Quarter.
This segment of the so-called “flags dance” march has frequently been a source of conflict and friction, mostly at the level of participants verbally disparaging residents and Muslims in general, but occasionally rising to physical violence.
On Sunday, the Ir Amim organization again attempted to prevent the parade from passing through the quarter, sending letters to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Jerusalem Police Chief Yoram Halevi and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt.
This is Ir Amim’s third attempt to block the parade through the Muslim Quarter. In 2015 and 2016, the group has asked the High Court of Justice to prevent revelers from entering the Muslim Quarter. These efforts have not been successful.
The organization has yet to file a formal request with the High Court of Justice for the 2017 march.
The Damascus Gate entrance to the Muslim Quarter has been the site of many attacks by Palestinians and East Jerusalem residents against Israeli civilians and security personnel.
Most recently, on Sunday, police officers shot dead a Palestinian teenage girl who attempted to stab them.
In 2015, the court refused Ir Amim’s request, but instructed police to have “zero tolerance” for violence or offensive language by participants.
In its letters, Ir Amim noted that despite the court order, in 2015 there were still instances of revelers shouting racist slogans at Muslim Quarter residents “and these were done without police officers getting involved almost at all.”
Last year, when Jerusalem Day coincided with the first day of Ramadan, the High Court ordered the paraders to leave to the Muslim Quarter by 7:30 p.m.
The organization noted that 2016’s march saw fewer clashes between participants and residents, and said that this was because the parade was limited in the amount of time it could spend in the Muslim Quarter.
“Otherwise, there would have been more incidents of verbal and physical violence,” Ir Amim said in its letter.
The organization also noted that the parade’s route through the Muslim Quarter forces local business owners to close their shops and restricts the movement of residents.
Barkat’s office said the parade was not a Jerusalem Municipality event and deferred questions to the police, which ultimately approves the route.
A police spokesperson would not comment on the issue directly, saying only, “Should a letter arrive, the response will be sent from the recipient to the applicant.”