High Court rules nationalist Jerusalem Day march can pass through Muslim Quarter
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High Court rules nationalist Jerusalem Day march can pass through Muslim Quarter

Justices reject petition by Ir Amim organization to change route of annual parade, say police committed to preventing violence and incitement

Illustrative: Thousands of Jewish marchers wave the Israeli flags as they celebrate Jerusalem Day by dancing through Damascus Gate on their way to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Thousands of Jewish marchers wave the Israeli flags as they celebrate Jerusalem Day by dancing through Damascus Gate on their way to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice on Sunday threw out a petition that sought to change the route of a nationalist march marking Jerusalem Day.

The Flag March is an annual Jerusalem parade that passes through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to mark Israel’s capture of the eastern parts of the city during the 1967 Six Day War. The march is made up primarily of religious teenagers and the Muslim Quarter route has been the source of tensions in the past. Shopkeepers are usually told to close early and residents are made to stay at home as flag-waving nationalists march by.

Jerusalem Day this year falls on June 2, coinciding with the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Ir Amim, the left-wing group that filed the petition, argued that tensions would be heightened because of the timing.

In their decision, the justices said they had been assured police were committed to reining in violence and incitement by the marchers, as well as protecting residents of the Muslim Quarter.

Israeli youth chant outside an Arab store in the Old City during Jerusalem Day’s ‘flag march,’ May 21, 2009. (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

“We don’t see a good reason to tell the police they are not capable of fulfilling their mission,” the judges wrote.

“The hope, of course, is that the event will pass peacefully and end well. Concerning exceptions, enforcement actions of course must be taken,” they added.

The justices also questioned Ir Amim’s standing in the case, noting the petition did not include any Muslim Quarter residents harmed by past marches.

Ir Amim and a number of individuals who joined the petition were also ordered to pay a total of NIS 10,000 ($2,800) in court fees.

Sunday’s ruling came after the High Court rejected a petition last week against the planned closure of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to Jewish visitors on Jerusalem Day.

The last time the Temple Mount was closed to Jews on Jerusalem Day was in 1988, when it also coincided with the end of Ramadan.

The flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City — the holiest to Jews and third-holiest to Muslims — is always closed to non-Muslims on the last ten days of Ramadan, when large numbers of worshipers are at the site.

Illustrative: Israeli security forces escort a group of religious Jews, as they visit the Temple Mount on Yom Kippur, September 19, 2018. (Sliman Khader/Flash90)

Under an arrangement in place since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there. Jews are allowed to enter during limited hours, but are closely watched and prohibited from any religious displays.

Last year, more than 2,000 Jews visited the site on Jerusalem Day, under close police supervision. But with hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers expected at the Temple Mount during the weekend of June 1, police said the decision was made to maintain public order in the Old City.

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