Israel Approves Jerusalem Day March by Group Pledging to Demolish Dome of the Rock

© EMMANUEL DUNANDSupporters of Itamar Ben-Gvir, member of Israel's Knesset (parliament) and head of the one-man far right "Jewish Power" (Otzma Yehudit) party, wave their country's national flag as he attempts to march to Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem, on June 10, 2021.
Supporters of Itamar Ben-Gvir, member of Israel's Knesset (parliament) and head of the one-man far right Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party, wave their country's national flag as he attempts to march to Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem, on June 10, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.05.2022
After a Palestinian journalist was killed by what many claim was an Israeli soldier’s bullet last week, Israeli police attacked her funeral procession, sparking outrage around the globe. It was just one of several violent incidents between Israeli Jews and Palestinians in recent months.
Israeli authorities have approved a march by Lehava, a far-right group led by a disciple of the infamous nationalist ideologue Meir Kahane, through Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter to celebrate its 1967 reunification under Jewish rule.
According to Haaretz, the Jerusalem Day Flag March will be allowed to go through the Damascus Gate, down Hagay Street and to the Western Wall on May 29 after being approved by Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on Tuesday.
Bar-Lev said the route was approved because it "has been customary for most years in the past.” However, it was canceled last year because it came just days after a ceasefire was reached to end an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that killed 254 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. That conflict, in turn, was sparked by violence in several Jerusalem neighborhoods between Palestinian Muslims and Israeli Jews, including at the Damascus Gate and Al-Aqsa mosque.
Several thousand right-wing youth and activists are expected to attend the march, which is seen as an insult to the Arab population that lost control over the city in 1967 and is steadily being displaced by Jewish settlers.
On Wednesday, Lehava founder Bentzi Gopstein published an image on his Telegram account of a bulldozer tearing down the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine inside the Al-Aqsa complex that sits atop the Temple Mount where the Second Jewish holy temple once stood.
"Jerusalem Day, which falls on 29 May, is the day the demolition of the Dome of the Rock will begin," Gopstein’s post said, according to Middle East Eye.
At a march in April 2021, the group chanted provocative slogans such as “death to Arabs” and attacked several Palestinian youths.
The decision has been criticized by both Palestinian officials and left-wing Zionists.
MK Gaby Lasky of the social-democratic Meretz party said the move was a "defiant decision that ignores an entire population in East Jerusalem” and was tantamount to "giving gasoline and fuel to a bunch of pyromaniacs,” according to Haaretz.
The Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry called Bar-Lev’s decision "a continuation of a dangerous escalation by Israel that threatens to drag the region into an explosion that would be very difficult to control."
A similar march that would have happened during Passover last month was canceled amid violence between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa. After Israeli police stormed the mosque, more than 300 people were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas.
MK Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Jewish Power party attacked Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also a right-wing nationalist, for canceling the march.

"Bennett abandoned the Temple Mount. He abandoned us to our enemies, handed them victory, and therefore I cannot be silent, and I will participate along with right-wing activists in the march towards Damascus Gate. We will proudly hoist the flag, Am Yisrael Chai," he said in a statement, using a Hebrew slogan meaning “The Jewish People Live.”

Bar-Lev’s Wednesday decision comes amid new tensions exemplified by the May 11 shooting death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian journalist for Al Jazeera, a Qatari TV network. Akleh was shot in the head near Nablus in what witnesses said could only have been an attack by Israeli soldiers, as no Palestinian fighters were nearby or shooting at the time. Another journalist next to her was also shot but survived.

Tensions soared even higher after Israeli police attacked and dispersed Abu Akleh’s funeral procession two days later. They claimed rocks had been hurled at them by mourners, but Shireen’s brother, Anton, refuted those accusations.

“Everyone who was there was there to mourn Shireen. What’s this mob they’re talking about?” he said. “And even if there were one or two, how many police do you need to deal with it? The whole story here is illogical and untrue.”
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