Nearly 100 Palestinians detained ahead of Israel's far-right provocative 'Flag March'

Nearly 100 Palestinians detained ahead of Israel's far-right provocative 'Flag March'
Israel's Flag March in Jerusalem attracts hundreds of far-right Israeli activists.
4 min read
West Bank
27 May, 2022
The detentions focused on Palestinians who had been arrested in previous protests [Getty]

Israeli forces detained nearly 100 Palestinians ahead of the planned far-right Israeli Flag March, which will take place on Sunday through the streets of occupied East Jerusalem.

Around 20 Palestinians in Jerusalem were arrested between Wednesday and Thursday, and another 80 inside Israel, the Jerusalem detainees' families committee spokesperson, Amjad Abu Asab, told The New Arab.

Flag March attracts hundreds of far-right activists celebrating Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 war - a highly provocative act for most Palestinians in the city.

"Israeli authorities usually arrest Palestinians whom they consider to be active during expected [counter] protests," Abu Asab indicated.

"The arrests have mostly targeted Palestinians who have been arrested in previous waves of protests in the city, and Palestinians who have been banned from entering Al-Aqsa compound, all of which we see as preparation for reactions to the settlers’ flag march on Sunday."

Last week, the Israeli government approved the annual Flag March organised by extremist settler organisations, with the support of far-right lawmakers such as Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. 

It was organised for the first time in 1968 by followers of messianic religious leader Avaraham Hachenkook and students of his 'Merkaz Harav' religious school in Jerusalem.

The march sees thousands of Israelis carry flags and chant nationalist slogans - often targeting Palestinians - in addition to a group dance.

In recent years, participants have chanted racist slogans such as "Death to the Arabs", and violently threatened Palestinians in the Old City, forcing them to close their shops and businesses.

The route traditionally crosses through Jerusalem’s Palestinian Old City and ends at the Western Wall, after passing by the Al-Aqsa compound.

The march's route last year was changed to avoid entering the Old City, following Palestinian protests over the expulsion of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah and Israeli police incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Palestinians want the march canceled altogether, deeming it to be highly provocative. Hamas's armed wing responded to the Flag March last year by firing several rockets toward Jerusalem, triggering a deadly 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza.

Last week, Israeli Security Minister Omer Balev announced that the march will follow the same route as in previous years.

On Tuesday, however, Israeli police said that the march's route will be changed in coordination with organisers, to limit numbers at the Damascus Gate and Western Wall.

Israeli media also quoted an Israeli government official saying that the US is pressuring the Israeli government to change Sunday's march route, amid warnings from Palestinian factions that it would escalate the situation if it goes through the Old City or Al-Aqsa compound.

A coalition of armed factions in Gaza has issued another warning to Israel about the march.

Hamas's politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh said that his faction would "not permit" any violations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque or "thuggery" on the streets of Jerusalem.

Palestinian presidency also issued a statement: "The Israeli government bears full responsibility for this escalation which will explode the situation. Our people and its leadership are capable of protecting Jerusalem and its holy places."

This year's Flag March comes after weeks of escalation in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In April, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israeli police and settlers repeatedly stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound with scores of Palestinian worshippers injured.

Earlier in May, the Israeli Knesset’s security committee announced that the Israeli police had arrested some 781 Palestinians during Al-Aqsa incursions in April. One 23-year-old Palestinian, who was wounded by Israeli police at the sanctuary, died of his wounds three weeks later.

On 11 May, Israeli forces shot dead Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleeh in Jenin.