Israel slammed for 'revisionist' Jerusalem Day celebrations

Israel slammed for 'revisionist' Jerusalem Day celebrations
Thousands of right-wing Israelis marched through East Jerusalem's Palestinian-majority Old City on Wednesday to commemorate Jerusalem Day, a celebration of the city's capture, and subsequent annexation, in 1967.
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Right-wing Israelis celebrate Jerusalem Day by the Palestinian-majority Old City. [AFP]
Thousands of right-wing Israelis marched through East Jerusalem's Palestinian-majority Old City on Wednesday to commemorate the national holiday of Jerusalem Day, a celebration of the city's capture from Jordan in 1967.

Israeli police said a record 60,000 people took part in the event, which sees mainly religious-nationalist Israelis march through the Old City waving Israeli flags, singing nationalist songs, and dancing.

Some Israelis banged on the doors of Palestinian homes and affixed stickers in Hebrew reading "The land of Israel is all mine" as the march, funded by the Jerusalem municipality, culminated at the Western Wall.

This year's celebrations are particularly symbolic, marking the 50th year of what Israel calls the "unification" of its "undivided capital." For Palestinians, the event is revisionist and marks five decades of Israeli military occupation and the annexation of East Jerusalem in which they have lived continuously for tens of generations, to Israeli control.

Scuffles broke out at Damascus Gate during the day, the main thoroughfare to the Muslim Quarter, as around 50 Jewish-American activists held a sit-in protest to obstruct the right-wing Israeli march.

One activist suffered a broken arm as Israeli police dispersed the non-violent protest.

Earlier, a group of 10 hard-line Jewish activists were removed from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after violating a ban on Jewish prayers at the site.

The Returning to the Mountain movement to which the activists belong called on the Israeli government to assert full control over the holy site and allow Jewish prayers.

"Fifty years after freeing the Temple Mount, Israel police act like a Jordanian regime and arrest Jews for daring to bow at the most sacred spot to the Jewish people," the group said.

Israeli Deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely of the right-wing Likud party had previously called on Jews to go up to the flashpoint plateau as part of the celebrations. 

Days earlier, the new US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, became the first US diplomat to attend a Jerusalem Day event with Israeli officials. US policy officially recognises East Jerusalem as occupied territory and his attendance may have broken protocol.

Jordan slams Aqsa 'violation'

Known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif compound and to Jews as the Temple Mount, the site is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a frequent location of clashes due to rival claims for power and control.

Jordan is the official custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and while Jews are allowed to visit the site, prayers are banned by both Israeli police and rabbinical authorities.

Clashes broke out earlier Wednesday between Islamic Waqf guards, employed by Jordan, and a group of Israelis who began chanting the national anthem at the site. Israeli police eventually arrested the guards while the Israelis were removed.

Jordan slammed what is called a "violation" at the compound, with the country's Minister of State for Media Affairs holding Israel responsible.

"Storming the yards of Al-Aqsa Mosque is a stark violation of holiness of the site and harms the feelings of the Muslims across the world," Mohammad Momani said, according to the state-run Petra News Agency.

Jerusalem as been at the centre of a recent diplomatic impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with US president Donald Trump having repeatedly stated his intention to move the US embassy to city, although it has not yet materialised. 

Earlier this month, UNESCO passed a resolution condemning actions taken by "occupying power" Israel to change the "character and status" of the holy city.

Israel claims Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians claim the city's east as the capital of their future state.