We are better than this

Sunday, the Jerusalem Day flag march took place. At last year’s march, some Jews chanted “Death to Arabs.” Violence followed. This year, as in previous years, the proposed route led through the Damascus Gate — the primary gate through which Arabs who live in the adjacent neighborhood enter the Old City. Many people were afraid that the march would result in violence this year and said that Israel should avoid deliberately, needlessly provoking Arabs, but the marchers, with the approval of the Israeli government, refused to change the route.

As predicted, some of the marchers chanted “Death to Arabs” again. There was some violence as a result of the parade, but, fortunately, there was no major riot and none of the terrorists retaliated.

Sometimes, the headlines tell a story: Here, five of them do.

May 22, 2022 at 3:47 p.m. Y-Net News: “Hamas leader warns Israel about going ahead with Jerusalem flag march. Terror group leader Ismail Haniyeh calls on Palestinians to resist Israel’s decision to allow the march to pass through the Damascus Gate . . . .

May 29, 2022 at 2:01 p.m. Times of Israel: “Bennett: Raising of Israeli flag in Jerusalem goes without saying.”

May 29, 2022 AT 4:50 p.m.. Times of Israel: Racist Chants and Clashes as tens of thousands march in Old City for Jerusalem Day.”

May 30, 2022 at 12:45 a.m. Jerusalem Post: “Through Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter a triumphant march by orthodox-nationalist men.”

May 30, 2022 at 12:56 a.m. Times of Israel,” After flag march, clashes between Palestinians, Jews, cops flare in East Jerusalem.

Just as Hamas’ leading Macho Man Ismail Haniyeh was wrapping himself in Hamas green, Israel’s leading Macho Men were wrapping themselves in blue and white. All of the Macho Men were so busy pointing fingers that they refused to be self-critical.

We in Israel deserve better leadership. Our leaders should have asked themselves two questions: 1. What can we do better? 2. Is this is what we have become?

Our leaders seem to have forgotten what Jerusalem Day is all about. Jerusalem Day was established to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem during Israel’s 1967 victory over the surrounding countries, which were trying to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. It was about celebrating, not taunting anyone.

The celebration was still appropriate after the 1973 Yom Kippur war, when the surrounding countries again attempted to destroy Israel and failed. After the 1973 war ended with another Israel victory, Egypt finally figured out that Israel was here to stay and entered into a treaty which has brought the countries 40 years of peace with each other.

Nobody marches to commemorate that. Rather, for decades, Israeli Jews have been marching on Jerusalem Day in order to show Arabs who is boss. Most of the young men who participated in Sunday’s march had not even been born in 1980. They were the age to be the children or grandchildren of the Israeli soldiers who fought in the 1967 and 1973 wars. Perhaps that is why they do not understand the difference between celebrating and showing people who is boss.

In authorizing the march to go through the Damascus Gate, our leaders seem to have forgotten how the marchers chants affected the behavior of Jerusalem’s police last year. Then, two days after the first march by the Damascus Gate where marchers chanted “Death to Arabs”,  a cop shot an unarmed, teenage, Arab girl in the back as she was entering her home in Sheik Jarrah, a short way north of the Old City.  Fortunately, the bullet was rubber-tipped or it might have severed her spine (or worse) rather than merely severely injuring it. A video of the incident shows clearly that the other cops who were there did nothing when she was shot. The shooter was suspended from the police force.  I have not heard whatever happened to him. Is there any question that if the cop had shot an unarmed, Jewish teenage girl in the back that the cop would have been arrested immediately and charged with a serious felony?

This year, the police were more restrained. Still, anger accumulates and people remember past wrongs. Allowing the march to take place through the Damascus Gate can only have increased justifiable Arab anger. Our leaders are just lucky that the Arab population did not respond more forcefully.

Some people excuse the marchers on Sunday because ONLY some of them chanted racist slogans. They ignore the simple fact that it can have been no surprise to any of the marchers when some of them shouted “Death to Arabs”. Still, they all marched together to show solidarity. If a Nazi had walked by a Jewish home chanting “Death to Jews” who would have exonerated a man marching beside him, even silently?

Jews are supposed to be a light unto the nations. Isaiah 42:6. How can we claim that, as once we could, if this is the best we can do and this is what Israel has become?

About the Author
Before making Aliyah from the United States, I spent over three decades as a lawyer in the United States. My practice involved handling many civil rights cases, including women's- rights cases, in State and Federal courts. I handled numerous constitutional cases for the ACLU and argued one civil rights case in the United States Supreme Court. I chaired the Colorado Supreme Court's Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure and served on the Colorado Supreme Court's Civil Rules and Rules of Evidence Committees. Since much of my practice involved the public interest, I became interested in environmental law and worked closely with environmental organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). I was on the Rocky Mountain Board of EDF. I received an award from the Nebraska Sierra Club as a result of winning a huge environmental case that was referred to me by EDF. I also developed significant knowledge of hazardous and radioactive waste disposal. I was involved in a number of law suits concerning waste disposal, including a highly-political one in the United States Supreme Court which involved the disposal of nuclear waste. As I child I was told by my mother, a German, Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany, that Israel was a place for her and her child. When I first visited Israel many years later, I understood what she meant. My feeling of belonging in Israel caused me to make Aliyah and Israel my home. Though I am retired now, I have continued my interest in activism and the world in which I find myself.
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