14 Palestinians arrested at Damascus Gate during visit of far-right MK

Written by on June 10, 2021

Fourteen Palestinian protesters were arrested on Thursday afternoon amid tensions at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate during a visit by far-right MK Itamar Ben-Gvir.

The ultranationalist leader of the Otzma Yehudit Party visited the site in protest at being banned by the police from marching through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and visiting the Temple Mount on Wednesday and Thursday.

The ban was issued due to concerns his presence would lead to violence from Arab residents, as well as cause unrest among the Arab population more broadly. 

Under heavy police protection, Ben-Gvir spoke to the media and took out and waved an Israeli flag during his visit.

Police used at least five stun grenades to disperse several dozen Palestinian protesters who objected vocally to Ben-Gvir’s visit.

In a statement to the media, police said that the arrests were made following “nationalistic chants and disturbances to public order,” although The Jerusalem Post did not witness any violence from the Palestinian protesters. The police also said that three of those arrested were detained for spitting and pushing a journalist and his cameraman.

The demonstrators chanted “Allahu akhbar” and “Khaybar, Khaybar ya yahud, jaysh Muhammad qadimun,” a reference to a battle mentioned in the Koran between Muslims and Jews in which the Jews were defeated.


— Jeremy Sharon (@jeremysharon) June 10, 2021

Protesters also waved Palestinian flags.

A small number of Jewish right-wing activists also staged a demonstration at the site, singing and waving the Israeli flag.

Shortly after Ben-Gvir left the area, a police officer gave instructions on a loud speaker for all Jews and Arabs who had gathered at the site to leave, and that forceful methods of dispersal would be used if they did not.

Several minutes later, police fired three stun grenades toward the Palestinian demonstrators, most of whom fled, followed by another two rounds several minutes later against those still loitering.

The Jewish demonstrators were not dispersed by the police.

“I came here to tell our failed police commissioner that his decisions are a disgrace to the State of Israel,” said Ben-Gvir, adding that the prime minister should have intervened to reverse the ban on his march.

“This attitude that a member of Knesset cannot march with a flag inside the Old City 100 meters from the light rail is capitulation and a victory for Hamas,” Ben-Gvir said. “I didn’t show up to confront the police, I’m here to say yes, Jerusalem belongs to us. I will not violate police decisions, even though in my opinion these decisions are illegal.”

The MK said that the rioters could have been dispersed “within two minutes,” but that “the police commissioner gave them fuel” with his decision to ban Ben-Gvir from carrying out his march.

Khalayla al-Moatti, a member of the Majd el-Kurum municipal council in northern Israel who was present at the Damascus Gate during Ben-Gvir’s visit, said the far-right MK had been “sent by Netanyahu,” and that he conducted his visit “to destroy Jerusalem” and undo the recent restoration of calm following the severe riots last month during the war with Hamas.

“All Arab-Israelis want peace, we want to live in peace, but this is not the place to come as an MK and fly a flag,” said Moatti. “He came to antagonize Arabs. He comes here, he flies a flag, and calls me a terrorist. It is very sad that this happened here.”

Moatti said he was in favor of the decision of MK Mansour Abbas and his Ra’am (United Arab List) Party to enter the putative government expected to be sworn in Sunday, saying he had voted for Ra’am.

“We want to live in peace, we want our rights in this country,” said Moatti. “Just like the Jews have rights so too do we, it’s very simple. We are equal. Ben-Gvir came here to show that he is in charge here. But he is not in charge. This is Arab Jerusalem. Jerusalem was Arab and remains Arab.”

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai banned Ben-Gvir on Wednesday from conducting his personal march, in which Likud MK May Golan was also supposed to have participated, due to intelligence about security concerns that may have arisen from Ben-Gvir’s actions. The concerns are related to renewed Arab-Israeli riots in the Wadi Ara region in northern Israel, and beyond, as well as risks to Ben-Gvir himself.

Right-wing activists had demanded to reschedule the canceled March of Flags event – annually celebrated on Jerusalem Day – to Thursday, but police refused to allow the march to go through the Damascus Gate.

The organizers in turn refused to have the route changed, and canceled the event. It is now rescheduled for Tuesday, although the route of the rescheduled march has not yet been determined.

Ben-Gvir’s planned march to the Temple Mount through Damascus Gate was designed as a rebuke to the police for banning the March of Flags from proceeding along its normal route through the Muslim Quarter.

Over the course of Wednesday night, senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office sought to forge a compromise between Ben-Gvir and the police commissioner, in which the far-right MK would be allowed to march from Damascus Gate to the Western Wall at an earlier time than planned before a scheduled Arab demonstration to avoid any potential clashes.

The police commissioner rejected this compromise however, said Ben-Gvir.

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