Jewish Extremists Scuffle with Palestinians on Israel's 'Jerusalem Day'
Jewish extremists scuffled briefly with Palestinians Thursday during demonstrations to mark Israel's conquest of Arab east Jerusalem 33 years ago, while thousands of Israelis joined a "Jerusalem Day" march.
A handful of members of the banned anti-Arab Kach movement demonstrated outside the unofficial PLO headquarters in east Jerusalem, shouting "Arabs Out!" and "Jerusalem for Us," brandishing banners denouncing Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and vowing never to allow division of the Holy City.
One Kach member was arrested by Israeli police.
About 40 members of the militant group known as the "Temple Mount Faithful" also staged a protest at Orient House, stamping and tearing up paper Palestinian flags and chanting "Here we bury the state of Palestine."
After sunset, tens of thousands of mostly religious and right-wing Israelis began a procession around the walled Old City -- home to sites sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews and -- to celebrate "Jerusalem Day."
Control of the Holy City is one of the most emotive issues to be resolved in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel occupied and annexed east Jerusalem from Jordan in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war and claims it as part of its "eternal, undivided" capital, a move not recognized by the international community.
The Palestinians want the eastern sector, home to some 200,000 Arabs, as the capital of a future independent state Arafat has vowed to declare in September, the deadline for a final peace accord with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak rescheduled a summit with US President Bill Clinton to early Thursday so he could return from Portugal in time for an official "Jerusalem Day" ceremony.
"Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people, the one and only united capital of the state of Israel, is safe and secure and is bigger and stronger than ever," Barak said Wednesday.
The prime minister's absence from the ceremonies could have been used as a political weapon by the nationalist right opposition, which accuses Barak of planning concessions to the Palestinians that could threaten Jerusalem's unity.
"Would Clinton conceive of leaving the US on July 4? Would the president of France leave Paris on July 14? Would Arafat go abroad on a Palestinian national holiday?" said Jerusalem's right-wing mayor Ehud Olmert.
In a speech to mark Jerusalem Day, Olmert vowed to build more Jewish homes in the eastern sector of the city.
"We will continue to build in all parts of the city so that it will remain the united, eternal capital of Israel," Olmert said at the inauguration of a controversial new neighborhood on the southern edge of east Jerusalem.
Faisal Husseini, the top PLO official in charge of Jerusalem affairs, complained that there was a "clear contradiction" between Israel's measures to "Judaize" the city and the its negotiations with the Palestinians -- OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)