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Jerusalem Day Needs a Makeover

On the occasion of Jerusalem Day, which is not celebrated by 67% of residents, Akiva Eldar wonders what could happen if the so-called “united city” combined to vote for a Palestinian Jerusalemite candidate.
Israelis carry flags as they celebrate in Jerusalem's Old City during a parade marking Jerusalem Day May 8, 2013. Jerusalem Day marks the anniversary of Israel's capture of the Eastern part of the city during the 1967 Middle East War. In 1980, Israel's parliament passed a law declaring united Jerusalem as the national capital, a move never recognised internationally. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS ANNIVERSARY) - RTXZF8V
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Bashaer Fayyad-Kalouti never celebrates “Jerusalem Day,” and this year was no exception. The day, which for Jews marks the freeing of the city in the 1967 Six Day War, is not a festive occasion for her. Although Fayyad-Kalouti, the wife of the outgoing Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, is a resident of Jerusalem, and holds an official, blue, Israeli identity card, she is unlikely to exercise her right to vote in the coming municipal elections in November. The same holds for most of the 370,000 Palestinians living within the city’s municipal boundaries (more on this below).

For the Arabs of East Jerusalem, who constitute some 36% of the city’s population (according to Interior Ministry data), Jerusalem Day is a day of defeat and humiliation. Defeat, because on the morning of June 7, 1967, Israeli paratroopers conquered the Old City and the Western Wall; humiliation, because of the “March of Dancing Flags” held around the city each and every year on the 28th of the Jewish month of Iyar, to mark that day. Imagine this: thousands of young Israeli men and women dancing through the alleys of the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, toward the plaza facing the Western Wall, singing the praises of the “city joined and united,” waving large national flags and sometimes calling out racist invective. A true “Jewish Pride Parade.” The Palestinian residents, looking at the merrymakers from their homes and shops, get the clearest of messages regarding who controls the city and who is controlled.

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