The United States, Israel’s main ally, on Thursday, condemned “racist” chants against Arabs during a major march by Israeli nationalists to Jerusalem’s Old City.
The United States unequivocally opposes racist language of any form. We condemn the hateful chants such as ‘Death to Arabs’ during today’s marches in Jerusalem.”
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller wrote on Twitter.
Israel deployed over 2,000 police on Thursday for a march by flag-waving Jewish nationalists through the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City, a contentious event that comes as tensions are already running high.
Authorities say the beefed-up security is a determined effort to ensure the march passes without violence.
Police have decided to allow the thousands of marchers to take the traditional route through the Old City’s Damascus Gate — despite an uptick in Israeli-Palestinian violence over the past year and heavy fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza last week.
Early Thursday, hundreds of Jews came to a sensitive Jerusalem site holy to both Jews and Muslims as part of the day’s activities, visits the Palestinians view as provocative. Among them was at least one Israeli Cabinet minister from the country’s right-wing government, according to Jewish activists leading the visits.
While Israeli officials describe the march as a festive parade, it has been marred by anti-Arab racist chants and violence toward local Palestinians by some of the marchers. Two years ago, it helped spark an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, and the Hamas militant group has urged Palestinians to confront the parade this year.