US and UN condemn anti-Arab chants at Jerusalem march

By James Mackenzie

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The United States and the United Nations condemned on Friday anti-Arab slogans chanted during an annual march in Jerusalem's Old City that drew tens of thousands of Israeli nationalists a day earlier.

The heavily-policed, flag-waving procession, passing through Palestinian-populated areas such as Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, is the main event of Jerusalem Day, when Israel marks its capture of the eastern part of the city in a 1967 war.

It saw some groups of Jewish youths confronting and beating Palestinians, chanting "Death to Arabs" and waving racist banners. Before the march began, many Palestinian shopkeepers shuttered their businesses along the route, fearing abuse.

"The United States unequivocally opposes racist language of any form. We condemn the hateful chants such as 'Death to Arabs'," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller tweeted.

Palestinian and foreign journalists said marchers hurled sticks, stones and bottles at them, wounding some.

U.N. Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said he was disturbed by the "inciteful and racist chants" of some participants and deplored attacks on journalists.

On Friday, videos on social media, which Reuters could not verify, showed scuffles and stone-throwing between Palestinians and Jewish youths as confrontations briefly flared again in the Old City's narrow alleyways.

Israel's ambulance service said it treated two people for mild injuries from stones on Friday. Police said they used riot dispersal means and that one officer was wounded.

In recent years, Jerusalem Day festivities have become a show of force for Jewish nationalists.

Palestinians say the event is a provocation meant to undermine their ties to the city. In 2021, it sparked an 11-day war with the Islamist Hamas group in Gaza.

Israel, which decades ago annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition, regards the entire city as its "eternal and undivided" capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, the part captured in 1967, as the capital of a future state that would include the West Bank and Gaza.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Henriette Chacar; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)