Three Reports About Anti-War Protests in Israel
|By Rayna Moss||
Also see the Editor's Note, below.
This afternoon's [9 October] march in Tel-Aviv was a strange experience. It was the first ever protest march to be held in Israel on Yom Kippur. We met at 12:30 and were about 30 people. Most of us made our own signs and there were a lot of original sentiments: "Yom Kippur Protest March - Lives at Risk"; "Atonement"; "From the peace of the brave to a war of cowards"; "Barak and Ben-Ami are responsible for the pogrom"; "Barak+Sharon fail at peace" (my son's sign); "Black Yom Kippur." Some people came dressed in white, the traditional Yom Kippur attire, others dressed in the black of mourning.
The majority decided that we would have a silent march, respecting the people who were fasting and praying. Many people didn't know what we were marching about, since they had not turned on their TVs or radios because of the holiday. A religious man asked me what was going on and when I explained, he was shocked. Others knew exactly what it was about and proceeded to curse us.
We had walked about 100 meters when a police car showed up and we were told that the march was illegal and we had to disperse. They parked their car across the road, but we just walked around it and continued. In minutes 3 more police cars appeared and again ordered us to stop. We calmly explained that we were determined to march and that there was nothing illegal in what we were doing, but if they wanted to stop us, they would have to arrest us. They tried to convince us that we were violating the sanctity of the holiday, but I told an older policeman that I was acting in the spirit of Judaism and that if synagogues were burnt, I would expect gentiles to demonstrate even on Christmas.
This continued for about half an hour: every few blocks the police would stop us and demand that we disperse, and we quietly walked around them and refused to speak at all. A small girl about 10 years old yelled at us: I wish you success! and that was the bright moment of the whole event. Along our route some people left - the heat was intense and it was the worst time of day for exposure to the sun - but others joined us spontaneously, so we were several dozen at any given time.
We walked all along Ibn Gvirol street (about 20 blocks) then through Basel to Dizzengoff street and towards Dizzengoff Center - silent, dignified, defiant. At some point plainclothes police in an unmarked car also joined the procession behind us. As we reached Dizzengoff Square one of our supporters arrived in her car to bring us more signs and that really enraged the police. They started threatening her and a skirmish developed, but ended quickly. They then demanded that we disperse immediately and even appealed to us: We've been following you all around the city and you won't even tell us what is your route! We can't follow you around all day! We told them that as far as we were concerned they were released, but they insisted that we needed them for protection.
At that point, exhausted after almost 3 hours of marching and needing a break before the evening demo, we marched another 100 meters for good measure and then dispersed.
Right now I don't know
what other actions are being planned. The mob violence is continuing.
This evening, three apartments in which Palestinians live in
Shekhunat Hatikva in Tel-Aviv were torched. The police that could
send 4 cars to follow us around all day are completely incapable
of providing any protection for Palestinians.
One thing this latest crisis has done, is democratize the Israeli left (of course, the fact that the Communist Party no longer has a monopoly over protest actions also helps). Many people brought their own signs and although there was a lot of discussion going on, even heated, there were no demands to take down signs and no violence. There were slogans calling for the Right of Return, against apartheid, against settlements, Stop the War, against Barak and the Labor government, end the bloodshed, yes to peace, peace or hell (it rhymes in Hebrew). Of the speakers, Yael Dayan (Labor) was both applauded and booed. She said that we were few, just as we were when we opposed the Lebanon War, which made some people laugh outright, never remembering seeing her at any demo in 1982. At one point she became angry at the heckling and said that she was there to protest the war and the government's policy, but that there was no one but Barak to lead the country. "Do you have anyone else?" she asked, and many voices shouted back: "Yes!"
A letter was read from soldier Noam Khuzar, who is imprisoned for refusing to serve in the territories. MK Issam Makhoul made a powerful speech, outlining Israeli apartheid and calling for a Jewish-Arab struggle based on full equality and respect. He placed the blame for the killings squarely with the Barak government and was loudly applauded. A letter was also read from MK Azmi Bishara who was unable to attend. He won applause as soon as his name was mentioned, as a show of solidarity after his home was targeted in the Yom Kippur pogrom in Nazareth. The best speaker was the guy from Hakeshet Hamizrachit (the Oriental Rainbow), the organization of Jews from Arab countries - sorry, can't remember his name. He blasted everyone from the government, the political parties and the media and was applauded after almost every sentence. He noted five points on which we were clear and unequivocal, and as he spelled out each point, the crowd applauded and shouted support:
1) There is no such thing as a "Jewish and democratic state".
2) The Palestinian citizens in Israel are a national - not only an ethnic - ethnic minority.
3) Oslo is dead. Real peace means peace with an independent Palestinian state, not by dictate and under pressure.
4) Peace includes withdrawal from all occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and dismantling all settlements; or a bi-national state.
5) There is either peace and a process towards a just peace, or war.
I hope I've remembered correctly all of these points - I'm sure that he said all of the above, but there might have been more! After so much wishy-washy liberalism, this kind of straight talk was very refreshing. After the speeches were over about half of the demo walked to the Defense Ministry, a few blocks away, to demonstrate there. There was a lot of talk about organizing intervention teams/non-violence patrols and some ideas are being discussed. The general concept is accepted, that in addition to our regular political work, there is need for some direct action and intervention - by making a form of neutral presence, being "human shields," providing on-the-spot first aid or other actions that might reduce the level of violence and protect people. (Last week in Jerusalem the AIC operated a "human rights patrol," cars and vans with very visible signs, patrolling different parts of the city, on the lookout for any violence. Nothing happened, but it was a good experience and the people who did it can share what they learned).
The interest in this type
of activity seems to be both a reaction to the factual situation
and to the emotional/moral crisis that we are experiencing. For
example, I overheard a lot of arguments this evening about the
lynching in Ramallah: one person would say something like "this
is a totally new stage, it was terrible, what an awful crime,
the desperation has pushed the Palestinians over the brink,"
and another would reply "Well, you could see that because
there were cameras there, but what about the soldiers who beat
people to death in the intifada? You would have seen the same
thing, but then there weren't any witnesses. What do you expect
of the Palestinians, if that was how we treated them? Did you
see those undercover cops and what they did yesterday?"
The fear of many people, of losing our humanity, of coming to
accept this kind of violence on both sides as a norm, of forgetting
that all blood is red, is leading us to seek forms of protest
and intervention that we haven't previously tried. Well, the
summit is set for Monday. Clashes are continuing as the Palestinians
continue to bury their dead. The brother of one of the Israeli
soldiers who were killed in Ramallah spoke at his funeral yesterday
and described the horrible state of his brother's body, which
he insisted on seeing although the staff at the hospital urged
him not to do it. He said a lot of things that had racist tones,
but he also made a plea to everyone at the funeral not to take
revenge, not to act violently, not to commit crimes like that
in which his brother died. In these times, that's a lot.
MK [Member of Knesset] Tamar Gozansky (Communist Party) was the only one who captured the crowd's mood, giving facts about the pogroms and how the martyrs were killed, reminding people what is at stake. She was loudly applauded. This was opposed to a very lukewarm reception for Naftali Raz, a founder of Peace Now, whose main message was: Yes to a unity government with the Likud, but just not Sharon. Only the few Peace Now loyalists bothered to clap. Rabbi Arik Asherman from Rabbis for Human Rights made a good speech and touched many listeners, calling for exchanging the 3 Israeli soldiers for the Lebanese hostages held by Israel.
It was not what we had hoped for, in scope and content, but it was an improvement and finally the more "moderate" left has made its voice heard.
The street gave us mixed reactions. There was a fair amount of cursing and threats, but also some shouts of "good for you" and peace signs.
As we left Rabin Square, we saw about 15 women in a prayer circle, praying for peace and mourning the victims.
Editor's note: These reports are republished with the grateful permission of Rayna Moss. I do not know Ms. Moss, but I originally read the second of these three when it was to posted to the <nettime> discussion list, and was impressed with its clarity. All three were originally written for an egroup organized around this topic.
I requested the chance
to re-publish them because I think Ms. Moss represents a voice,
and a type of event, that goes very much unheard in the United
States. There is more to the Israeli Left than just Ehud Barak
and the Labor party, and if there is a media bias in the United
States it is the one that downplays efforts for peace by ordinary
people instead of politicians. Furthermore, the references to
historical actions against Jews are powerful reminders - especially
when displayed not just by
Palestinians on Israeli flags, but by Jews themselves.
|Copyright 2000, by Rayna Moss. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. If you would like additional information, please contact the editor, A. D. Freudenheim.|