Under a coalition of Israeli left-wing political parties and organizations, thousands gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square in the largest anti-war demonstration since the outbreak of violence in Gaza.
(Moriel Rothman-Zecher and Haggai Matar contributed to this report)
Some 10,000 Israelis flooded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square under the slogan “Changing direction: toward peace, away from war” in the largest anti-Gaza war demonstration in Israel since the outbreak of hostilities more than one month ago.
The protest was scheduled to take place last week, but was postponed after the police and Home Front Command revoked its permit, ostensibly to stop large gatherings during a time when missiles were being fired at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. Roughly 500 non-aligned activists flooded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square anyway, in defiance of the ban.
The major left-wing parties, including Meretz and Hadash, as well as Peace Now and other left-wing organizations, joined tonight’s demonstration, calling for a wide range of demands, from continuing negotiations between Israel and Hamas to an end to the occupation and Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Many who have demonstrated throughout the past weeks of hostilities expressed disappointment at Meretz and Peace Now for their refusal to support anti-war demonstrations until now.
Meretz MK Zehava Gal’on addressed the protest, affirming that her party was against the Israeli military operation in Gaza all along. She lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not immediately recognizing the Palestinian unity deal and instead choosing war.
To large applause, Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh stated in Hebrew and Arabic, “We are building a partnership against the occupation, for a free Palestine.” He continued, “We are here for a two-state solution, for life and a future for people in Gaza and the South.”
Famed Israeli author David Grossman addressed the large crowd, saying, “We won’t be able to breathe deeply in Israel as long as people in Gaza feel choked,” adding, “We will always be neighbors with people in Gaza. We must live together.”
Naomi Tzion, a resident of Sderot, called on the crowd to think of those in Gaza who have now been made refugees twice or thrice, adding, ”The true spitting in the face of the residents of Sderot? The attempts to paint us all as a single stereotyped collective.” Gaza is “the biggest jail in the world,” she continued.
Along with anti-war sentiment, protesters expressed their anger at the Israeli government for its lack of leadership, chanting “Bibi, go home!”
According to the protest organizers, the demonstration was organized to send the following message to Israel’s political leaders:
The next round of fighting can be prevented. No to the way of wars – we must have a political solution! After an agonizing month of war and death, in the face of mounting waves of incitement and hatred, which increasingly tear up the Israeli society, we stand up to demonstrate for peace and for democracy.
The rally at Rabin Square came two days after another demonstration was held to express solidarity with the residents of communities along the Gaza border.