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Despite police ban, hundreds of anti-war demonstrators march in Tel Aviv

The night the left took back the streets: Over 500 anti-war protesters brushed off arrests and police violence Saturday night to demonstrate against the assault on Gaza.

By Leehee Rothschild

Saturday night’s demonstration in Tel Aviv was by far the most successful one held against the current assault on Gaza. With all due respect to those who were arrested last night, neither their arrests nor the police’s brutality are the main story. Because for the first time since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, and after weeks of hiding behind police fences and fleeing hysterically from violent right-wing activists, the Israeli left finally took to the streets.

Israeli policemen look on during an anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen look on during an anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

The police originally tried to prevent the demonstration from taking place by taking the organizers outside of Habima Square, where the protest was meant to be held, and detaining them on the other side of the road.  This left the gathering crowd in limbo, which lasted until the police officially declared the event an illegal gathering. But what had started as a messy attempt to resist the riot police, who formed a line and tried to push the demonstrators out of the square, turned into the liveliest protest we have seen thus far. There were arrests, and yes, they were violent. But there was also non-violent resistance by the protesters, which turned into a march down Dizengoff Street in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Left-wing demonstrators march through central Tel Aviv after being barred from holding their anti-war demonstration at Habima Square. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Left-wing demonstrators march through central Tel Aviv after being barred from holding their anti-war demonstration at Habima Square. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Rather than only expressing anger and fury over the deaths in Gaza, the marchers yelled slogans that tried to communicate directly with the Israeli public. Slogans such as “From both sides of the wall, we’ve had enough of this war”; “The people demand a ceasefire”; and the always relevant “In Gaza and Sderot, little girls just want to live.” Although some of the onlookers hurled insults, aside from the arrests there was no violence against the demonstrators. There were, on the other hand, a few people who spontaneously joined us as we marched.

A leftist demonstrator looks on after being arrested by police during an anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

An anti-war demonstrator looks on after being arrested by police during a demonstration in Tel Aviv. (photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

When we only pay attention to last night’s arrests, we succumb to a narrative of conflict and violence, thus missing a major component of what actually happened. We turn it into just another story of conflict between anti-war demonstrators and policemen, forgetting that this is a protest against the war. Those 500 people who marched through Tel Aviv last night had more energy than the 5,000 who stood in Rabin Square last week, not to mention much better interactions with their surroundings. And for the first time in three weeks, the people around me ended their Saturday nights with a bit of positivity.

Leehee Rothschild has been active in the Palestinian struggle for over a decade. She currently works with Anarchists Against the Wall and Boycott From Within. She writes about activism and political struggle on her blog, Radically Blonde, and other publications.

Related:
The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv
Beyond protest: War and the Israeli Left
‘Unprecedented’ violence stalks anti-war demos across Israel

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  • COMMENTS

    1. bar

      I look forward to hearing about your next anti-war demonstration in Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
    2. jg

      I look forward to hearing about your your empathy lobotomy back then

      Reply to Comment
      • bar

        I feel great empathy. That’s why I look forward to this group’s anti-war demonstration in Gaza.

        Reply to Comment
      • Kiwi

        JG, just take a chill pill or a cold shower. Your hate filled one liners make you look stupid and hateful.

        Reply to Comment
        • Goldmarx

          Not against Bar/Arb, they’re not. Bar is a troll who deserves it, and worse.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            You are not an honest broker who is qualified to define who is or isn’t a troll.

            Are you sure you are not a troll yourself?

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            How am I not an honest broker?

            Excuse me, but is the same Kiwi whom I praised for being respectful in another thread? What happened to that Kiwi?

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            I have read more of your posts.

            The one in which you wish the person you debate death. And the one in which you talk to another person about knocking his/her teeth out.

            Truthfully, you sound unhinged.

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            The posts you cite were in response to those who initiated personal insults and invective against me. The common Internet term for that is troll. I don’t initiate stuff like that.

            How would you have handled the matter if you were in my place?

            Reply to Comment
          • Avdim

            According to GoldenAxe:

            This is polite – “Bar is a troll who deserves it, and worse.”

            This is not – “Are you sure you are not a troll yourself?”

            GoldenAxe strikes again.

            Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      Turns out it’s safer to demonstrate on the streets of Tel Aviv than on its grand squares with a massive police escort to separate the angry masses from the 4% of the population who are against the Gaza operation.

      And come to think of it, how interestingly strange that there was no sign of any Bars (or iron bars) showing up for the routine counter-demonstration. Did they know something the anti-war demonstrators didn’t when they showed up with their posters and banners only to be frog-marched away?

      Whatever, public money paid for phalanxes of forces including mounted police, who hung around the forcibly-emptied square all evening whiling their time away, while the protesters had long been shouting their slogans elsewhere. The only violence seen that evening was from the forces of order.

      Reply to Comment

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