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Over 400,000 in largest protest in Israeli history

Six weeks after Israel’s largest social protest began again the high cost of living in Israel, the J14 movement held its ‘March of a Million’ protest tonight. The movement fell short of bringing a million Israelis into the streets. Yet even at 400,000, the protest will still go down as the largest ever in Israeli history.

By Shir Harel

Wrap up: Ynet’s conservative estimate of tonight’s numbers puts 300,000 in Tel Aviv, and another 100,000 elsewhere in the country. Maariv’s website NRG had the following breakdown on demonstrations outside Tel Aviv:

Haifa – 40K
Jerusalem – 60K
Kiryat Shmona – 10K
Nahariya – 7K
Rosh Pina – 5K
Kfar Yehoshua – 15K
Hadera – 2K
Afula – 17K,
Carmiel – 5K
Kiryat Motzkin – 3K
Eilat – 2K

Other cities protesting tonight included Arad, Mitzpe Ramon, Eilat, Qalansua, Hod Hasharon, and Ness Ziona.

At the end of the night, the future of the movement is unclear, as some in the leadership have called for breaking up the tent encampments while local activists insist on carrying on.

12:06 pm: Some incredible photos from the night from ActiveStills:

Kikar Hamedina - March of Million - 3.9.11 -4

Kikar Hamedina in Tel Aviv, March of Million - 3.9.11 (Photo: ActiveStills)

Kikar Hamedina March of Million 3.9.11 (Photo: ActiveStills)

11:33 pm: Major Israeli TV channels, including Channel 10 and Channel 2 dropped live coverage of Dafni Leef’s speech half way through. The media’s dislike for her is overwhelming. Over the past week, Leef was repeatedly branded a “radical leftist” in the media. During an interview with Channel 10′s Economic Night host Sharon Gal, was slammed for not having served in the IDF. Later, rightist group “My Israel,” came out with claims that 6 years ago she signed onto a letter refusing to enlist in the IDF [Hebrew].

11:20 pm: J14′s founder Dafni Leef is on stage in Tel Aviv. She’s delivering a range of criticism against attempts to squash the movement. She slammed attempts to use last week’s terror attack to silence the protests, and to drive a wedge between the demonstrators and those affected by violence. Instead she spoke at length about solidarity between sectors in Israeli society, a new civic identity, and a political movement free of the right-vs-left discourse. Whether you’re an evacuee from Gush Katif (in Gaza) or a Bedouin, she said, or a child whose parents can’t afford to send him on a school trip, the situation for you, too, has to change.

11:00 pm: Here’s the tally according to various Israeli media outlets: Channel 1: 450K protesters; Channel 2: 405K; Channel 10: 460K

10:20 pm: The current estimate of protesters across Israel stands at 410,000.

10:11 pm: So far there is very little reference to the occupation and the Palestinians around the protests. Dimi Reider in Kikar Hamedina reports he has seen exactly one occupation-related sign so far, the protest is overwhelmingly Jewish in messages. Joseph Dana tweets: ”Tonight’s protest in Tel Aviv will send a strong message to the world: Israelis want a new government but the occupation is not a priority. ” Nonetheless, some are trying to assert that the issue of social justice cannot be separated from “politics,” meaning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. @issaeb carries a sign that reads “It’s political.”

9:55 pm: Speeches are now starting on the stage at Kikar Hamedina. Student Union Chairman Itzik Shmuli says the protest will go on until “you, the PM, give us real solutions. We are here to stay.” He says that the students are willing to cooperate with the government in finding solutions, under the condition that the government is willing to take real action, seen in changes in legislation, and in the budget. He is not joining the message portrayed in signs around the square calling for the prime minister to step down.

9:30 pm: The march in Tel Aviv is about to begin. Here’s what Kikar Hamedina is looking like, below, courtesy of ActiveStills. Signs held by protesters in the square are spanning the full gamut: from the spectrum of social justice and welfare state slogans we’ve been seeing since the movement began, to Free Gilad Shalit calls, and notably this time many signs are calling directly for PM Netanyahu to resign. Leaders from the Student Union up on the square’s stage are singing, “the protest will not end until the Knesset wakes up.”

March of a Million - Kikar Hamedina 3.9.11

Kikar Hamedina in Tel Aviv, moments before the march begins. (Photo: ActiveStills)

9:05 pm: In Tel Aviv, Kikar Hamedina is already nearly full. Reports say one of Tel Aviv’s largest streets, Ibn Gvirol, along with Jabotinsky Street are completely packed. News reports are putting the current estimate at 102,000 protesters across the country – the number is being updated by the minute.

8:35 pm: Channel 10 news reports that 30,000 protesters have already come out into the streets across Israel. In Tel Aviv, the protest march will begin on Rothschild Blvd and make its way to Kikar Hamedina (State Square) in northern Tel Aviv, where a rally will be held. At least 16,000 demonstrators are reported to already be in Kikar Hamedina, about a half hour before the march begins at 9:30 pm.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Ben Israel

      For whatever it’s worth, Reshet Bet radio publicized a poll for the theoretical distribution of Knesset seats if elections were held now. The right-wing bloc that is currently in power plus the opposition right-wing National Union would increase their representation, the Left block would decrease slightly. The main shift is away from KADIMA which would lose 10 seats which would go to Labor and MERETZ mostly. No doubt the terrorist attacks made some sort of difference, although I don’t think it would be more than 2 seats between the two blocs.
      If this poll is correct, the main political effect of these demonstrations is to cause a shift within the Left block away from KADIMA, which in my view is a positive development.

      Reply to Comment
    2. David

      Meanwhile, the naughty Palestinians have been locked in their rooms without any supper so it’s impossible to see the full measure of “Israeli democracy” or what passes for it.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Suzanne Doob

      It’s “spanning” the full gamut, not “spamming” it!

      Reply to Comment
    4. Shanzdah-e Shirin

      @David:

      It’s not all about you. Priorities: Putting bread on the table and having a house first; aiding the cause of those who most Israelis now believe to be sworn, mortal enemies, not even last.

      You 972ers are simply out of touch.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Until there is some sort of regional representation, or one political party starts taking up the message of the protests in a clear and successful way, the current government can sit back and watch us entertain ourselves, while continuing to pass laws that destroy our democracy.

      Why regional representation? If I could go to one member of the knesset, and threaten to unseat her/him should s/he not vote the way I want, then I would have some kind of real political clout.

      Oddly, at the moment, my region has very strong representation, even in the Shminia, as Bogey Ya’alon is a neighbor. But he knows that his seat owes nothing to the neighborhood, which votes pretty hard left. And that’s about as perfect an example of politics making strange bedfellows as there ever was…

      Reply to Comment
    6. Sylvia

      This is a very successful protest, I must say. For the first time, all sectors of Israeli society and all groups (at least those who have grievances) are represented and made speeches.
      Apparently, the protests will be with us for a while.

      Reply to Comment
    7. As Miko Peled wrote: “where were you when Gaza was burning?” Israel seems to have become an ostrich farm.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Shanzdah-e Shirin

      @Engelbert Luitsz:

      Where were you when Gaza fired rockets on Sderot? Why are Israelis expected to care about their enemies?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Shir Harel

      Thanks Suzanne! It was a long night :)

      Reply to Comment
    10. eitan hajbi

      @engelbert luisz

      at least some ten-thousands of them were on the streets, protesting, when gaza was burning.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Ali

      “Why are Israelis expected to care about their enemies?”

      um…because you’re MAKING them your enemies, by dispossessing them, and robbing them not only of their land, but of whatever dignity they have left. Even your friends in Washington right now are having a hard time defending your position.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Shanzdah-e Shirin

      @Ali:

      No Ali. You made us your enemies by denying our right to our land. You’re guilty exactly what you accuse us of.

      Arabs have a lot of land. Jews have very little land. The rich must give to the poor, not the other way round.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Ali

      “No Ali. You made us your enemies by denying our right to our land.”

      Bull. It was you that came, occupied and conqured by the gun. Not the other way around.

      What about MY rights to the land?

      “Arabs have a lot of land. Jews have very little land. The rich must give to the poor, not the other way round.”

      So what if we have lots of land? can I come and kick you out of your house, and demand others to absorb you and your family, just because I have a historical sense of entitlement to your house? what kind of neanderthal thinking is that?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Shanzdah-e Shirin

      @Ali:

      Cow. We settled mostly on the malaria swampland Arabs kept away from. No dispossession. What you had against the first Zionists was their refusal to live as dhimmis under your apartheid rules.

      What about all the natives kicked out of their houses by the Arabs when they expanded? Arabs used to be only in Arabia, you know. Jews settling Israel are not thieves. They’re not stealing from thieves. They’re taking back what’s their from the thieves. You have so much and you want to steal ours just because after 13 centuries we finally made the land bloom what had been a swamp infested backwater.

      Kol haposel bemumo posel.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Ali

      “We settled mostly on the malaria swampland Arabs kept away from. No dispossession. What you had against the first Zionists was their refusal to live as dhimmis under your apartheid rules.”

      Hahahaha!!….Our Apartheid Rules? your Zionists Reptiles killed and pillaged 800,000 Arabs from those so-called swamplands. They were inhabited. That’s not a matter for debate for me. Even your historians acknowlege that. No Arab will accept living under your nazi goyish rule either.

      “Arabs used to be only in Arabia, you know”

      Arabs lived in the entire Area, From Syria to Yemen. That’s not a matter of dispute. Only Idiots dispute it.

      “Jews settling Israel are not thieves. They’re not stealing from thieves. They’re taking back what’s their from the thieves.”

      We did not steal anything from Anyone. Your Cowardly ancestors are the ones that left, after they got their asses whipped by the Romans. The territory was empty.

      “You have so much and you want to steal ours just because after 13 centuries we finally made the land bloom what had been a swamp infested backwater.”

      on the contrary, it’s your reptilian culture that stole everything from ours. Your language, has 10,000 Arabic loan words. your food recipies from Hummos to Falafel, is historically ours, and yet you made it yours plus the territory. You’re nothing but Marauding, brigandly thieves, but power will eventually dissipates. And soon or later, you will be held responsible for all this.

      “Kol haposel bemumo posel”

      Same to you. whatever the hell that is

      Reply to Comment
    16. @Ali – please try to keep the discussion clean. If you need, you can read our comment policy on the About page.
      .
      But if you continue in this fashion we’ll have to consider banning you from commenting.
      .
      Thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Shanzdah-e Shirin

      @Ali:

      Go back to your Bedouin tent on your camel and eat your falafel. You who can’t even pronounce the P in Palestine and call Shchem its Greek name Neapolis are quite the cheeky ones to claim Jews are land stealers. You belong here as much as a descendent of Johann Sebastian Blastik. As native Balestinians you are imbostors, only the ahbals of the world can deny the ancient connection of the Jews to this land in favor of this Balestinian Arab nation Kwanzaa creation.

      Motshakeram for showing us what kind of enemies you are, the kind that doesnt shrink from any lie. Har sag roozesh ra dareh, as the old folks in Iran used to say.

      Reply to Comment
    18. @Shanzdah – the same goes for you. Read my comment above.
      .
      Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
    19. LITTLE OL ME

      WELL AS USUAL IT ALL COMES DOWN TO A SLAGGING MATCH,PITY THAT NO ONE NOTICES THAT MAY BE THE ISRAELIE ARABS ARE IN THE SAME SITUATION AS THE ISRAEL CHRISTIAN AND JEWS THE PRICE OF LIVING IS UNACCEPTABLE IN THIS COUNTRY WE ALL PAY THE PRICE FOR OUR GOVERNMENTS BAD HANDDLING OF THE BUDGET SO CAN MAY-BE WE UNITE JUST ONCE AND GET THIS GOVERNMENT TO LISTEN AFTER WE CAN CONTINUE THE PALISTINE ISRAELIE DEBATE (ITS NOT GOING AWAY)BY THE WAY IM BASING MY OPPINION ON PAST INFORMATION BUT IF ANYONE KNOWS SARAH ,BEBES WIFE WE COULD ASK HER TO PUT A WORD IN HIS EAR AS I FEEL SHE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT HE LISTENS TO (WELL G-D HELP HIM IF HE DOSENT)WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DOMESTICS IF TEY DONT . MAY YOU ALL HAVE A GOOD WEEK AND HAPPY NEW YEAR ,HEDEL FEETER , AND IM NOT SURE WHAT THE CHRISTIANS ARE CELEBRATING JUST NOW BUT MAKE IT A GOOD ONE. LITTLE OL ME

      Reply to Comment

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