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PHOTOS: Thousands protest in Tel Aviv as part of Global Climate Strike

Thousands of Israelis march through central Tel Aviv demanding the government join the U.K., Ireland, France, and Canada in declaring a climate emergency.

By Haggai Matar and Oren Ziv

Thousands of people marched in central Tel Aviv as part of the global climate strike on Friday, demanding that the government declare a climate emergency. The aim of such a move would be to compel the state’s various arms to immediately reduce their contribution to global warming. Throughout the past year, the U.K., Ireland, France and Canada have all declared a climate emergency.

A broad coalition of organizations protested in Tel Aviv, with young people heavily represented — one of the defining features of the ongoing wave of international climate strikes.

Demonstrators wore masks of Israeli political party leaders and waved effigies of other politicians, including U.S. President Donald Trump.

Marchers chanted numerous slogans throughout the protest, such as “A generation demands a future,” “The people demand climate justice,” “Jews and Arabs together for the climate,” and more.

Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide took part in Friday’s climate strike. A week earlier, millions of demonstrators around the world also took part in mass demonstrations to demand climate justice.

A version of this post originally appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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The end of the Netanyahu era doesn't mean the end of the occupation

If Netanyahu is replaced, things might actually get worse for Palestinians.

As election results started pouring in Tuesday night, one could hear a sigh of relief – and even some cries of joy – among Israelis who identify with the center-left.

According to near-final results, the right absorbed a serious blow. Its voter intimidation campaign failed to deter Palestinian citizens of Israel from going to the polling stations, and may have actually backfired, giving the Joint List additional mandates. Meanwhile, the Zionist left parties held on to the same number of seats as in the previous election.

The Netanyahu era is probably coming to an end. His options are limited: he might join a unity government with Blue and White, which means the latter would backtrack on its campaign promise not to sit with Netanyahu; his own party might oust him; or there might be a third election. In any case, Netanyahu won’t be able to prevent the Attorney General from issuing criminal indictments against him; he will soon be forced to step aside.

This is no small matter. Given political patterns in Israel over the past decade, the departure of Netanyahu might signal a shift in a new direction. We might be seeing the last days of a decade-long, Trump-like style of leadership based on racist rhetoric toward Palestinian citizens, left-wing NGOs, the media, and the judicial system. This is indeed a reason to rejoice.

The occupation, however, is not going anywhere. Israeli military control over the day-to-day lives of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank, the siege on Gaza, and the structural discrimination against hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem are all here to stay. None of these three aforementioned groups were allowed to vote for the government that decides their fate.

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Likud, which is likely to play a central role in the next government (with or without Netanyahu), will not end the occupation or the siege. Neither will Avigdor Liberman, a settler who has historically incited against Palestinians. Nor will Blue and White, a party run by a group of former IDF generals who presided over the occupation, and who have already made a career out of planning to bomb Gaza “back to the stone age.” The end of the Netanyahu era does not mean the annexation of the Jordan Valley or the settlement of...

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Why HBO's 'Our Boys' is a victory for Israeli hasbara

By calling to boycott HBO’s ‘Our Boys,’ Prime Minister Netanyahu misses the fact that the series ends up erasing the occupation’s greatest iniquities while supporting the dominant Israeli narrative.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked controversy in both Israel and across the world late last week when he published a post on his official Facebook page denouncing HBO’s widely-praised series, “Our Boys,” as anti-Semitic. The prime minister called on Israelis to boycott the Israeli media company Keshet, which partnered with HBO on the series, and whose subsidiary news company has been publishing exclusive materials from the pending criminal investigations against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is riding a wave of right-wing criticism of “Our Boys,” the dramatization of the murder of the Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir by Jewish Israelis in the summer of 2014, shortly after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinians. Israeli right-wing journalists have slammed the series for choosing to focus on the brutal murder of 16-year-old Abu Khdeir, which they consider an exception to the norm in Israel, as opposed to the killing of Israeli civilians at the hands of Palestinians.

Critics claim that by choosing such a rare event ­— one that came from the extreme fringes of Israeli society and was denounced wholeheartedly by the vast majority of Israelis — and by choosing not to focus on the many attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, HBO and Keshet are either playing into the hands of anti-Semites or are simply anti-Semitic themselves.

However, judging by the first four episodes that have aired so far, the critics have it the other way around. While “Our Boys” is a complex and thoughtful series that includes some of today’s finest Israeli and Palestinian actors, the series does more of a service to the Israeli narrative and to hasbara, Israeli public diplomacy, than anything else.

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In fact, it is precisely the choice to portray and focus on Abu Khdeir’s murder that actually helps redeem Israel. The second episode, for example, shows how deeply convinced Israeli security forces are that Jews could not have possibly committed such a heinous crime. In the episodes to come, show creator Haggai Levy has promised to show “how deeply shocked Israeli...

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Will Israel's treatment of Omar and Tlaib finally wake Democrats up?

Now that Israel has banned entry to Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, will Democrats affirm the right to boycott and hold Israel’s feet to the fire? Five takeaways.

1. Don’t let the headlines fool you: neither Ilhan Omar nor Rashida Tlaib had any intention of visiting Israel when they announced their trip to the region. They had hoped, instead, to visit the occupied West Bank, where Tlaib’s family hails from. The fact that Israel is the sole sovereign between the river and the sea and can decide who and what can enter or exit the West Bank is one of the most fundamental aspects of Israel’s 52-year military occupation.

2. One must also take stock of Israel’s priorities when it makes decisions about who is or isn’t welcome. While authoritarian leaders such Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are welcomed with open arms, these two Democratic congresswomen are turned into enemies of the state. Why? Because they believe in the right to hold Israel to account, including through boycotts.

3. BDS, one should recall, is a nonviolent and legitimate tool of resistance, especially when considering that Israel has crushed all other forms of Palestinian resistance for decades, be it violent or nonviolent. Boycotts of and divestments from businesses that profit off of human rights violations and war crimes are common in various struggles for social justice.

Meanwhile, even Israel supports the use of international sanctions when it serves its political goals. But only when applied to Israel’s decades’ long occupation and apartheid policies — with the express purpose of promoting freedom, equality, and democracy for Palestinians  — are boycotts, divestment and sanctions demonized.

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4. This is where parts of the left, whether in Israel, the U.S., Europe or elsewhere, also share the blame. Large segments among both Democrats and the Zionist left have historically taken part in delegitimizing BDS as a political tool for Palestinian liberation. By isolating BDS supporters, those on the left have paved the way for Netanyahu and Trump to go after Tlaib and Omar.

This can and should be a decisive moment. We are already hearing Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and left-wing and liberal groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and J Street denouncing Israel for the decision. Even AIPAC is...

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Five reasons why voting for Netanyahu was a rational choice for Jewish Israelis

Yes, Netanyahu is facing corruption probes and is practically annexing the West Bank. But for many Jewish Israelis, he has also provided relative security, a better economy, and growing international legitimacy — which makes the unknown alternative much worse.

Benjamin Netanyahu won his fifth election campaign Tuesday, making him Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. Most Israeli citizens, and an overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis, prefer to continue with the exact same policies that the Likud has put forward over the past decade. These voters rejected most of the far-right, fundamentalist parties that call for formal annexation, turned the Zionist left into an insignificant minority in the Knesset, and kept Netanyahu in power, despite the several political corruption charges he is facing.

Why did they do that? Why do people vote for someone who proudly stands for hatred and racism? For a leader who proliferates apartheid policies and occupation as he moves forward with partial annexation, and repeatedly attacks democratic institutions such as the courts, the free press and civil society? Why condone political corruption?

In fact, there are quite a few good reasons why. This is not an attempt to justify Netanyahu’s victory or policies, but rather to offer an analysis of the considerations Jewish Israelis are likely taking into account when they interpret their political realities and perceive the risks they face.

1. Security: The numbers tell the entire story. According to B’Tselem, between the start of the Second Intifada in late 2000 and the end of the 2009 war in Gaza, 1,072 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, while 6,303 Palestinians were killed by Israelis. Shortly after the 2009 Gaza War ended, Netanyahu took office. In the ten years since, 195 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, and 3,485 Palestinians were killed by Israelis, predominantly during Israel’s 2014 assault on in Gaza.

Over the past decade, there were no wars with Lebanon, the Syrian civil war did not filter through the Israeli border, and Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria went generally unanswered. Netanyahu has been able to manage the occupation and the siege in Gaza, as well as the Syrian-Iranian front, in a way that costs far less Israeli lives than in the previous decade, which Israelis remember well. In the early 2000s, Israeli civilians were confronted with the consequences of occupation inside Israel, through suicide attacks and rocket fire. Under Netanyahu, the occupation goes...

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Likud attempts to intimidate Palestinian voters with hidden ballot cams

Poll workers from the Likud party are using hidden cameras to record Palestinian voters as they head to the polls on Election Day. The goal? To intimidate Arab citizens and make sure they stay home. 

Members of the ruling Likud party placed at least 1,200 hidden cameras on poll workers across Palestinian towns and villages in Israel on Election Day Tuesday. Likud members said the goal was to prevent electoral fraud.

Israeli police immediately detained a number of poll workers, taking them in for interrogation, while the Central Elections Committee released a statement clarifying that poll workers cannot photograph or record voters, as doing so infringes upon their privacy.

But there is something far more sinister at play. Israel’s ruling party wants to make sure that as many Palestinian citizens across Israel hear about hidden cameras at polling booths, prompting them to stay home. The leaders of the various Arab parties responded to the stunt by calling on Palestinian citizens to go out and vote.

For a population already facing persecution by the government, whose activists and artists know they can be arrested for publishing their opinions on the internet, who know what it’s like to lose their job for speaking out, whose political leadership is viewed as illegitimate by most Knesset parties — the message is clear. Big Brother is always watching.

Likud’s Election Day tampering is by no means an aberration. The party supported the raising of the election threshold, which was put in place to try and keep the Arab parties out of the Knesset. It is the same party responsible for the race-mongering of the 2015 election. The same party that tried to prevent an Israeli NGO from busing Bedouin citizens to the polling booths. The party whose election campaign was based on portraying the Palestinian candidates as supporters of terrorism who want to wipe out Israel.

There is a reason Likud ceaselessly focuses on the Palestinian public: it knows that without a Jewish-Arab alliance, there will be no way to replace the right.

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This doesn't need to happen: Another pre-election war on Gaza

We need leaders who can talk about ending the siege, about ending the occupation, about equality, freedom, and security as the only solution for both Israelis and Palestinians.

By Haggai Matar and Oren Ziv

The rocket fired from Gaza that destroyed a home and wounded seven people in central Israel Monday morning, took Israelis by surprise. On the one hand, that’s totally understandable; we aren’t used to rocket fire in the Tel Aviv area, and certainly not rockets that exact such a devastating price. An attack on civilians, on a sleeping family, is a terrifying thing.

On the other hand, the attack is surprising only if we disconnect it from all the stories that don’t get any airtime: unarmed protesters shot on the Israel-Gaza fence almost every week (only recently, a 14-year-old was shot dead by Israeli snipers), several deadly incidents West Bank in recent weeks, along with attacks and other steps being taken against Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. When we talk about Palestinian aggression, hardly anyone mentions the fact that since the beginning of the year, Israeli security forces have killed 30 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

The rocket attack is a surprise only if we allow ourselves to forget the wider context of the daily reality of occupation — from arrests of Palestinian children in their classrooms to settler attacks on Palestinian farmers — or the siege on Gaza, which has left the Gazans impoverished and hopeless.

None of this justifies attacks on Israeli civilians, of course, but it should remind us that Israel is the one attacking Palestinian civilians on a daily basis. We cannot lose sight of that context when we talk about what may come next.

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In response to the rocket attack Monday morning, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel would “respond with force.” (At the time of publication, those attacks had begun.) Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan, who visited the destroyed house in the moshav of Mishmarot, described the Israeli government’s three options: continue shooting on “empty depots” in Gaza, re-occupy the strip, or re-institute Israeli’s targeted killing program.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said that Hamas must be “subdued,” while Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz, whose campaign ads bragged of sending Gaza back to the Stone Age, blamed Netanyahu for the rocket attack for not...

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A spike in censorship: Israel censored on average one news piece a day in 2018

The IDF Censor prohibited the publication of more news reports last year than in almost any other year this decade. While fewer articles were submitted for review than in previous years, the percentage of stories that were partially or fully censored was significantly higher.

Israel’s military censor prohibited the publication of 363 news articles in 2018, more than six a week, while partially or fully redacting a total of 2,712 news items submitted to it for prior review. According to the data, provided in response to a freedom of information request filed by +972 Magazine, Local Call, and the Movement for Freedom of Information, the censor barred more news stories from publication in 2018 than in almost any other year this decade.

The number of stories published with censor intervention also spiked, as the percentage of censored stories in 2018 was higher than in every year since 2011. Only 2014 — the year of Israel’s last war in Gaza — saw similarly substantial censorship of the press, when the IDF Censor partially or fully redacted 3,122 news stories, and completely barred 597 of them from being published.

The spike in censorship compared to 2017 is significant: in the last year, the IDF Censor prevented the publication of 92 more articles than it did in the year prior, while it partially or fully redacted an additional 625 stories. Over the past eight years, the censor has prohibited a total of 2,661 news stories from seeing the light of day.

All media outlets in Israel are required to submit articles relating to security and foreign relations to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. The censor draws its authority from “emergency regulations,” enacted following Israel’s founding, and which remain in place until today. These regulations allow the censor to fully or partially redact an article, while barring media outlets from indicating in any way whether a story has been altered. Over recent years, however, more and more journalists in Israel have been using the term “censor approved” in their reporting.

In recent years, the censor has tried to expand the scope of its power to review information prior to publication into the online world, including by notifying independent blogs and digital publications, like +972 Magazine, that they must submit certain articles for review. (Read more about censorship and +972.)

While legal criteria defining the IDF Censor’s mandate are both strict and...

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The most critical issues Israelis won't be voting on in the next election

Israelis will head to the polls next April to elect a new government. But none of the major parties are offering any real change when it comes to the occupation or social justice issues. This is where the left has a role to play. 

Amid a number of coalition crises and the possibility of an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaders of the Israeli government announced Monday that they would be dissolving the Knesset and holding elections on April 9th.

The elections will put an end to the most right-wing government in Israeli history, and if the last few years have taught us anything, election season will inevitably be rife with racist incitement against Palestinians and other minorities.

But what will the next elections be about? What’s on the agenda beyond the public’s love or disdain for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his multiple corruption scandals, or competition among cadres of elites? What isn’t on the agenda? And most importantly: what can the left offer?

The vast majority of political parties running in the upcoming elections — and which are slated to gain the majority of Knesset seats — will not offer a different vision for a reality that has become almost natural in Israel. A reality in which we lord over millions of Palestinians who lack basic civil or human rights. Netanyahu, Labor’s Avi Gabbay, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Liberman — none of them is proposing to end the military regime in the West Bank.

None of them is proposing to end the siege on Gaza, the largest open-air prison in the world, or to bring about a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. None of them have anything to offer by way of peace and equality for all residents of this land as a basis for a political solution. In fact, none of them has any solution beyond the status quo.

The difference between the major parties will be about how much force needs to be used against the Palestinians. They will be about whether Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who shot an incapacitated Palestinian in the head in Hebron, needs to be convicted, not whether Israel should control Hebron in the first place. They will be about whether approving another 60 settlement outposts in the West Bank is a good idea, but not whether Ariel or Ma’aleh Adumim are morally justified. They will be about whether and just how...

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Israel's next elections will be about who is more violent to Palestinians

The resignation of Defense Minister Liberman could very well trigger elections as early as next March. Many will be going the polls with one question in mind: how much force should we use against Palestinians?

Israel appears to be going to early elections. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday announced that he is resigning from his post, and that his party, Yisrael Beytenu, will leave the ruling coalition over what he called Netanyahu’s “surrender to terrorism.” The surprise resignation came just a day after Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, ending the most violent flare-up the Gaza border has seen since the 2014 war.

Immediately following his announcement, the right-wing Jewish Home party — Liberman’s main competition for the title of “most hawkish” in the government — released a statement that it too would leave the coalition unless party leader Naftali Bennett replaces Liberman as defense minister. It is unlikely Netanyahu will agree to such conditions, which means that his coalition will probably fall apart, ushering in early elections in the spring of 2019, instead of their original date in November 2019.

Liberman’s move makes perfect sense, if one considers that his party, which holds only five of 120 seats in the Knesset, might not make it past the election threshold, as several polls have indicated (Liberman, ironically, was behind the effort to raise the threshold in an attempt to keep Arab parties out of the parliament). Leaving office and blaming Netanyahu for being too soft on Hamas may just be his ticket for political survival.

Liberman also used his podium to attack Netanyahu for backing down on the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar, allowing Qatari cash and fuel into Gaza, and the latest cease-fire. Less than a day after Likud supporters demonstrated against Netanyahu in the southern city of Sderot, demanding harsher retaliation in Gaza after over 400 rockets were launched from the Strip into Israel, Liberman is now relying on public resentment toward the prime minister’s “lenient” response – which had the support of all the heads of the security establishment.

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If this is indeed the launch of the 2019 national election campaign, it means Israelis could be going to the polls as early as March with one question before them: how much force should we use against Palestinians? Judging by the past 24 hours, the answers most political parties will offer will range from “a lot” to “a lot more.”

Liberman and Bennett weren’t alone in criticizing...

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What Netanyahu's idea of peace looks like

Although he may publicly reiterate his support for a two-state solution, Netanyahu’s vision for a future Palestinian state is one that would lack nearly all sovereignty. 

U.S. President Donald Trump said that he favors two states as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during a press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Wednesday.

In response to Trump’s comments, which signaled a change from his previous stance, according to which he would back whichever solution Israelis and Palestinians support, Netanyahu told reporters that “Everyone defines the term ‘state’ differently. I am willing for the Palestinians to have the authority to rule themselves without the capability to harm us.” Israel, said Netanyahu, will not “relinquish security control west of the Jordan.”

One cannot regard Netanyahu’s statements, ostensibly made in good faith, without considering the context in which they were said — that is, in reaction to the president’s statement, which Netanyahu did not wish to contradict. We must, however, remember that only a month ago that same Netanyahu said he sees “no urgency” in promoting any sort of peace deal, and that “peace is made with the strong” – something that clearly does not reflect the Palestinians’ political situation at present.

Yet if we are to take Netanyahu seriously, ignoring the ways in which he has made a career out of dismantling the two-state solution, and even if we remember that Trump’s understanding of the peace process includes taking issues such as the status of Jerusalem and Palestinians refugees off the table, we still need to understand what he means when he says that Israel would maintain “security control” of the entire territory west of the Jordan River.

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It’s an important issue to discuss, not only because Netanyahu has been repeating this phrase for the past several of years, but because we have a great deal of experience to help us learn what Israel defines as “security control” over supposedly autonomous Palestinian territories. Here are just a handful of examples.

Complete control over borders. The Gaza precedent shows us just how far Israel is willing to go in using the excuse of “security needs,” while in reality collectively punishing millions of people in the Strip for the decisions and actions of the Hamas government. Control over borders — which will likely be even...

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Why Arab citizens waved Palestinian flags in central Tel Aviv

Because two peoples live here, side by side, and the Israeli government is doing its best to erase the rights and history of only one of them.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis protested and marched against the Jewish Nation-State Law Saturday night, demanding full civil equality for all residents of this land. It was a spectacular and rare showing, yet most of Israel’s top politicians (including on the Left) and media outlets were concerned with one thing only: Palestinian flags flown in Rabin Square.

Let’s start with the facts: Saturday night’s protest was organized by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, and was joined by dozens of political parties, movements, and civil society organizations. At first the demonstration was to be held without flags of any kind, and out of the 30,000 demonstrators who converged on the square, the vast majority did not bring or raise flags. A few dozen protesters decided to bring Palestinian flags, as well as a few Israeli ones. At first, the organizers asked everyone to lower them, yet they gave up rather quickly, and the flags — both kinds — were flown throughout the entire demonstration,.

Anyone who has ever been to a protest knows that this is how things go. Demonstrations are not a sterile zone; people bring a variety of signs and flags that are not necessarily agreed upon ahead of time with the organizers.

Yet the organizers did not renounce the Palestinian flags, and rightly so. Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Chairman Muhammad Barakeh opened his speech by addressing the headlines that had already appeared on various Israeli news sites, stating unequivocally that the Palestinian flag represents an oppressed minority, and that everyone has the right to raise it.

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So why did they bring Palestinian flags to Tel Aviv?

For a few reasons. First of all, because they are Palestinian. There live two large nations in this country, alongside a number of other smaller groups. Twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Arab, those who are often called “Israeli Arabs,” who are Palestinian — part of the same nation that lives in the occupied territories and refugee camps in the diaspora. They are members of the same families divided by borders, they share the same culture, the same language, the same customs — and the same flag. Among them are those who identify...

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Tens of thousands of Palestinians and Jews protest Nation-State Law

Palestinian citizens of Israel, joined by their Jewish Israeli supporters, demonstrated against the Jewish Nation-State Law in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. 

Over 30,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel and their supporters demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday evening against the Jewish Nation-State Law. The protest, organized by the umbrella organization of Palestinian citizens in Israel, was one of several actions taken against the law, including petitions to the High Court of Justice as well as smaller demonstrations across the country. Saturday’s protest came a week after tens of thousands of Druze citizens came out to Rabin Square to protest the same law.

Although the protest was set to begin at 7:30 p.m., thousands had already converged on Rabin Square hours earlier. Hundreds of Muslim protesters also took part in a mass prayer prior to the beginning of the rally. Protesters flew both Israeli and Palestinian flags, despite an earlier controversy among activists around the presence of national symbols at the demonstration. Shortly after 8 p.m., the demonstrators began marching toward Tel Aviv Museum, while chanting slogans against racism and fascism in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Twenty-six political parties, movements, and civil society organizations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Peace Now, Sikkuy, Mossawa, and Amnesty International, called on the public to participate in the event. Hundreds of buses headed out from 70 different locations across the country, including from Druze and Bedouin villages.

The march ended with a rally outside the museum, and included remarks by Arab High Monitoring Committee Chairman Muhammad Barakeh, prominent Israeli sociologist Professor Eva Illouz, historian Professor Kais Firro, and Haaretz publisher Amos Schoken, among others.

“Not all Arabs and Jews think the same. But all the Jews and Arabs here came out in droves to the square to wipe out the abomination and erase the stain of Netanyahu and his government’s Jewish Nation-State Law. We will also erase the stain that is his government,” Barakeh told the crowd.

“We are not going to rest after this incredible protest,” Barekeh continued. “We are marking the beginning of the way and there is no way back until the law is rescinded. Our struggle will be here, a popular parliamentary and democratic struggle for Arabs as well as Jews.”

“I came to France from Morocco when I was 10 years old,” Eva Illouz told the crowd. “Although I was Jewish and from Morocco, I went to the same...

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