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First large Israeli protest against war with Iran in Tel Aviv

By Dahlia Scheindlin and Larry Derfner

A lively crowd of approximately 1000 people, according to estimates by the Israeli media, gathered at Habima Square in Tel Aviv to voice its opposition to a war between Israel and Iran. Although hoping to capitalize on the energy of a surprisingly successful grassroots internet campaign that seemed to sweep the whole country last week, the protesters had all the hallmark attributes of a left-wing demonstration: large red flags associated with Hadash, the far-left Jewish-Arab party, calls for the Netanyahu government to resign, and no Israeli flags.

Demonstration against attack on Iran, Tel Aviv, 24 March, 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

Unlike most such gatherings, including left-wing and peace demonstrations, there were no politicians in sight – certainly none representing parties or speaking publicly.

Slogans, chants and signs directed most of the attention at the Prime Minister, calling “Bibi, don’t bomb Iran,” and exhorting him to “talk” instead of starting a war. Some implicitly accused Netanyahu of colluding with American Jewish leaders to ratchet up the war rhetoric, describing relationship with AIPAC as a love affair.

Demonstration against attack on Iran, Tel Aviv, 24 March, 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

Others said that an attack on Iran will come directly at the expense of social justice in Israel. Only one chant tried explicitly to say what the demonstration was actually trying to convey: “The majority of the public is against the war.”

Then there were the counter-demonstrators, who consisted mainly of angry individuals, rather than any organized group. One young man stood on a bench holding his middle finger up defiantly as the procession marched by, while another couple stood nearby, gaping. The man said “Are these Jews? Tell me – are they Jews?” One sign could be seen bobbing inside the crowd throughout the procession, reading ‘As usual, the left embraces the enemy.” At first its owner stood on the sidewalk, then joined the crowd marching up King George, where he was safe from harm. How would a lone leftist carrying a settler-bashing sign fare at a right-wing rally?

One smiling woman held a sign that said simply, “Make Sense, Not War.” When asked if she thought Israel would attack Iran, nonsensical though this may be, the woman, Ifat Zvirin, stopped smiling and said, “I think so. The odds are that it will happen.” Was there any way to prevent it? She said, “If people are strong and say no, then yes.” Did she think that would happen? “From past experience, no. But one must always hope.”

Demonstration against attack on Iran, Tel Aviv, 24 March, 2012 (Photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

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    1. Bill Pearlman

      This is a fascinating look at the mind of the left wing. You have a demonstration. Presumably to try and have some sort of influence on policy. In order to do that you have to appeal to the “silent majority”. If that is actually your goal appearing patriotic and flying some Israeli flags would be the way to go. Yet these people can’t bring themselves to do even that. Interesting.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Philos

      I decided against attending because I got into an idiotic argument with the people on the FB wall of the demo. “This isn’t a political demonstration” they quipped. I retorted “Are you idiots?! Of course it is political! It doesn’t get anymore political than this.”
      “Perhaps you’re confused and don’t know which side you are on.”
      Me: “No. I clearly know which side I am on. I just refuse to delude myself into thinking that this isn’t political and that you can’t take sides.”
      After that I decided I’d let the *#&#(@ hippies do their damn thing.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bill Pearlman

      What’s an FB wall?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Rafael

      Is this “no war until Madonna leaves” demonstration?

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      It would be nice to think this sort of thing would succeed when our demonstrations against the “Road to Jerusalem” war never did. But tyrants don’t listen to the voices of the people – never did, never will. They want their wars.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Noa

      Well…… as usual is the same middle-upper class Tel Avivim smiling in the pictures.
      I wonder, when they will shout “Bibi stop spending money on bombing Gaza citizens”
      But I guess it will never happen until Tel Aviv gets a missile…
      Which anyway WON’T HAPPEN cause is all about trying the iron dom missiles, and for that you have the southern idiots!…

      Reply to Comment
    7. directrob

      1000=large?? Must be a cultural difference.

      Reply to Comment
    8. sh

      “I decided against attending because I got into an idiotic argument with the people on the FB wall of the demo.” – Philos
      You do realize that the people you got into the argument with probably didn’t go either, don’t you?
      Leaving the computer and taking to the streets is the only way Bibi and co. will take notice. And it needs to be a hell of a lot more than a few hundred people.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Henry Weinstein

      I agree with you, dear SH.
      As always.
      I hoped thousands, they were hundreds.
      Considering what happened on the net, it seems that only the Jews living in the diaspora were ready to demonstrate. Explicitely, against the warmongers. Bibi Duck and Co.
      It has something to do with the rise of anti-semitism.
      The Iranians, they cannot demonstrate without being arrested & worse. They proved despite the repression that they were ready to interact with Israelis, without blaming them for being Zionits and other bullshit.
      End of the story.
      Only Iranians living in the diaspora can take the risk to show themselves. To expose their thoughts on the net. The Iranian Cyber police is mighty. Check Human Rights reports.
      Despite this, many Iranians living in Iran sent a message. Astounding.
      You have no idea, in Israel. How risky it was. The time it took for them with the filtering & very slow net.
      It seems the Israeli people is well under control. Happy to say “We Love U, John Lennon!”
      I admire the Iranians from Iran, knowing the risks they took to say hello.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Henry Weinstein

      Va te faire foutre, censure militaire.
      De quoi tu as peur? Que je dise du bien du peuple perse??

      Reply to Comment
    11. Henry Weinstein

      Vivre libre, ça donne quoi en Hébreu?

      Reply to Comment
    12. Henry Weinstein

      Dear SH, I’m not glad to inform you that my answer to you is under investigation. Looks like Persia, this way to control freedom on the net.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Henry Weinstein

      Et c’est complètement ridicule.
      Bande de nuls!
      Nuclear ducks!!!

      Reply to Comment
    14. Henry Weinstein

      Et hop, ça passe!

      Reply to Comment
    15. Henry Weinstein

      The only democracy in the Middle East: must be Turkey.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Henry Weinstein

      Or Shangri-la??

      Reply to Comment
    17. Henry Weinstein

      Wonderful: my infamous comment “is still waiting initial confirmation”.
      I feel like a Porn Star trying to do my business in North Korea.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Henry Weinstein

      Ich Bin Ein Berliner

      Reply to Comment
    19. Henry Weinstein

      I’m waiting for Godot.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Henry Weinstein

      Darius was right: ils sont vraiment très cons.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Andrew Coldrick

      It’s nice to see Israelis protesting AIPAC and its influence over US, Israel, and world politics

      Reply to Comment
    22. Sol Salbe

      Bill, maybe because I’m an Australian that I don’t understand you. In the lead up to the Iraq War we had demonstrations or 300,000 (Melbourne) and 500,000 in Sydney I don’t think you’d find a single Aussie flag in any of the picture. I don’t remember any during the Vietnam war either. Why the hell should one carry the flag identified with the government you are protesting against? Is this some US habit imported to Israel?

      BTW FB Wall = Facebook wall.

      Reply to Comment
    23. sh

      Il fallait de la patience, cher Henry! That automatic delay message happens to all of us from time to time and probably has more to do with whether a human is monitoring replies or whether it’s a machine, than any desire to censor an individual. I agree totally about the risks taken by the Iranians and I think we all knew that, which is why the parve flavor and the numbers last night were a little disappointing after the facebook flurry the posters generated. But compared to the last “no war on Iran” demo in TA, this one was large – if a little less explicit – so maybe there’s still hope for a next one?
      I thought Philos’s remark about the nature of the argument that caused him (and perhaps others?) to stay away was interesting because of this business of yes political, no political. In the past I’ve heard people here who are willing to engage in certain aspects of examining or even criticizing history or policy take care to stipulate that their reasons for doing so are not political (professional rather than political I heard some young architects say at a discussion about the effects of the Nakba). This stance was also in evidence in last summer’s huge demonstrations. That explains the use of the tsedek hevrati (social justice) as a slogan, which served as an umbrella for many different strands of opinion and gave rise, nevertheless, to some very political discussion. Last night’s demo slogans included the old tsedek hevrati slogans in large measure. Even Hadash, a political party that marches under a red flag, used them rather than anti-war-with-Iran slogans. I wondered why.

      Reply to Comment
    24. @Henry, please don’t write a long list of separate comments – it’s basically the same as spam. Sometimes a technical issue holds up comment approval, no need to read into it. Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Bill Pearlman

      Sol, I guess it is a cultural difference. To me and most Americans a countries flag is simply that. A countries flag. Not a particular government. Which in a democracy come and go. If your trying to sway the middle ground it would help if you showed a modicum of patriotism. Its a better tactic then saying only we understand what is going on and the rest of you are a bunch of idiots.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Henry Weinstein

      @ SH & Dahlia
      So it was a technical issue. Apologize, Dahlia.
      Why does it happen only when I write on ‘Persia’ – prudence! – or citing names of people arrested?
      Bad luck, I suppose.
      If I understand well, the demo was an initiative coming from activists, not from the people who launch the Love U Meme on the Net.
      It seems that everyone is afraid of political exploitation.
      You should be afraid of your government, Israelis!
      “We Love U Iranians, We will never bomb U”: not us, IAF fighters! And more to come, war.
      If you don’t say explicitely “No to your War, Bibi”, you just say “We Loved U, too bad”!
      The issue with the Israeli flag. I suppose the main problem was the ‘Persian’ flag: when you see it, you think the regime not the people. And if you cannot show the two flags together, then you don’t show any flag.
      Seems the brainwashing is very effective.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Hurriyeh

      Flags carry too much weight…and for all the wrong reasons.

      Reply to Comment
    28. ROHAN

      Pleasure………….But,Good inocent Israel people who think of others life are not even one undred thousand in number ?

      Reply to Comment
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