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Tel Aviv sees largest leftwing demonstration in years

Thousands march to protest Knesset’s decision to probe human rights organizations

Protest in Tel Aviv, Jan 15, 2011 (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Tel Aviv – More than 10,000 people marched this evening in protest of recent anti-democratic and racist initiatives by the Israeli government. The march, which started in front of the Likud HQ in King George Street and ended at the Tel Aviv Museum Square, was one of the largest leftwing demonstrations in Israel in years.

Despite the cold weather, attendance exceeded expectations, and many protesters were unable to enter the Museum Square itself. According to the demonstration’s organizers, a last-minute effort was made to arrange additional buses for protesters coming from other cities.

Representatives of various opposition parties spoke at the event. Hadsh MK Mohammad Barakeh told the crowd that though some people hoped that the occupation would “remain outside the 1967 borders,” this idea was proved wrong. “The occupation corrupted Israel,” said Barakeh.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said that it’s too easy to blame [Israel Beitenu’s Avigdor] Lieberman and [Shas’] Eli Yisahy for the current unti-democratic trends. “It is Binyamin Netanyahu’s government that initiates the racist and anti-democratic laws,” said Horowitz. He later attacked Labor party and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for taking part “in the most racist government in Israel’s history.”

Protest in Tel Aviv, Jan 15, 2011 (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Many protesters held signs and wore stickers in support of leftwing activist Jonathan Pollak who was recently jailed for three months after taking part in a bicycle ride against the Gaza blockade.

MK Meir Sheetrit of Kadima, former Justice and interior minister, advised human rights organizations not to cooperate with the planned Knesset committee that would look into their actions and financial sources. The committee has no legal or moral authority, said Sheetrit.

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    1. maayan

      Democracy in action. 😉

      Reply to Comment
    2. Branko

      “Hadsh MK Mohammad Barakeh told the crowd that though some people hoped that the occupation would “remain outside the 1967 borders,” this idea was proved wrong. “The occupation corrupted Israel,” said Barakeh.”

      A very powerful quote.

      Reply to Comment
    3. @Maayan – For now. 😉

      Reply to Comment
    4. maayan

      Until the day the Haredim get their population to 40% of the total, we’re fine. Then it becomes 1 vote 1 time. To prevent this outcome, Ami, you should be having more children.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Pretty sad that that’s your plan to save democracy, Maayan.

      Reply to Comment
    6. maayan

      What, wishing that you have more children?

      Ami, I’m going to show this to your wife.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ben Israel

      The Haredim have no interest whatsoever in running Israel. They view themselves as a special interest group. These apocalyptic fears that they are going to “take over” have no basis in fact. They are undergoing a major crisis regarding the desire by many of their young to more fully participate in Israeli society regarding army service, education, professions and the such, because they are not given the tools to do this, and the demand is growing. Their leadership is going to have to change and I have no doubt it will happen, no matter how painful it is for them. It is inevitable.

      Reply to Comment
    8. maayan

      Ben Israel, let’s hope you are right. In the meantime, perhaps we can get the three largest parties together, have them change Israel’s electoral system so that it doesn’t allow for such severe manipulation of the majority by the minority, and then we can all breathe easy? Oh wait, that would mean that Ami’s favorite parties would also be left out in the cold. Never mind, I guess the center can never win.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Too bad I don’t have a favorite party to support Maayan’s claims. Oh well, the usual putting words in my mouth. I’ve gotten used to it.

      Reply to Comment
    10. maayan

      At least I’m not calling you “racist,” “bigot” or “fascist.” I’m just encouraging you to have more children.

      Reply to Comment
    11. I would never call you a racist on someone else’s channel, Maayan. Only on mine. 😉
      Hey, I was wondering, were you at the demo last night? Seeing as how you’re a Labor voter who is not content with its current leadership (did I get that right?), and one who values Israeli democracy, this demo would have been right up your alley, no?

      Reply to Comment
    12. Ben Israel

      The only consitutional change that I think could make any real difference would be electing the Knesset using a constituency system, rather than the current proportional representation system. This does nothing to prevent corruption, but it does make the Knesset members much more responsive to their constituents feelings (i.e. a corrupt MK may stay in if his voters feel he is “delivering the goods”). Another advantage is that it would tend to keep extremists of all kinds out, since extremists are usually a minority of the population which is spread over the whole country. Of course, there are problems with this system as well, particularly that of “gerrymandering”, i.e. drawing the districts to favor one particular party. An example of this is the question of what to do with Bene Braq? Do you draw a compact district to give the all the Haredi voters a majority so they can elect a haredi MK, or do you split it up and join the parts to neighboring secular areas? The same question would occur in heavily Arab populated areas. Still, I favor going to this system.

      Reply to Comment
    13. maayan

      I agree with what you wrote, Ben Israel, and that is one option, even if a flawed one. There is another possibility and that is to require a very high threshold of seats to sit in the Knesset. Say, 25. This would force the smaller parties to merge with larger parties, or, more correctly, to be absorbed into the larger parties. I believe, for example, that on their last list Labor had 7 Arab Israelis? Essentially, this would happen to Shas and Meretz and all the others in the future. You would end up with a three or four party parliamentary system and the conflicts about allocation of state resources would happen within the parties prior to elections, not at the Knesset or coalition negotiations. The influence of smaller interest groups would still exist, but to a much smaller degree than now.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Gay Goy Guy

      This protest while popular is an empty gesture. The state of Israel makes Orwellian threats to probe leftest groups and thousand flock to the streets, while real crimes like the killing of peace activists and house theft go unchallenged by most Jewish Israelis. If you think that the state of Israel doesn’t already have organizations to track leftists and dissidents, you are sorely naive.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Worst of all is that Mr. Shitrit, a member of knesset, doesn’t even know the law properly- the reason this was compared to McCarthyism from the beginning, is exactly because the LAW is used to do things that are of political nature and not out of care for the public interest- the reason for which the law is intended. The committe DOES have a LEGAL authority…
      Just like a lot of things Nir Barkat does and approves, do fall under his legal authority, they’re simply an abuse of the law for political reasons.
      If shitrit wasn’t so busy trying to finger-print 8 million people, maybe he would have time to catch up with some laws.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Ben Israel

      I think you need to correct your terminology. You say that Israel is “killing peace activists”. When you say “peace activist” you mean “anti-Israel protestor”. The two are not the same thing. A “peace activist” is someone who opposes violence and will work towards that end. Starting a demonstration with the expectation and hope that violence will ensue is NOT working towards peace.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Ardys DeLu


      Reply to Comment
    18. BlightUntoNations

      …………………………Actually Ben, the reason no one takes J Street seriously is precisely because they call themselves “pro-Israel and pro-peace.” Most today recognize the ludicrousness of such a claim. Peace and the existence of Israel are not compatible concepts. To be pro-peace is to be anti-Israel. No getting around it.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Gay Goy Guy

      You are right Ben, people who start protests in the hope that violence will ensue are not peace activists even if they are unarmed. I wasn’t talking about the flotilla or even about the Abu Rahmah’s I was writing about the cases such as Corrie or Hurndall, especially in the case of Hurndal when the IDF shooter was found guilty by a military court for killing a “peace activist”.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Gay Goy Guy

      And when I use “peace activist” there I borrowed the terminology from Ha-aretz, BBC, and Democracy Now.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Ben Israel

      I know everyone calls Corrie a “peace activist”, but there is a photograph of her burning an American flag with a group of enthusiastic Arab kids watching. Now, wouldn’t a peace activist try to convince the kids that America was their friend rather than trying to stir up hatred for the US. That is why calling a her a “peace activist” is a fraud. A peace activist is someone who tries to INCREASE understanding among peoples, not to spread hatred like she was doing.

      Reply to Comment
    22. BlightUntoNations

      ……………………………………..”Now, wouldn’t a peace activist try to convince the kids that America was their friend rather than trying to stir up hatred for the US.” Yes of course. We always bomb our friends, don’t we? It’s a sign of affection.

      What a sickening, clueless lout you are, Ben. No wonder you live in that nauseating backwater of a country.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Martin Sandberger

      Im totally with Blight

      Reply to Comment
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