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Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians march in anti-occupation protest

Palestinians and Israelis took to Jerusalem’s streets in their thousands on Saturday night in order to protest the occupation. Meanwhile, diverse protests sprung up elsewhere in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv.

By Eli Bitan

Palestinian and Israeli MKs, including Aida Touma-Suleiman and Dov Khenin of the Joint Arab List, hold signs at a protest against the occupation, Jerusalem, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Palestinian and Israeli MKs, including Aida Touma-Suleiman and Dov Khenin of the Joint Arab List, hold signs at a protest against the occupation, Jerusalem, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A string of demonstrations saw thousands of people take to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest the occupation; the recent Netanyahu-backed government agreement to close the news division of the new Israeli public broadcasting authority; the failure to secure the release of Avera Mengistu, an Ethiopian Israeli who crossed into Gaza in September 2014 and has not been seen since; and the inadequate budget assigned to support the disabled in Israel.

In Jerusalem, thousands marched to mark 50 years of occupation, ending up at the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City. A number of activists and campaigners spoke, including Abu Ali, a resident of East Jerusalem at risk of eviction to make way for Jewish settlers; Avi Buskila, head of Peace Now; Muhammad Abu Hummus, head of the Popular Committee in Issawiya; and Yuli Novak, head of Breaking the Silence. MK Aida Touma-Suleiman of the Joint List and Meretz Chair and MK Zehava Galon also gave speeches.

Touma-Suleiman, who is a member of the joint Arab-Jewish Hadash faction in the Joint List, said: “All who believe in the need to deliver both peoples from the occupation must come together in its fiftieth year and apply real pressure to put an end to the right-wing government, to stop creeping annexation and the strengthening of an apartheid regime.

“Together, Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, we can overcome the occupation.”

Israelis hold signs calling to fight against racism, occupation, and for freedom of speech, in a march against the occupation in Jerusalem, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israelis hold signs calling to fight against racism, occupation, and for freedom of speech, in a march against the occupation in Jerusalem, April 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the looming closure of the new Israeli public broadcasting agency’s news division, with many of the protesters employees of the organization whose jobs are under threat.

The fate of the new agency’s news division was sealed this week after a tortuous and questionable process which threatened to devolve into early elections over Netanyahu’s refusal to allow the new organization, which is to replace the current Israeli Broadcasting Authority, to begin airing. A compromise was only reached when it was agreed that the new broadcaster would operate without a news arm.

Employees of the new Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation protest against the recent government deal for the new agency to operate without a news division, Tel Aviv, April 1, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Employees of the new Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation protest against the recent government deal for the new agency to operate without a news division, Tel Aviv, April 1, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Chanting protesters, who blocked a main road, compared Netanyahu to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They were eventually removed by riot police.

At the same time, two sets of protesters rallied outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem: one group called for the release of Avera Mengistu, while the other demanded an increase in the government’s support for the disabled.

Employees of the new Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, along with activists, protest the government deal to dismantle the new agency's news division, Tel Aviv April 1, 2017. (Martin Barzilai/Activestills.org)

Employees of the new Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, along with activists, protest the government deal to dismantle the new agency’s news division, Tel Aviv April 1, 2017. (Martin Barzilai/Activestills.org)

Ilan Mengisto, Avera’s brother, told the crowd of demonstrators: “The festival of freedom [Passover] is in just over two weeks, and for our family it’ll be another Passover without Avera. Throughout this period the government has given the appearance of being concerned about him, but it’s now clear that it was all a lie; there is no information whatsoever on my brother’s condition.

“The government has taken no action. With God’s help we will do all we can in order to bring him home.”

Eli Bitan is a journalist in the Haredi press in Israel, and is a blogger on Local Call, where this piece was originally published in Hebrew. Translated by Natasha Roth.

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    1. Firentis

      “Thousands”:
      Times of Israel: Hundreds
      Haaretz: About a thousand
      Walla: Over a thousand

      Seems like a pretty miserable protest. The people who want to legalize marijuana could bring out a lot more. Not exactly a display of strength.

      Reply to Comment
      • Mark

        Presumably people were fearful of attending, what with their being no free speech in Israel.

        What exactly were employees of the new Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation protesting? Were they at the right demonstration?

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          Yes, I am sure the secret police was going around arresting the possible participants. What other explanation could there be?

          The Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation employees were not at the same protest. They were not even in the same city. There were two other protests in Jerusalem that had no relation to this one. The article just decided to string together several unrelated protests for effect.

          Reply to Comment
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