Nearly 10,000 Israeli Jews and Palestinians came out to protest in central Tel Aviv on Saturday, against the aftermath of the attack on the aid flotilla, the siege on Gaza, the occupation, and the government of the far right.
The day before, hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians participated in a joint demonstration against the occupation and the separation wall/fence, in the West Bank, in the occupied territories. The Socialist Struggle Movement, (the CWI in Israel/Palestine) took part in both of the protests and called for a joint struggle against the occupation, national oppression and for security, welfare and jobs for all the people of the region.
The demonstrations on Saturday and Friday had been organized before the attack on the aid flotilla, and were scheduled – as every year, on the days of the 1967 war – to protest the ongoing direct and indirect occupation in Gaza and the West Bank since then. But, because of the recent developments, both demonstrations also became part of a series of protests against the attack on the flotilla in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem Beer Sheve, Nazareth, Shakhnin and other towns, with the participation of thousands of Palestinians and Israeli Jews in total.
The protests took part against the background of a vicious nationalist campaign by the Israeli regime against any criticism on the attack on the Gaza aid flotilla, with the mobilization of the whole pro-establishment media for this campaign.
Thousands of Israeli Jews and Palestinians came from all over the country to march on Saturday through the center of Tel Aviv, in a difficult atmosphere because of the nationalist mood in society in general, and on the streets where the march took place in particular. The march was surrounded by large police presence, and groups of far-right thugs who were well-organized and looking for a provocation.
The demonstration was organized under the title, ‘The government drowns us all – gotta aim for peace’ by Hadash, the front organization of the Israeli CP, along with other peace and anti occupation organizations, but also the establishment party, MERETZ (vigor), and its sister movement Peace Now. The leaderships of Peace Now and Meretz concisely decided not to take part in the protests during the week, although some of their activists did. Also, during Saturday’s demonstration, their leaders did not clearly condemn the attack on the flotilla, nor did they call for an end to the siege of Gaza.
Immediate end to the occupation!
In spite of this, the majority of the protestors called for the immediate end of the occupation, the siege and clampdown on the right to protest. Clearly, the deadly attack on the flotilla was a key factor behind the big mobilization. Many of the protestors, Jews and Palestinians, joined in the chants of our contingent. Members, supporters and people who met us for the first time, including Palestinian youth from Hadsah, marched with us, called our slogans in Hebrew and Arabic, and used our megaphones. Together we chanted: ‘No cover up will help – the siege is terror’: ‘There’s nothing to investigate – end the siege’; ‘To protest is not terrorism – end the siege on Gaza’; ‘Security is not built on the protest bodies’; ‘Generals and ministers stop the killing of demonstrators’; ‘The racist government is the security threat; and, ‘Invest in education not siege and occupation’. During the demonstration, we sold around 250 of the new issue of our paper, HaMa’avaK, and hundreds of stickers with the slogan, ‘Arabs and Jews fighting against the racists’, in Hebrew and Arabic.
During the demo we called out: “We will not stop to protest against the thuggery of the right–wing,” as organized groups of far-right thugs, incited by the government, tried to attack the demonstrators. During the rally, the thugs threw a smoke grenade into the center of the demo, but failed to spread panic or hurt anyone. Later, a group of them tried to attack Uri Avnery, an 85-year-old journalist and head of Gush Shalom. Immediately after the demo, without any action from the police, they marched through Tel Aviv, shouting "traitors" at all the people they passed by. Even though the far-right was encouraged by the government, they didn’t manage to mobilize more than 100 on the counter-demo on that day – only 1% of the number participating in the anti-occupation demo. Still, they present a serious threat that needs to be fought against.
A Joint Demonstration in the West Bank
The previous day, Socialist Struggle Movement activists took part, with hundreds of Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, in a joint countrywide demonstration against the occupation. It was organized by the popular committees against the separation wall/ fence in the West Bank and different peace organizations. The demo took part in the village of New Biet Nuba, located on the so-called route 443 – a highway that goes through the West Bank, connects Jerusalem to the different settlements, and is supposed to be the main route to Ramallah for the Palestinians. The highway was built on land confiscated from Palestinian villages but, outrageously, has been closed to the movement of Palestinians for years. The supreme court of Israel, which usually provides the legal pretexts for the racist policies of the regime and the occupation, ordered the highway to be opened for Palestinians – but not the checkpoint into Ramallah. That remains closed. This means that, for the Palestinians, the highway leads nowhere.
The demonstration began with a march from the village to the separation fence that cuts out the village from the highway, and the lands of the Yalu, Imwas and (original) Biet Nuba villages, that were demolished during the 1967 war, their residents becoming refugees. Ten minutes after the start of the demonstration, when the first demonstrators reached the separation fence, heavy rounds of tear gas were shot at all of the demonstrators. The army kept on shooting tear-gas grenades inside the village for another hour making even small kids who had come on the demo with their families breathe the gas. In a period when it was still possible, activist of the CWI chanted: ‘Dismantle the wall – stop the land grab’; ‘The settlements are a crime – dismantle the settlements council’; ‘With gas and helicopters, you will not silence the protests’.
In spite of the harsh nationalist propaganda of the Israeli regime, both of the demonstrations showed the potential that exists to move towards the construction of a movement of youth and workers, Israelis and Palestinians, Arab and Jews, struggling for the end of the occupation and bloody conflict and in our mutual interests.