Israel/Palestine: Israeli Jews and Palestinians’ anti-war demonstration attacked by IDF, an eyewitness report

4,000 people, Palestinians and Jews, took part in a demo at A-ram junction on Wednesday 3 April at the IDF checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah. The event, organised by radical women organisations, was meant to be a quiet parade followed by trucks of supplies for the besieged Palestinian areas, reports Rotem, a member of Maavak Sotzialisti (CWI section in Israel).

The A-Ram checkpoint divides a Palestinian neighbourhood in two, and many residents from the Israeli side of the checkpoint joined the parade. The parade was stopped by the IDF immediately when we got to the checkpoint. We maintained a peaceful demo. Only women were allowed to be on the front (the organisers’ decision).

For the first time since the beginning of the Intifada there were new Jewish activists on the protest. As an experienced activist said, "I never saw most of those faces, most of them have never been in a left wing demo". That was true. Many came to a demo for the first time in their life, and many others came for the first time after more than twenty years.

During one conversation we we had with a protester we realised that in spite of the war, many Palestinians do not have illusions in the Palestinian Authority. Some of them have been unemployed for years. I was told by a Palestinian demonstrator, "I am unemployed for two years now. I have a wounded boy at home, and I cannot give my kids a feeling of security. We must live here together, but the leaderships cannot give us a peaceful life, only the simple people can bring peace. It must come from below. Individual terror sends the Jewish masses to the hands of the nationalists".

IDF attack demo

As this conversation ended I went as far to the front as was allowed for men. Within a minute, I saw people running from the front – that was the end of the peaceful protest. The IDF started attacking the demo with shock grenades and tear-gas. The demo was relocated a few hundred meters from the checkpoint. When everybody thought the attack was over, it started once again, and this time a big force of the Israeli police joined the army. Soon you could see 4,000 people running with onions in their hands [onions are used to counteract the effects of tear gas]. But another police force was waiting at the next junction ready with gas grenades and clubs, so the demonstrators ran directly into the gas. Almost all of the protesters had already been hurt when the police started breaking-up the demo with truncheons.

More than twenty demonstrators were wounded. A Palestinian demonstrator showed us the blood on his trousers (over most of his leg) and told us what the police have done to his friend, "They pushed him on the road and started beating him with clubs". The police stopped the medical services from getting help to the wounded demonstrators for two hours.

In spite of the repression, this demo might be the beginning of a serious protest movement against the war. But it will not be based on the pro-Oslo, organisations like ‘Peace Now’, which did not take part in the demo.

Many people on the protest were hoping to find a solution. The high cost of Sharon’s war will bring a growth of this group, and provide opportunities for socialists to offer a solution: a socialist Israel alongside a socialist Palestine, as a part of a voluntary socialist federation of the Middle East. This solution can only be achieved by a mass struggle of the Jewish and Palestinian workers.

The comrades of Maavak Sotzialisti will keep fighting against the occupation and offering a socialist alternative and strategy for the anti-war movement.

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April 2002