By MICHAEL OMER-MAN 06/04/2011 21:07
Photo by: Courtesy
Left-wing demonstrators on march from Rabin Square to Tel Aviv Museum of Art call on Netanyahu to accept Obama’s outline for peace talks.
Some 5,000 people marched through the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday evening in a demonstration calling for the creation of a Palestinian state. Setting out from the city’s central Rabin Square, protesters affiliated with the Hadash party, Meretz, Peace Now, the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement and the Geneva Initiative slowly made their way along an unusually long route to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where a rally was held. Speakers included MKs from the Meretz, Hadash, Labor and Kadima parties.
Accompanied by a small but loud amateur marching band composed of youths from the Hadash party, activists carrying Israeli, Palestinian and red flags marched past Dizengoff center, making their presence known with amplified chants of: “Israel and Palestine, two states for two peoples”; “Yes we ‘ken’” (the Hebrew word for “yes”); and “Bibi and Barak, peace isn’t a game,” referring to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by his nickname.
Other protesters alluded to the revolution that took place earlier this year in Egypt, chanting, “We’re struggling like the Egyptians, against a government of racists.”
The demonstration was organized by the eclectic range of leftist organizations and political parties following Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress last month, in which he rejected US President Barack Obama’s call for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal based on pre-1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps. Organizers promoted the event under the slogans: “Netanyahu says no – we say yes to a Palestinian state,” and “A Palestinian state is an Israeli interest.”
Addressing the rally, MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) said of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, “[he] closed a chapter in our history called the peace process.” Warning against not making peace, he said, “If there isn’t peace, there won’t be a continuation of the status quo.” Recent events in the Middle East, Khenin explained, “will also reach us. Netanyahu is leading us toward disaster.”
Offering a bit of optimism, the Hadash MK told the gathered crowd, “Imagine another scenario: The Israeli government recognizing the state of Palestine in ’67 lines.” Referring to the issues of Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem in any peace deal, he added, “If we want peace, [these problems are] also possible to solve in a serious and just fashion.”
Also speaking at the rally, Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On addressed the prime minister, saying: “Leave the territories Mr. prime minister, and if you can’t, [then] leave the prime minister’s residence.”
“[Former prime minister] Golda Meir also received an ovation in the United States,” Gal-on said. Meir, she noted, “refused [then-Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat’s requests for negotiations over the Sinai Peninsula and brought us the Yom Kippur War – 3,000 people were killed and in the end, all of Sinai was returned.”
“Land can be returned,” she said, “the dead cannot.” “Therefore, it’s difficult for us to be excited by the applause Netanyahu received in Congress. Applause there cannot protect us here.”
Kadima MK Nino Abesadze and Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisi also spoke at the rally. MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor), who took the stage as the crowd began to dwindle, attempted to reassure the crowd that Labor is still in the peace camp following Ehud Barak’s departure from the party.
Two activists were arrested during the course of the march, one for assaulting a police officer and another for disturbing the peace.
Counter protests also took place at various points throughout the march. Secluded by police across the street from Rabin Square and the Tel Aviv Museum, two-dozen right-wing protesters draped in Israeli flags and holding signs of their own made their presence known.
Along the route of the march, several individuals confronted demonstrators with shouts of “terrorists” and “traitors,” but they were quickly escorted away by police.