From Gush Shalom: Tel Aviv antiwar demonstration report

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Feb 15 17:51:05 MST 2003

Gush Shalom

International release
Feb. 15, 2003 - Tel-Aviv

Rally against the War on Iraq

[1] Adam Keller's report on the Tel-Aviv demonstration
[2] Concluding communique of the organizers
[3] Jerusalem Post internet edition reporting the event

1] Adam Keller's report on the Tel-Aviv demonstration

The setting was familiar. We have done this many times before, in moments 
of crisis when the need for a mass protest was evident: gathering in front 
of the Tel-Aviv Cinematheque, with contingents arriving by bus from all 
over the country; marching in our thousands down the wide Ibn Gvirol 
Street; a living forest of colorful banners and placards and hand-painted 
signs, Jews and Arabs together with slogans chanted alternately in both 
languages and occasionally in English; reaching the Museum Plaza for a 
prolonged rally, with speakers addressing the crowd from the steps of the 
Public Library (as always, the allocation of speaking slots had been 
accompanied by some undignified infighting between the various 
participating groups...)

Still, tonight was also different and new: never before had Israeli peace 
activists found themselves so much an integrated part of a world-wide 
movement of protest; never before did our particular concerns, in this 
miserable torn country, mesh so closely with the anxiety and alarm and 
anger of so many people in so many countries around the world. Somebody had 
taken the initiative of producing an Israeli version of the "No War" 
sticker, familiar from CNN reports of the protests in Europe and the US; it 
was avidly taken up and placed on clothes together with Gush Shalom's Two 
Flags or the competing emblems of the Hadash and Balad parties. The veteran 
slogan "Shalom Ken - Kibush Lo" (Peace Yes - Occupation No") needed only a 
slight change in order to be transformed into an anti-Bush chant. And 
demonstrators accustomed to sending Sharon to the Hague War Crimes Tribunal 
tonight consigned Bush to the same destination with the same cadence. 
"Bush, Blair and Sharon are the true axis of evil" was an improvised new 
slogan, chanted as the banner "Israelis and Palestinians oppose the war" 
was unfurled. It was not just a slogan. Underlying the cheerfulness and 
some ribaldry was a deep anxiety about what this country may face in the 
coming months if Bush does launch his attack. Daily the papers fill with 
dire predictions of deadly Iraqi missiles landing in spite of all the 
official reassurances of "a low probability", or of a new upsurge of 
suicide bombings, more terrible than ever, starting concurrently with the 
attack upon Bagdad. And a worry widespread in this evening's crowd, is that 
in such circumstances Sharon would find a pretext and opportunity to carry 
out his barely-secret true agenda: mass expulsion of Palestinians and 
destruction of their leadership.

"What plans are already prepared in meticulous detail at some headquarters, 
just waiting for Bush to provide the smoke screen for their implementation? 
How many trees are already slated for uprooting? How many houses are to be 
demolished? How many people have already been placed under a secret 
sentence of expulsion or death?" cried Haim Hanegbi of Gush Shalom.

"The darkness is fast approaching, threatening to engulf us all" said the 
feminist writer Rela Mazali, on behalf of the Women's Peace Coalition - 
part of "An open letter to a friend who did not come to this event", 
addressing the very many Israelis who share our abhorrence of the coming 
war and whom we nevertheless failed to bring to our "too radical" or "too 
Arab" event.

Indeed, some of the Tel-Avivians seemed a bit alienated when long speeches 
in Arabic followed each other from the podium - the kind of feelings 
usually preserved for the Arab participants in Israeli events... Haneen 
Zuabi and Aida Toma, two young and fiery women spoke Arabic while 
representing respectively Balad and Hadash, giving only a summary in Hebrew.

Dr. Haidar Abdel Shafi, old and respected Palestinian statesman, addressed 
the rally in surprisingly strong and confident words of solidarity, in 
Arabic and English, by phone from beleaguered Gaza.

There was much cheering when Yesh Gvul speaker Dan Tamir, a reserve captain 
and refuser of service in the occupied territories, read a letter written 
this morning by the young refusniks incarcerated at Military Prison 4 and 
calling upon American and British soldiers to follow on the path of 
refusing service in oppressive and aggressive warfare.

Azmi Bdeir of Ta'ayush, who moderated the event concluded: "This coming war 
which looms over us is not a natural disaster. It is man-made. Human beings 
planned it, human beings intend to carry it out. Human beings can also stop 
it. We, among very many people all over the world".

[2] Concluding communique of the organizers

Over 3,000 Israelis Demonstrated Today Against the War on Iraq in 
Partnership with a Palestinian Demonstration in Ramallah and Over 600 
Demonstrations Worldwide

Today, Saturday February 15th, over 3,000 Jews and Arabs demonstrated 
against the war on Iraq in Tel Aviv Museum’s square. The demonstration was 
held in partnership with a Palestinian demonstration held in the center of 
Ramallah and simultaneously with over 600 demonstrations worldwide.

A joint Palestinian Israeli petition was read at the demonstration calling: 
“No to the war against Iraq! End the Israeli occupation! For a life of just 
peace in the Middle East! We, Israelis and Palestinians, are opposed to 
this war. This is not a war for the sake of security or justice, but rather 
a war for power, hegemony, control and greed. We are determined that 
security and freedom for the sake of all the people of the Middle East will 
not be achieved by war, violence and death.”

Speeches were held during the vigil by representatives of the Israeli 
organizations who coordinated and participated in the demonstration as well 
as by Heider Abdel Shafi, a Palestinian peace activist from Gaza, who spoke 
by way of telephone from his home in Gaza.

Participating organizations include: Balad, Gush Shalom, Israeli Committee 
Against House Demolitions, Hadash, Yesh Gvul, Black Laundry, Mada, 
Taayush-Arab Jewish Partnership, The Alternative Information Center, 
Coalition of Women for Peace: Bat Shalom, Machsom Watch, Noga-Feminist 
Journal, Nalad, Women in Black, New Profile, Tandi, WILP and Fifth Mother.

For further information, please contact: Ronni: 054-700640, 02-6241424, 

[3] Jerusalem Post internet edition reporting the event

Protestors in Tel-Aviv join millions worldwide in anti-war demonstration

Matthew Gutman Feb. 15, 2003

As many 1500 people calling for the US to abort its planned attack on Iraq 
marched in Tel Aviv Saturday night joining for a rally at the Tel Aviv 
Museum of Art that was as much a protest against the Israeli government as 
it was against the putative American targeting of Iraq.

The demonstrators joined millions of anti-war protestors around the world 
in their efforts to pressure the American and British governments to halt 
plans for a war to unseat Saddam Hussein. "It isn't good for anyone that 
the US control the entire region. America's attempt at a new regional 
order,' will only cause instability and violence," MK Muhammed Barake 
chairman of the Hadash Party, explained to the Jerusalem Post during the 

The march was conducted peacefully, but under heavy police guard. The 
marchers gathered outside Tel Aviv's Cinematheque where they waved the 
orange banners of Balad and the red flags of the communist Hadash party. 
They chanted anti-American and anti-Israeli [sic!] slogans to the well 
known rhythm of Israeli-Palestinian peace demonstrations. But the tone of 
some of the chants were hardly pacifistic: "Nassar taught us well, America 
is the head of the snake," chanted Balad activists in Arabic while waving a 
Palestinian flag. Some of the protest leaders tried in vain to convince the 
activists to lower the Palestinian flag. "Bush, Powell and Sharon, 
terrorists in power," went another one catchy slogan which rhymes in 
Hebrew. Other banners called for UN inspectors to investigate Israel's 
weapons of mass destruction, while others still focused on the Israeli- 
Palestinian conflict. "Sharon is more dangerous than Saddam," read another 
popular banner.

Gush Shalom icon Uri Avnery told the Jerusalem Post that it is vital that 
Israel be part of the world-wide protests against the war. He warned that 
Israel would be blamed and held responsible if America gets bogged down in 
Iraq or too many civilians die.

The rally was coordinated with a similar rally in Ramallah. "Your brothers 
in Ramallah, who were also protesting tonight, could not be here tonight 
because of the closure," said Azmi Bdeir of the Israeli and Arab run 
Ta'ayush Palestinian human rights group. The crowd which was comprised of 
about half Israeli Jews and half Israeli Arabs. "This is a war for oil and 
for the American exploitation of the entire world," stated one of the 
speakers, Haneen Zoabi, a Nazareth based communications teacher who came 
with hundreds of other Arab-Israelis from across the country to protest the 
war and the Israeli government. "[Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon will use 
this war to eliminate the Palestinian issue by installing a puppet 
Palestinian leader and even by transferring some Palestinians."

The connection between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war on Iraq 
was not clear to all the demonstrators. Helle Meister, 22, and Adrian 
Faftek, visiting Israel from Hamburg Germany joined the protest to identify 
with their friends who joined the hundreds of thousands of other Germans 
marching in Berlin Saturday. "But this is not a war against the Arabs," 
said Meister not identifying with some of the protester's message, "but a 
capitalist war, a war for oil, power and regional hegemony. There should be 
no connection to the elimination of the Palestinians."

Many Israeli bystanders looked at the protestors incredulously not exactly 
understanding what the protest's message. Others, like Shlomo Yosef, who 
watched the procession from a nearby kiosk agreed with the basic message of 
the protests. "I don't really understand why we are fighting this war. What 
I do know is that when the scuds start landing here in Tel Aviv, no one is 
going to be happy."

Just outside the museum a half dozen Likud activists staged a ragtag 
counter-protest. "The extreme left has gone crazy and is supporting a 
murderer," their signs read.

This article can also be read at: rticle/ShowFull 
&cid=10452 98486857

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