From the Gush Shalom peace movement in Israel:
Saturday 03/01, 22:00
MASSIVE DEMONSTRATION AGAINST THE WAR
At the same time as Ehud Barak was ordering the army to start the bloody ground offensive against Gaza, some ten thousand protesters from all over Israel marched in Tel-Aviv in a massive demonstration against the war.
“One does not build an election campaign over the dead bodies of children!” shouted the protesters in Hebrew rhymes. “Orphans and widows are not election propaganda!”, “Olmert, Livni and Barak – war is no game!”’ “All cabinet ministers are war criminals!!” Barak, Barak, don’t worry – we shall meet you in The Hague!”, “Enough, enough – speak with Hamas!”
The written posters were similar. Some of them paraphrased Barak’s election slogans: “Barak is not friendly, he is a murderer!” (The original Barak slogan says: “Barak is not friendly, he is a leader!”) Also: “No to the Election War, 2009!” and “The six-Knesset-seat war!” – an allusion to the polls which showed that in the first days of the war Barak’s Labor Party has gained six prospective seats.
The demonstration took place after a fight with the police, which tried to prevent or at least limit it, arguing that they would not be able to stop right-wing rioters from attacking it. Among other things, the police demanded that the organizers undertake to prevent the hoisting of Palestinian flags. The organizers petitioned the High Court of Justice, which decided that the Palestinian flag is legal and ordered the police to protect the demonstration from rioters.
The demonstration was decided upon by Gush Shalom and 20 other peace organizations, including the Women’s Coalition for Peace, Anarchists Against the Wall, Hadash, the Alternative Information Center and New Profile. Meretz and Peace Now did not participate officially, but many of their members showed up. Some thousand Arab citizens from the north arrived in 20 buses straight from the big demonstration of the Arab public which had taken place in Sakhnin.
The organizers themselves were surprised by the large number of protesters. “A week after the start of Lebanon War II, we succeeded in mobilizing only 1000 demonstrators against it. The fact that today there came 10,000 proves that the opposition to the war is much stronger this time. If Barak goes on with his plans, public opinion may completely turn against the war in a few days.”
The giant Gush Shalom banner said in Hebrew, Arabic and English: “Stop Killing! Stop the Siege! Stop the occupation!” The slogan of the demonstration called for the end of the blockade and an immediate cease-fire.
On the day of the protest, the extreme Right mobilized their forces in order to break up the demonstration by force. The police made a great effort to prevent riots, and the one-mile march from Rabin Square to Cinematheque Square proceeded relatively quietly. However, when the protesters started to disperse, in accordance with the agreement with the police, a large crowd of rightists started to attack them. The police, which till then had been keeping the two camps apart, disappeared from the scene. The rioters then encircled the last of the protesters, harassing them, pushing them about and at a certain point started to besiege the Cinematheque building, where some of the last protesters had found refuge. They tried to break into the building, threatening to “finish off” the protesters, but at the last moment some police arrived and protected the entrance. The rioters stayed around for a long time.