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Antiwar protests in Israel
If one were to judge by the international media, the Israeli government’s assault on Lebanon and Gaza enjoys the virtually unanimous support of the Israeli population. In so far as Israeli citizens have been interviewed, they have been invariably in favour of war, insisting that it provides the only means of protecting the Israeli people.
Despite a barrage of pro-war propaganda in the Israeli media, however, visible opposition has begun to appear. Some 2,000 people marched in Israel’s commercial capital of Tel Aviv on Sunday to demand prisoner exchange negotiations with the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah, and an end to the offensive against Lebanon.
“Yes to Peace,” “Stop the War Monstrosity,” “Say No to the Brutal Bombardments on Gaza” and “Our Children Want to Live” were among the calls from the mixed crowd of Jewish and Arab demonstrators organised by several Israeli anti-war groups.
They also accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Amir Peretz of murdering children and carrying out war crimes in complicity with American policy. The slogans included “Olmert Agreed With Bush: War and Occupation” and “Peretz, Don’t Worry, We’ll be Seeing You at The Hague.”
For all the claims of democracy in Israel, the rally received almost no coverage in the local and international media and was dispersed by police within two hours. Police arrested three protesters, claiming they were holding a demonstration without a permit.
Some of the marchers interviewed for Ynet, an Israeli web site, expressed their horror at the outrages being committed in their names. Eitan Lerner said: “Israel is entering another cycle of fighting and continues the foolishness of exaggerated aggression. I came here to protest because there’s a link between starving and oppressing the Palestinians and the bombings in Lebanon.”
Manal Amuri, from Jerusalem, said: “What Israel is doing now has resulted in the deaths of civilians, innocent children, and it serves no purpose except for the government’s vindictiveness. I think it’s good we’re showing that there are Arab and Jewish citizens in Israel who oppose the war.”
Abeer Kopty referred to the intensive efforts being made to stampede public opinion. “They keep telling us that there is a consensus in support of the war, and that’s not true. They keep telling the citizens that this is the only way, and I think that there is another way.”
A women’s protest was also held on Sunday, next to the central Haifa train depot where a Hezbollah rocket landed earlier that day, killing eight people. The women said that in the coming days, they would be assembling a new group of Arab and Jewish women against the war.
Several days earlier, only a few hours after the start of the attack on Lebanon, 200 people picketed the Defence Ministry in Jerusalem. According to Adam Keller of the peace movement Gush Shalom, writing on Al Jazeerah on July 15, the demonstrators responded to an e-mail sent by a group of young people.