More than10,000 people arrived Saturday night at Rabin Square to rally for a political solution to the occupation of the Palestinian territories under the slogan, “Changing direction: toward peace, away from war.” Many carried signs proclaiming, “Whoever doesn’t want peace is making excuses” and “Yes to democracy, no to fascism.”
At the rally speeches were made by author David Grossman, journalist Zuheir Bahloul, Meretz chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On, Hadash chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh, and Nomika Tzion a resident of Sderot. The rally also host performances by Achinoam Nini, Mira Awad, Yair Dalal and Adam Gorlitsky. Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tender his resignation at the rally. “Bibi, you failed. You need to leave the keys and go home. You failed this badly because of five years of refusing diplomacy, of refusing to adopt the Arab Peace Initiative.”
The demonstration was organized by two left-wing parties, Meretz and Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – Communist Party of Israel), as well as Peace Now and the forum for bereaved families. The rally was originally due to take place last week, but was postponed at the request of the police and the Home Front Command, which prohibited gatherings of more than1,000 people at the time in the Tel Aviv area.
The event’s Facebook page states that, “following a painful month of war and death, in view of waves of incitement and hatred that are tearing apart Israeli society, we call for a demonstration for peace and democracy. The next round (of violence) can be avoided. We don’t have to sink into an abyss of ever-crueler wars, of extreme hatred and a destruction of our neighbors and ourselves. Only an agreement will ensure long-term security and quiet for residents of the south and of the entire country. There is another way – immediate dialogue with Palestinians to ensure a fair peace, the opening of Gaza and a determined stand of Arabs and Jews against racism and for life. Only a two-state political solution will guarantee independence, justice, security and hope for all people living in this land.”
During his speech, author David Grossman, said “Neither side in this war has a victory picture. There are only indescribable images of death and destruction. Every image depicts defeat for both peoples. There is no military solution for the conflict between Israel and Hamas. There is no military solution that will end the suffering of Israelis in the south and the inhumane suffering of people in Gaza. People in Israel won’t be able to breathe freely either, until the stranglehold on Gaza is lifted.”
To large applause, Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh stated in Hebrew and Arabic, “We are building a partnership against the occupation, for a free Palestine alongside the State of Israel.” He continued, “We are here for a two-state solution, for life and a future for people in Gaza and the South.” Barakeh also addressed the crowd, describing a desire “to build true amity between Arabs and Jews.” “Since the signing of the Oslo Accords,” he said, “the state and the right have been trying to negate the civic legitimacy of Palestinian- Arabs in Israel, who will never opt for war and will always be in favor of peace.” Nomika Tzion, a resident of Sderot, called on the crowd to think of those in Gaza who have now been made refugees twice or thrice, adding, ”The true spitting in the face of the residents of Sderot? The attempts to paint us all as a single stereotyped collective.” Gaza is “the biggest jail in the world,” she continued. Along with anti-war sentiment, protesters expressed their anger at the extreme right-wing Israeli government chanting “Bibi, go home!”