Gush Shalom reports on Tel Aviv demo one year after

January 4, 2010

gushlogo“The Blockade is Terrorism!”, January 4, 2010

Both Uri Avnery’s and Nurit Peled-Elhanan’s speeches at the demonstration are posted below.

On the first day of the Gaza War, one year ago, activists of Gush Shalom and other peace organizations demonstrated against it. Today (2.1.10), many of them took part in a large demonstration, whose main demand was to lift the siege of Gaza.

Some 3000 demonstrators gathered in Tel-Aviv’s Rabin Square and marched to Museum Square, where a protest rally was held. The demonstrators, activists of a wide range of peace organizations and other citizens, chanted in unison (in Hebrew) “Gaza, do not despair / We shall put and end to the occupation!”, “Israel, we are ashamed – the blockade is inhuman!” and more.

The demonstration was accompanied by large police forces, including a helicopter which from time to time lit up the area with a huge projector. However, there were no incidents.

Apart from the Gush Shalom posters “The Blockade is Terrorism”, there were the posters of the “Women’s Coalition” which said “Women cross borders – Freedom and Justice for Gaza”. One demonstrator brought a personal poster: “Mubarak is a War Criminal” – as a protest against the steel wall now being built by the Egyptians along the Rafah border. Many carried the Gush Shalom flag, which combines the flags of Israel and Palestine. A band of drummers, some of them women, enlivened the march.

Nurit Peled-Elchanan, a bereaved mother (and the daughter of the late general and peace activist Matti Peled), said at the rally: “I wonder about the astonishment voiced by the media at the violence in the schools, the clubs and the street. Our children are just absorbing the message conveyed by parents, elder brothers, the media and the war criminals in uniform who come to the schools and make speeches about the heroism of the army in Gaza.”

Uri Avnery called upon President Obama, the European Union and the peoples of the world: “Help us to end the cancerous occupation. For peace and reconciliation between the free State of Israel and the free State of Palestine!” (Full text of the speech follows below)

Eilat Maoz of the Women’s Coalition  said: “All around us in this city we see war criminals who have committed these acts in Gaza. They live their lives in peace, without fear of investigation and punishment.”

Special applause greeted Nasser Rawi, the father of one of the families that  were evicted from their homes in Jerusalem’s Sheik Jarrach quarter, who called upon the government in pure Hebrew “to stop the Judaization of Jerusalem and stop sending us the settler who beat people up and drive them out of their homes.”
Other speakers were MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad): “Denial of flour and sugar is a method of blackmail, but the Palestinian people is not broken”; Yael Ben-Yaphet (The Mizrachi Rainbow): “Sderot was the excuse for war, but who now remembers the poor in Sderot?”; Abir Kopti (Hadash): “I congratulate the British government for marking products of settlements – this is part of what gives hope.”

The high point of the evening was the band of “Raging Grannies”, five elderly women who – on the model of the Canadian original – sang “modified” children’s songs. They concluded the evening with the slightly modified text of a popular Hebrew children’s song: “Mother said to Ahmed / My son is hero / My son never cries / like a little stupid boy. // He had a house in Gaza / And a father, a mother and a brother / Gaza was bombed / And the house is not there anymore. // I do never cry / I am not a cry-baby / But why, mother, why / Do the tears come by themselves?”


Uri Avnery’s speech at the protest rally, first anniversary of Gaza
Tel Aviv, Museum Square, 2.1.2010.

“Cast Lead”
Was a terrible and cruel war.
It was also
A stupid and superfluous war.

If our government
Had agreed to talk with Hamas
After they won the elections –
There would have been no Qassams,
Gilad Shalit would have been home
Long ago,
Sderot and Jebaliya
Would be living in peace.

The aim of the war
Was to turn the life
Of the Gaza population
Into hell –
So they would turn against Hamas.
Instead, the whole world
Is turning against us.

We must investigate
What has happened –
Not because of Goldstone,
But for our own sake,
For the sake of Israel’
For the values we believe in.

This terrible war
Has not ended. It is going on.
The blockade is war.
The blockade is terrorism.
The blockade is a crime.

From here the demand goes forth:
Lift the siege!
End the collective punishment
On the Gaza population!
End the captivity
Of Gilad Shalit
And Marwan Barghouti!

We have come here to declare:
Though others may give up.
We shall not despair!
We shall not tire!
We shall not capitulate!
We will continue the fight
For peace and reconciliation
For another Israel,
A country that is good to live in.

Israel is not only They,
Not the Netanyahus, the Libermans,
The settlers.
Israel is also Us,
Therefore, we too are responsible for its actsions,
Therefore it is our duty to change them.
This duty we shall not shirk.

We call upon President Obama,
Upon the European Union,
Upon the peoples of the world:
Help us
To end the cancerous occupation.

For peace and reconciliation
Between the free State of Israel
And the free State of Palestine!

Nurit Peled Elhanan
A year after the Gaza War – Speech at the protest rally
Tel Aviv, January 2, 2010
[translated by Adam Keller]

Good evening to all who came to mark the first anniversary of the Gaza carnage, and to protest on the comfortable complacence which inhabitants of this city and this country exhibit in face of the slow annihilation which goes on and on in Gaza and throughout Palestine.
Had Israeli preschoolers been asked “What did you learn at school this year, dear little boy of mine?” there are all kinds of answers which we might have gotten. An enlightened and critical child might have answered: I learned that the sun is still shining, and the almond tree is blooming, and the butcher butchers, and there is nobody to judge him.{1}

And the child who is less used to theorizing might rejoice and say: I learned how to cheat Americans, deceive Palestinians, to kill Arabs, to expel families from their homes, and to curse whoever tells me that I am a nasty brat when I have been a nasty brat. And I learned that the Jewish People lives and that Gilad Shalit also lives. Still. {2}

And the new immigrant boy, who terribly longs to integrate and belong, might say: I learned whom to hate, I learned who needs to be killed and who should be spat upon, and I am ever ready for the task, whenever you call upon me.

The Religious-Zionist child, who attends the fenced and well-guarded kindergarten in the settlement, might say: I learned to be a good Zionist, to love the Land, to die and kill for its sake, to expel from it the invaders, to kill their children, to destroy their homes, and never to forget that in each and every generation the persecutors arise to annihilate us and that all gentiles are the same and that they are all antisemites who must be annihilated. And the most important is that the sun is still shining, and the almond tree is still blooming, and soon we will go planting all over the mountains Samaria and Judea and guard well the saplings against the herd of sheep which invaded our country in the two thousand years that we have not been here to guard it.

In the past year our children have learned that to kill a non-Jew, of whatever age, is a great commandment. This they learned not only from the rabbis, but also from the soldiers who ceaselessly boast of what they have done. This was expressed well by Damian Kirilik, when the police arrested him and charged him with murdering the entire Oshrenko Family. {3} Quite coolly he asked the police investigators: why are you making such a fuss over the killing of children? Damian Kirilik is a new immigrant who does not understand the nuances and sophistry of the rabbis’ command to kill gentile children. But this assassin from the outside quickly got the general idea – that he had arrived at a place where the murder of children is taken very lightly.

Our children have learned this year that all the disgusting qualities which antisemites attribute to Jews are actually manifested among our leaders: deceit and deception, greed and the murder of children. While accused of trading in transplanted organs, the unperturbed Government of Israel is engaged in trading in whole humans – for the time being. It can be conjectured that for many years to come, when many cars would bear the bumper sticker “Gil’ad – born to be free” {4}, the captains of the pirate ship known as Israel will continue their scheming and still haggle over how many kilograms of Jewish flesh, which is probably shrinking, could be traded for how much Palestinian flesh which is also not all that it used to be, as we learned from the news item about theft of skin and corneas at the Abu Kabir Forensic Center {5}. And they will continue to kill in Gil’ad’s name and starve and suffocate in Gil’ad’s name and to annihilate the Palestinian people slowly but surely, and on the way encourage the flourishing of the Palestinian bad “weeds”{6} that always legitimize the ongoing killing .

As in every rotten and corrupt society, the word “values” recurs again and again in every speech of every politician, especially the wanted ones. The values of Zionism and the values of Judaism and the values of the IDF. The values of Zionism we have seen this year in their full glory at the expulsion of families out of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. The values of Democracy and the Rule of Law are expressed in Palestinians who are suspected of a violent act being extrajudicially assassinated in their homes, in front of their children, while Jewish terrorists enjoy to the full the amenities of the judicial system.

That is what our children learn in the Jewish democratic state. Therefore, one can wonder at the supposed shock expressed in face of violence in schools and nightclubs, in streets and on the roads. After all, this violence is nothing but practicing the values of the IDF, a course of basic training towards the activities and operations waiting for these youths on their horizon. This is these youths’ way of showing that they have learned something from their parents and elder brothers, from their teachers and guides. The only problem which apparently disturbs the educational and law enforcement authorities is that there are no Palestinians in the Jewish schools and the Jewish night clubs and the Jewish streets. For lack of them, the young Jews direct their violence at each other – and that should not happen, a Jew should not harm another Jew. Violence should be disciplined and regulated, guided by blind obedience to the racial laws, directed only and solely at those who are not Jewish.
And we who demonstrate every week, every month, at every carnage, at every anniversary of a carnage – what is our power? Nothing. Bereavement and failure is our lot in this country. Last Thursday we all stood at the gates of Gaza, disciplined and obedient to the conditions of the police permit, happy to see each other and find out that we are still alive and chanted slogans loudly at an audience of robot-like police and soldiers, totally incapable of comprehending what we had to say. But we did not pull down the wall. We did not succeed in saving even one child from the plague of meningitis which infests Gaza for several months already.

What shall we do with our impotence and failure? What is left to be done about an educational system which demands of its graduates a total identification with Jewish guerilla fighters who were before 1948 executed by the British on charges of terrorism – and at the very same time a total identification with their executioners? To identify with the victims of Auschwitz, and at the same to behave with cruel indifference to the suffering of anyone who is not a member of our race? What can peace seekers do in a country which is run by the army, whose schools are infested with war criminals coming to instill their teachings, where pupils are obliged to experience a week in the pre-military Gadna (Youth Squads) and listen to heroic tales by the criminals of the Gaza carnage, on whom all possible psychological and social and educational means are applied to make them part of the killing machine?
These are our sons and daughters – and we have no access to the system which guides their lives. Where is there space left for us to instill in them one or two of our own values? What values of beauty and goodness can we squeeze into such a sophisticated apparatus of brainwashing and reality distortion?

It seems that the only value which we still have the power and means to instill is the value of refusal. To learn to say no. To teach our children who have not been poisoned yet to resist the brainwashing, to reject the viruses with which their brains are being injected. It is a hard and sysiphic task, but it is the only way of reasserting our humanity. To say no to evil, no to deceit and deception, no to trade in human beings, no the racism which is spreading over here like wildfire, a racism which does not stop at the Kalandia Checkpoint nor at the Erez Checkpoint but spreads like cancer to the shameful immigrant absorption centers, to the schools which proclaim integration and practice segregation, to all cultures and all beliefs in this country. If we don’t learn to refuse and reject evil, to refuse the evil laws and regulations, we will find ourselves refusing and rejecting ourselves, our inmost truth. We must refuse to feel ourselves an extinct minority, refuse the fear and apprehension – and the alienation – which are imposed on us, refuse to be accomplices. Only refusal can save us from surrender, from bankruptcy, from despair. We stand here today as an alien and alienated minority, hated and persecuted. But together with our peace-seeking friends beyond the Wall, beyond the barbed wires, we might become a majority. Only the refusal to surrender to walls and checkpoints can open the gates of our ghetto so that we could pull down the walls of their ghetto. To see at last that there is an outside world, that there are regions around which the Jewish National Fund had not destroyed. That there is a culture and there are people whom it is worth living to meet, to know and make friends with, to learn from them about this place where we live as resident aliens and remember that this place can be a place of surpassing beauty. {7}

Notes of the translator
{1} A reference to Bialik’s famous poem on the 1903 Kishinev Pogrom.
{2} “Am Yisrael Hai” (“the Jewish People lives”) – a traditional saying, often invoked in a nationalist context.
{4} The slogan “Ron Arad – born to be free” refers to captured Israeli pilot Ron Arad, for whose release the government in the 1990’s refused to release Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners, and who is widely considered to be irretrievably lost.
{5} See
{6}Settler leaders dissociate themselves from extreme acts of violence against Palestinians, defining the perpetrators as “the weeds in our garden”.
{7} The Hebrew term used, “Yefe Nof”, is taken from the poem of longing for Jerusalem written by the Medieval Spanish Jewish poet Yehuda HaLevi: “O Abode of Surpassing Beauty/Joy of the Entire Earth…”

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