See also Richard Silverstein’s report and Israel Social TV’s five-minute film of the demo: Israelis Demonstrate Against Mavi Marmara Attack, Gaza Siege
Half an hour later, a dozen rightist thugs attacked Gush Shalom’s 86 year old Uri Avnery, when he was on his way from the rally in the company of his wife, Rachel, Adam Keller and his wife Beate Zilversmidt. Avnery had just entered a taxi, when a dozen rightist thugs attacked him and tried to drag him out of the car. At the critical moment, the police arrived and made it possible for the car to leave. Gush spokesman Adam Keller said: “These cowards did not dare to attack us when we were many, but they were heroes when they caught Avnery alone.”
The incident took place when the more than 10 thousand demonstrators were dispersing, after marching through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest against the attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Not only was this one of the largest peace demonstrations for a long time, but also the first time that all parts of the Israeli peace camp – from Gush Shalom and Hadash to Peace Now and Meretz – did unite for common action
The main slogan was “The Government Is Drowning All of Us” and “We must Row towards Peace!” – alluding to the attack on the flotilla. The protesters called in unison “Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies!”
The demonstrators assembled at Rabin Square and marched to Museum Square, where the protest rally was held. Originally, this was planned as a demonstration against the occupation on its 43th anniversary, and for peace based on “Two States for Two Peoples” and “Jerusalem – Capital of the Two States”, but recent events turned it mainly into a protest against the attack on the flotilla.
One of the new sights was the great number of national flags, which were flown alongside the red flags of Hadash, the green flags of Meretz and the two-flag emblems of Gush Shalom. Many peace activists have decided that the national flag should no longer be left to the rightists.
“The violence of the rightists is a direct result of the brainwashing, which has been going on throughout the last week,” Avnery commented. “A huge propaganda machine has incited the public in order to cover up the terrible mistakes made by our political and military leadership, mistakes which are becoming worse from day to day.”
Richard Silverstein, 8 June 2010
10,000 Israelis protested the failed Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara and the Gaza siege a few days ago. What struck me especially about the rally was this electrifying speech by Israeli novelist and journalist, Nir Baram, decrying the blockheadedness of the Israeli leadership and the insularity of the Israeli public regarding the suffering it inflicts on the Palestinians.
The conclusion of his speech was especially poignant to me as it presented a glorious vision of what the State of Israel could be–someday:
For the past eight years we have on our table a real peace proposal from the Arab League, a dramatic, unprecedented proposal for a final, lasting peace between Israel and the entire Arab world, which at long last would enable Israel to integrate into the region. But instead of making this initiative a priority on the public agenda, we opt for chasing ships out at sea…
We shut ourselves behind walls telling ourselves we have no other choice. We put one and a half million people under siege in Gaza, convincing ourselves that they want for nothing, and if there’s a bit of a water shortage they should drink from the sea. We intensify and reinforce the Occupation claiming there is no partner. We slight every peace proposal whether advanced by the Arab League, Syria or Abu Mazen, and all the while teach our children our fondest hope is for peace.
We are here to tell Jerusalem’s government of worthless incompetents and racists that we are bound to this place wholeheartedly, and prepared to do whatever it takes to turn Israel into a true, free, and fearless democracy, a home for all of us.
In days past, when there was some hope that the Israeli political system actually worked, such a speech would have marked him for a possible seat in the Knesset. So many in Israel would place such high hopes on Baram’s shoulders. Now, why would any half-way intelligent person want to sit in such a house of fools? Nevertheless, the fact that a Nir Baram exists and has the courage to express these words and that thousands cheer him on–this is enough to make me persevere in my own efforts. We must support the Nir Barams of Israel. They are the last, best hope that there is some humanity that lingers there. That there is hope someday for a peace envisioned in his wonderful words.
Rightists attempted to disrupt the demonstration by setting off a smoke bomb which can be seen wafting among the crowd. Also, the eminence gris of the Israeli peace movement, Uri Avnery, was set upon by a few thugs (I don’t believe any serious harm was done), which is ironic considering that he was nearly killed in a similar ambush attack in the 1960s.
On a different, but related subject, you know Israel (or at least the current iteration of it) has ‘jumped the shark’ when the N.Y. Times’ resident soft-right commentator, Ross Drouhat, compares Israel to the Crusader kingdoms with a perfectly straight face.