Marching through Tel Aviv for a Palestinian state
On Saturday night June 4, the evening before June 5, we marked for the 44th time the anniversary of the Occupation. But at least we are now not anymore alone with the idea as to what the solution should look like. The demonstration was rather than looking back to 1967 anticipating the Palestinian request for UN recognition in September.
A wide coalition had been set up in preparation, including not only the Hadash Communists and Meretz but also the Labor Party and a faction of Kadima. There had been much debate on the main slogan in the ads calling for participation, with the text finally adopted reading “Bibi had said No – We say Yes to a Palestinian State”. Many activists felt that this obscured the issue of the borders, which are the main bone of contention. Gush Shalom prepared in advance numerous signs reading “”Yes to a Palestinian State in the 1967 Borders” and at the gathering point on the Rabin Square they were eagerly taken up.
The marchers – estimated at between ten and twenty thousand – had all kinds of political and personal backgrounds – young people born years after the occupation began, and grizzled grey- and white-haired veterans, and many family groups of parents and children. (One had a big dog carrying the Peace Now poster with Netanyahu as the Pied Piper leading the people to disaster). The red flags of Hadash mingled with the colour green of Meretz, with the Gush Shalom two-flag signs, and the Peace Now peace flag modeled on the Israeli national flag, and the national flag itself, and also some activists expressed the common slogan by simply walking with a Palestinian flag.
Crisscrossing through the streets of central Tel Aviv, a medley of slogans was chanted – some decades old, others newly-created: “One, Two, Three, Four – Occupation no more” / “Palestine will be free – with or without the USA!” / “Dismantle Kiryat Arba, Dismantle All Settlements, Now, Now, Now” / “Peace Yes- Occupation No” / “Borders of 1967 – permanent borders of peace” /
There were quite a few signs and chanted slogans referring to the upheaval in the Arab World; “Yes to the Arab Democratic Revolution!” / “Emulate the Egyptians, revolt against racist and settlers”. Netanyahu’s notorious Foreign Minister came under fire :”Lieberman is a settler and a racist” and some marchers expressed a longing for Israel’s Founding Father “Where is the new Ben Gurion – with a courage to take historic decisions?”. The well-known song “I have no other country” was sung by several marching groups (“Even if my country has changed her face, even when ground burns under my feet, I will not give up – this is my home!). Others took up John Lennon’s “Give peace a chance”. Obama’s elections slogan was chanted with a play of words “Yes we Ken!” – “Ken” being “Yes” in Hebrew. The Meretz stickers and signs had another play of words “Bibi takir – Falastin” (which could mean both “recognize Palestine” and “Let’s introduce you – this is Palestine”.
Finally, after winding through many streets of central Tel Aviv, the march ended with a rally at the Tel Aviv Museum. There was quite a bit of unanimity between the speakers – among them Knesset Members Zahava Galon (Meretz), Dov Khenin (Hadash), Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor), Nino Abesadze (Kadima) – the last an immigrant from the former Soviet Union (specifically, from Georgia) who made part of her speech in Russian. Non-parliamentary speakers included playwright Yehoshua Sobol, Aida Touma-Sliman, editor of the Arab Al Ittihad daily and Feminist activist, Nazareth Mayor Ramez Jeraisy and Liran Gal of Peace Now, the youngest of the speakers.
Virtually all speakers welcomed the upcoming UN recognition of Palestine by the United Nations and denounced Netanyahu’s speech at the US Congress as having set up huge barriers and effectively ended the chances for negotiations. Also, many of the speeches included warnings of Netanyahu trying to break out of his predicament by starting a new war, with Iran, with speakers referring to the dire warnings made on this issue by Me’ir Dagan, the recently retired Head of the Mossad. “There is no mandate for a new war of choice, there will be no national unity behind a government which drags us into disaster instead of making peace” cried KM Galon, to prolonged applause.
A grim foretast of the looming wars came within less then 24 hours – with deadly fire of IDF snipers at unarmed Palestinan demonstrators approaching by the hundreds from Syria.