‘No democracy with apartheid’: Inside the radical bloc at Israel’s anti-government protests

Activists tell +972 that they want to challenge Israeli protesters to look beyond the far-right coalition and see the conditions that enabled its rise

The radical bloc at an anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv, 21 January 2023

Ben Reiff reports in +972:

Amid a sea of Israeli flags in downtown Tel Aviv last Saturday [21 January 2023], carried by the more than 100,000 protesters attending the biggest anti-government demonstration in recent history, stood a pocket of protesters that looked rather out of place. For those marching past them all evening, they were impossible to miss — and that was the point.

Palestinian flags were waved aloft, while striking black banners were unfurled, bearing slogans such as “There’s no democracy with apartheid,” and “A nation that occupies another nation will never be free.” They chanted in support of the Israeli teenagers currently serving jail time for refusing to enlist in the army, and handed out flyers that concluded: “Instead of mourning a pseudo-democracy, let’s demand change from the root!”

An amalgam of dozens of independent activists, several established anti-occupation groups, and a contingent from the left-wing Hadash party, the “radical bloc” has grown larger and more prominent with each demonstration over the past three weekends, growing to a few hundred people on Jan. 21. And while their numbers may be dwarfed by the wider protest, their Palestinian flags and signs calling for decolonization have drawn the ire of both the main demonstration and the people they are protesting against — escalating to confrontations and physical attacks in every protest so far.

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“I don’t think we’re against the protests,” said Yaara Benger Alaluf, another activist from the bloc. “We are certainly against many of the speakers or the people who see themselves as the leaders of the protests, but I agree that this is going to be a bad, dangerous government. And not just in some kind of detached solidarity — I fear it as a woman, and as an LGBTQ person. But [the protests] are talking about democracy without taking into account not only 50 percent of the people who live in the land [between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea], but also all the Palestinian refugees who don’t have any say and whose rights Israel also controls.

“So far these demonstrations are very conservative,” she continued. “It’s the old Ashkenazi elite, who are calling themselves the ‘people of light,’ trying to preserve its power [in the face of] the religious Zionists, who they call the ‘people of darkness.’ But it’s all within the same framework of Zionism and Jewish supremacy, and within the paradigm that it’s okay to occupy another people.”

More ….


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