Thousands of left-wing activists, including many Arab citizens, marched Saturday evening from the Rabin Square to the Cinematheque plaza in Tel Aviv in protest of the fighting in Lebanon.
The protestors held up signs with slogans against the war and called for an immediate ceasefire.
According to the demonstrators, a prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah must
be struck, as well as a similar deal with Hamas. Marchers also urged IDF soldiers not to take part in the Lebanon operation, chanting: "Listen up, soldier – it's your duty to refuse." Other slogans recited by the participants were: "The occupation is a disaster, leave Lebanon now," "Olmert and Bush have struck a deal – to carry on with the occupation," and "Children in Beirut and Haifa want to go on living."
Anti-war march in Tel Aviv. Soldiers called on to refuse (Photo: Eli Elgarat)
The activists, among them Knesset Member Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) and other Arab MKs, waved a Palestinian flag as well as red flags adorned with the communist hammer and sickle symbol. Signs with the motto "Peace Now" were also raised in the rally, but the organization stressed it did not take part in the event.
'Army of destruction'
Former Education Minister Shulamit Aloni, who spoke in the demonstration, said that "the government has allowed the destructive powers of the army to drag us into the killing. The Defense Forces cannot be tuned into the army of occupation and killing. We must call in international forces, negotiate and make peace."
During the event, a counter-demonstration has formed across from the rally, and rightist protesters held up "Traitors, we are fed up with you" signs. Protesters also waved Israel flags and flags of the Golani Brigade.
A skirmish broke out between activists from both sides, while some infuriated passersby cursed the leftist protesters and called them, "Hizbullahniks." Others threw garbage bags at the activists and shouted: "A good Arab is a dead Arab," and "If only a rocket fell on you."
Large police and SWAT units secured the event and kept opponents away from where the rally was held.
Despite the clashes, the organizers of the march said they were pleased with the surprisingly large number of participants, and encouraged by the public's reaction against the Lebanon operation.