More than a hundred leftists, Jewish and Arab, demonstrated in Haifa against IDF operations in Lebanon and Gaza. The protestors, who participated in a number of anti-war rallies in recent weeks, called for an immediate ceasefire, release of kidnapped soldiers, and negotiations with Hizbullah and Hamas.
The recent killings in Qana intensified the reactions of the protestors, who referred to PM Ehud Olmert as a murderer, and blamed the IDF for the targeted killing of Lebanese civilians. Protestors carried signs expressing harsh disapproval of the government and yelled anti-government slogans.
Relatively few Israelis
Originally, there were only a few dozen demonstrators in Haifa, but they were later joined by Arab residents of Haifa. These residents carried Palestinian flags and also censured the government, particular the prime minister and defense minister.
Rally organizers said that they intended to continue protesting until the war ends, and appealed to other Israeli to join them. They conceded that, up until now, few Israelis had joined them in their efforts.
Thousands of Um al-Fahem residents participated in a demonstration that took place in the village, carrying signs against Israeli occupation and against Israeli policy. The mayor of the village spoke at the conclusion of the rally, pointing an accusing finger at leaders of Arab countries for not condemning Israel's 'massacre' in Lebanon. He also accused Israeli leaders of "also harming Muslims in Israel".
Protestors in Um al-Fahem rally (Photo: Aved Mahmid)
In Tel Aviv, some 300 people demonstrated outside the ministry of defense building, in three separate protests: On one side of the street stood Meretz members, including former MKs Yael Dayan and Naomi Hazan. Next to them, members of the Arab 'Hadash' party and the Gush Shalom movement protested against the deaths in Qana and demanded a cessation of the fighting. On the opposite side of the street, the Labor party's youth movement held a counter-protest in support of the government.
Public being brainwashed
Gush Shalom representative, Uri Avneri, regretted that the voice of the left was not heard in the media and claimed that "the public is being brainwashed." Former MK Tamar Gozanski, who was also present, responded to the claim that the former unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 led to the current situation: "We, who don't want even one day of war, are responsible for war? Both sides have armed themselves in the past five years. We can't acquire missiles and demand for them not to."
Despite demonstrating on the same sidewalk, Meretz members made sure to distinguish between themselves and the other ralliers. "We're a Zionist party, that's the difference," explained Yael Dayan. "I would never in my life voice some of the statements that the Gush Shalom members are yelling. We're looking out for the good of Israeli residents in the north and think that there is an opportunity to use negotiation."
The protest drew responses from passing vehicles, some who honked in support, some who yelled in dissent. One stone was even thrown, ironically, at the less radical Meretz crowd. At a certain point, police arrived to protect the protestors.
Likud supporter Roee Sasa quarreled with the Gush Shalom-Hadash protestors, in an argument that almost came to blows. "What they're doing undermines the IDF and the residents of the north. When hospitals were hit, I didn't hear the radical left. This is collusion with then enemy; Nasrallah is rejoicing." Sasa declared.
Meirav Crystal and Sharon Roffe-Offir contributed to the report