Remebering Carmel disaster on Human Rights Day: Some 4,000 people arrived Friday at Rabin Square to attend an annual rally marking International Human Rights Day.
B'Tselem, Peace Now and Greenpeace activists carried pictures of Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the slogan, "Don't investigate – resign!" following State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' scathing report on the situation of Israel's firefighting services.
Hundreds of refugees participated in the march as well. They carried signs reading, "No peace without human rights", "Forests burning? Climate change is already here", and "I have the right to live in peace".
Amongst those who voiced their opinion during the main assembly were President of the New Israel Fund Naomi Chazan and President of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel Sami Michael.
Michael said that "the state captains have neglected human being and trees. Leaders who arm an advanced army and neglect the home front are suspicious leaders in our eyes, for they focus on aggression and not defending their people. We and our children will watch everything you do very closely."
'Don't shut us up'
Former Knesset Member Naomi Chazan (Meretz) said during the rally that "the past year was not an easy one for human rights and human rights organizations in Israel."
Chazan added that "this year the lawmaker has lost every restraint in a flood of racist, degrading and cruel legislation. Rabbis, who are civil servants, have chosen to incite against the other, instead of educating about values and the love of man."
She thanked the participants, saying that "you are the ones who remind us that when we see discrimination and injustice, the important thing is not to shut up. We won't shut up until Israel becomes a real democracy which honors others and cares for the weak ones. We won't shut up in light of the growing racism and violence in the Israeli society."
The assembly host, actress Einat Weizman, read aloud a letter written by Eli Zviely, a man who received threat letters after renting his Safed apartment to Arabs. Zviely had written that he will "continue to preserve his rights and human rights in general".
Weizman also read a letter sent by Abdallah Abu-Rahma, who was arrested for organizing the protests at the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah. From prison he wrote, "The barriers, land theft and violent oppression are the true causes inciting violence."
Advocator for Negev Bedouins rights Amal Elsana Alh’jooj said, "When we watch television and want to see what kind of light is projects – we see the rabbis' letter. We do want to live together, we want a future together… this country is for both of us, Arabs and Jews, and for the foreign workers here with us today. This march is important for what's going on at the Knesset… We respond immediately to anyone who thinks racism is the right thing."
'Leftists have no clue about democracy'
Some 100 activists of the right-wing Im Tirtzu movement held a counter protest, saying that "Jews have human right too" and "settlers have human rights too".
Kobi Kol from Tel Aviv said, "Left-wing organizations have no clue about true democracy. They protest for Palestinians, when actually we are the only democracy in the area. We will protect democracy."
Participants march to Rabin Square (Photo: Ben Kelmer)
Gil from Herzliya says he's secular but sees "nothing wrong about defining a nation state." He added: "We represent the majority of the Israeli public, but our voice isn't always heard. I am glad for this rally today."
Knesset Member Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu) arrived to support the right-wing activists, saying that "human rights are for everybody, they shouldn't be split between Right and Left."
The purpose of the human rights march, now in its second year, is to protest against the occupation, social gaps, violence towards women and diminishing freedom of speech.
One of the participants, Eli Ziv, told Ynet, "I am here to advocate worker's rights, Arab and Bedouin rights. It's awful that refugees are considered a different kind of people in a country that considers it self to be democratic."
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