Since the IDF's lethal raid on the Gaza flotilla, it seems the entire world is against us, and many Israelis have tried to counter this in creative ways, from Facebook to Youtube. Others decided to get out into the streets to raise the national morale and demonstrate their support for the IDF. Such demonstrations took place throughout the country on Tuesday.
Some of the gatherings were spontaneous, but others – though presented as spontaneous – were well organized. Two of the main organizations behind the shows of solidarity were Im Tirtzu and Bnei Akiva, who brought hundreds of activists into the streets.
"We fell into the trap they set us," said Ronen Shuval, chairman of Im Tirtzu. "We convinced ourselves that they were peace activists, so the soldiers went on board with paintball guns instead of tear gas and weapons," he said, referring to the raid in which participants of the flotilla resisted the soldiers, resulting in bloody clashes which left nine activists dead.
The movement Shuval heads also launched the recent campaign against the New Israel Fund and its director, former MK Naomi Hazan, following the Fund's contribution to organizations who gave evidence to the Goldstone report.
"We went out with three main messages," he explains: "Moral support for the IDF and the navy, protest against Turkish hypocrisy, and a message not to yield to the other side's psychological warfare.
"Various groups have tried to promote terror activities under the guise of human rights, and we fell into the trap and went into battle with paintball guns. We have to remind ourselves that a terrorist is a terrorist, and that's how we have to deal with him."
Solidarity demonstration at Ben Gurion University (Photo: Natan Gilat)
"We set the system going at full volume," he continues. "We held a huge demonstration in Beersheba, one of the most apathetic campuses in Israel, and we shook it out of its lethargy. We also held impressive demonstrations in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in Haifa, and one in front of the Turkish embassy. People on campus are motivated to participate. Another demonstration will be held tomorrow (Thursday) in Tel Aviv University, and a demonstration is planned in Haifa to take place at sea, under the title 'We're all navy'."
"Our aim is to make people boycott Turkey and its products, to combat Turkish hypocrisy," Shuval explains. "Our hasbara (official explanation) system is not good abroad because it is weak inside the country."
Bnei Akiva head Rabbi Benny Nachteiler also got activists out on the streets.
"Our members in various branches stirred up the street, and got all the movement's regions to demonstrate," he said. "Members said to us, 'What has changed since the Gaza operation? Just like then, they doubt our morality.' So we decided to take a stand."
Demonstration of support at the Technion, Haifa (Photo: Michael Cherkassky)
"We got out the signs we prepared then, during Operation Cast Lead, and waved them throughout the country," he continued. "In the north, we held a demonstration in front of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, and visited wounded IDF soldiers and their families. We hung signs at major intersections, and at one of our branches where many members are English speakers, there was an organized effort to respond in foreign websites."
Nachteiler noted that Bnei Akiva members of the northern region would be holding a huge demonstration at the Golani Junction.
"Some 350 branches intend to express a clear stand in support of the IDF and strengthen our soldiers," he said.