Thousands of leftist activists marched in Tel Aviv Saturday evening to mark "43 years of occupation," while taking the opportunity to slam recent IDF raids on Gaza-bound ships.
A smoke grenade was hurled at the protestors outside the Tel Aviv Museum. No injuries were reported in the incident. Later, right-wing protesters tried to attack leftist activist Uri Avneri, snatching signs he was carrying.
The leftist protestors, who were walking from Rabin Square to the Tel Aviv Museum, were holding up signs reading "The government is sinking all of us – we must aspire for peace." Other marchers held up signs reading "Israel, Palestine, two states for two people" and "We love the country but are ashamed of the government."
The rally has been organized by a leftist coalition that includes Meretz, Peace Now, Gush Shalom, Hadash, Physicians for Human Rights, and other organizations. The march was being lead by Knesset Members Muhammad Barakeh, Dov Khenin, and Haim Oron.
Organizers estimated that 15,000 people took part in the march.
The marchers were surrounded by hundreds of police officers, who were securing the event with the assistance of a police chopper. The forces are preventing anyone who was not part of the protest from approaching the marchers.
At one point, about 100 people holding up Israeli flags arrived to protest against the leftists. The activists were pushed back by police after attempting to approach buses carrying leftist protestors.
Police officers then deployed at the site to separate the sides.
Heavy police presence
The Israeli government is causing a disaster for the country, MK Oron (Meretz) said while speaking at the event.
"The flotilla crisis reflects lack of judgment, idiocy, and stupidity – it cannot be detached from the overall conduct of the government," he said.
Peace Now Secretary General Yariv Oppenheimer told Ynet: "We're concerned for the state and are embarrassed by a government that leads us to oblivion. This message brings together many population groups, not only within the Left. There's a sense among many Zionists of being fed up with the rightist government."
Leftists march in Tel Aviv (Photo: Ofer Amram)
"The flotilla crisis is not an issue of public relations," he said.
Protestors were also calling for a change in government in Israel, holding up Israeli and Palestinian flags alongside each other.
In the past week, rightist activists held various nationwide protests in support of the IDF and against Turkey. The demonstrations were orchestrated by the Im Tirzu rightist group. On Thursday, about 1,000 people protested outside Turkey's embassy over its involvement in the Gaza flotilla operation.
However, the show of support took an ugly turn Friday, after a memorial for Turkish soldiers killed in the Land of Israel during World War I was spray-painted with a pro-IDF message.