Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jerusalem Post article on the anti-war protest tonight in Tel Aviv

Around 1,000 march in TA anti-war with Iran rally

Protesters express opposition to strike on Iran, voicing anti-Netanyahu slogans and railing against AIPAC.



Print Edition
Photo by: Ben Hartman
In the first significant anti-war with Iran protest held yet in Israel, around a thousand Israelis marched through central Tel Aviv on Saturday evening to voice their opposition to those calling for a strike on Iran to stop the Islamic Republic’s quest for the nuclear bomb.

Titled “Israelis Against the War”, organizers said on the protest‘s Facebook page that “we will not agree to an irresponsible Israeli attack in Iran, leading to a war with an unknown end-date and casualty count…The billions that this war will cost will be paid by us – in health, education, housing - and in blood.”

One protester, 32-year-old Chen Sharabi-Cohen couched his opposition to the war in terms of how it will disproportionately affect weaker Israelis.

“I live in South Tel Aviv where we don’t have shelters or the protection we need. We have nowhere to go. If they want to attack Iran, they should first worry about preparing the home front.”

Israel’s first large anti-war rally was inspired by a campaign launched last week by an Israeli couple looking to reach out to their Iranian counterparts.

A little over a week ago Ronny Edri, 41, and his partner Michal Tamir, 35, both graduates of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, uploaded pictures of themselves on Facebook which read “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We love you.”

The anti-war meme quickly went viral, and within days there were dozens of such photos posted online by beaming, non-threatening Israelis. Soon after, the Iranians got into the mix, with several Iranians posting messages of love to Israelis, albeit most with their faces blurred or removed altogether from the posters. Within days the Israel and later the global media took notice, and a graphic artist’s whim became a major news item.

Saturday’s protest was not planned by Edri, but organizers said they saw it as a natural extension of the spirit of Edri’s online campaign.

In many ways the demonstration brought to mind the J14 “social justice” protests held over last Summer. Not only were there many familiar faces from the summer at Saturday’s rally, but the march began at Habima square, the same spot where the J14 protests started. In addition, the organizers of Saturday’s rally were all heavily-involved in the J14 movement, which, like Saturday’s protest, was started inadvertently by a young Tel Aviv woman who launched a Facebook initiative that caught the attention of the media and quickly soared to unforeseen heights.

The protesters also voiced many anti-Netanyahu slogans that were heard from time to time during the summer’s protests, including “Mubarak, Assad, Bibi Netanyahu” and “bring down the government”, among calls for peace and social justice. In addition, there were several placards voicing opposition to the American pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

Overall it appeared to be a quintessentially Tel Aviv crowd, with many from the city’s protesting caste marching, a rather significant number with red flags and Hadash party posters.

Two protesters wearing posters with the slogan “Iranians we love you” from the Facebook campaign, Einav Raz and Shelly Nativ of Tel Aviv, said they were against not only a war with Iran, but also the very existence of nuclear weapons anywhere in the Middle East, including Israel.

“We must disarm all of the Middle East from nuclear weapons, Israel included,” Raz said. When asked how she would stop Iran from developing a nuclear program, she said “I would speak to them, invite them to sit at the table and talk to s. There are peace offers out there, but Israel just wants war.”

By the time the march made its way to Meir Park across from the Likud headquarters, the crowd had largely dwindled from its peak of around 1,000. They continued to chant at the park, with a small crowd moving from Israeli peace songs to the Beatles “all you need is love” and John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”.

A large counter-protest was expected, but in the end only around a dozen people came to voice their opposition. One of them, Eliyahu Nissim, 24 of Herzliya, carried a sign that read “the left embraces our enemies”.

Nissim said he came Saturday night to say “the Jewish people is eternal and all people who rise up to destroy us are legitimate targets for attack.”

He added “all of the people [of Israel] are with us on this.”

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