Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

January 4, 2010

The “Lift the Siege” protest in Tel Aviv you never heard about

Filed under: Activism,Gaza,Israeli peace activists — Katya Reed @ 8:05 am

[Editorial note: We are pleased to publish these periodic reports, “LivefromPalestine” ~HC]

If you only get your news from the most established media networks of the “free world”, you may well have missed it.

About 1,000 Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday night against the blockade on Gaza on the one-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead.  What was even more gutsy is that the protesters demanded an investigation of war crimes committed, that all war criminals be brought to justice, and the occupation be ended in its entirety.

Here was one sign that caught my eye. It reads “IDF: The Most Moral Terrorist Organization in the World.”

Tel Aviv protester

translation: "IDF: The Most Moral Terrorist Organization in the World"

My Israeli friend Slava and I arrived late, so we missed the gathering at Yitzhak Rabin Square.  “We’ll find them,” he said looking up at the sky.  “We’ll just follow that police helicopter and where its pointing the light.”  I looked up to see a helicopter hovering above diagonally streaming down a shaft of light.  He was right–following the nearest hovering helicopter turns out to be an excellent way to find a protest in Israel.

Protesters carried signs showing crude drawings of tanks approaching a blood soaked Gaza demanding “Break the Siege.”  With drummers keeping the beat and the electric pulse of a didgeridoo palpable, the crowds chanted “Gaza, Gaza don’t despair, we will end the occupation yet!” (note: it rhymes and sounds catchy in Hebrew.)

Since the question must be asked around this part of the world–no, most of the participants were not ‘Arabs’, that is, ethnic Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.  The great majority were Jewish Israelis marching with a substantial Arab minority.  Jews and Arabs marched together and the presentations were in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Uri Avnery was among the many speakers featured at the gathering at the end of the march in Museum Plaza.  The prominent peace activist and Hebrew University professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan also spoke.  Her father served as the military commander of Gaza following the Suez Crisis in 1956.  Nurit’s own daughter was killed in a suicide bombing spurring her to become deeply involved with the peace movement in Israel.  She captured world attention for her speech in 2001 about the occupation as a root cause of own daughter’s death:

“my little girl was murdered because she was an Israeli by a young man who was humiliated, oppressed, and desperate to the point of suicide and murder and inhumanity, just because he was a Palestinian.”

Mondoweiss noted the presence of the prominent Israeli journalist Gideon Levy and Shlomo Sands, the author of The Invention of the Jewish People.

All this fanfare–yet not a word of the protest in Israel’s largest city is mentioned in the NYT, WashPo, or the English edition of Ha’aretz.  TheJerusalem Post briefly admitted the protest happened but misrepresented its attenders saying that:

“Notably missing from the protest were members of Meretz and the powerful left-wing lobby Peace Now”.

This may have some truth to it, but its a terribly misleading statement when the four sentence article omitted the fact that Mossi Raz did attend the march.  Mossi Raz is both the former secretary-general of Peace Now and a former Knesset member who served for Meretz from 2000-2003.

Thankfully, Al Jazeera and AFP fully covered the story showing the world what actually happened last night–a thousand some passionate, articulate Israelis were bravely waking up the streets of Tel Aviv to the horrors of the blockade of Gaza, the occupation of Palestine, and the dire urgency for accountability in Israel.

See for yourself video footage of the march here and pictures here.



  1. Helena,

    Your comment,”All this fanfare–yet not a word of the protest in Israel’s largest city is mentioned in the NYT, WashPo, or the English edition of Ha’aretz.” reminds me of the letters to the editor in my local newspaper asking why the paper didn’t have more coverage of the sparsely attended “tea-parties”. The writers were also convinced some bias was at work.

    The number you give of 1000 protesters isn’t a very large protest even for a small country like Israel.

    Another thought, Is it just because it’s Israel and the type of protest or should every demonstration of 1000 people anywhere in the world for any reason merit an article in the NYT?

    Comment by David — January 6, 2010 @ 6:17 am | Reply

  2. Thanks for your comment David. Just to clarify–Helena didn’t write this post, it was me, writing under “live from Palestine” (or Katya Reed).

    I take your point that 1,000 people is not a huge protest. The big story is Operation Cast Lead and how Israelis (and Palestinians and people from around the world) are commemorating its one year anniversary. Because of its pivotal importance, I would think news organizations from around the world–but particularly Israeli & US news–would be interested in seeking out Israeli opposition to the siege and support for war criminal investigation. Precisely because it is a perspective so rarely heard from. I believe that’s why AFP and Al Jazeera reported on it–in an atmosphere where it seems as if Israeli (as in Israeli Jewish) opposition to Operation Cast Lead is non-existent, here was a marvelous opportunity to hear from these people.

    I’m particularly surprised Ha’aretz did not cover the protest. 1,000 people protesting in Israel seems to be quite enough to often get their attention, as after a quick search you can see that Haaretz covered the following recent protests which only had about 1,000 attendants: Protest of the end of Ethiopian aliyah efforts, a protest against expulsion of migrant workers, and a protest of Haredim Jews against Intel for operating on Shabbat.

    I would think that a protest of 1,000 Israelis–many of whom are famous figures–against the siege of Gaza and in support of bringing war criminals in the Israeli govnt to justice on the anniversary of Cast Lead would be every bit as newsworthy as the protests mentioned above. Furthermore, I would think that there would be a more concerted effort by media organizations in Israel and the US and Europe (who for a whole host of reasons obviously cover Israel/Palestine much more in depth than they cover the rest of the world)to seek out Israelis who have divergent points of view on Operation Cast Lead on its anniversary.

    Comment by livefrompalestine — January 7, 2010 @ 5:20 am | Reply

  3. As a left leaning liberal here in the states I am very critical of our news organizations. A favorite trick of conservative columnists is to claim that there is a liberal bias in the news, then pick some not very news worthy event, for example the recent fraudulent ACORN videos, claim that these are hugely important news and their lack of coverage is thereby proof of liberal bias.

    Your post and headline seem to follow a similar logic that there is a pro-neoconservative bias, which is why I pointed out that 1000 protesters is not a large protest. I will agree with you, that it is surprising that Haaretz did not cover it, although I do not read Haaretz often enough to be familiar with it. (I read the Jerusalem Post out of force of habit. During the years I lived in Israel it was a very different paper than it is today).

    Bottom line for me there is no “big story is Operation Cast Lead and how Israelis (and Palestinians and people from around the world) are commemorating its one year anniversary.” Should it be? I think the almost hopeless frustration with the peace process prevents it from being of interest if only 1000 protesters show up. It’s not enough to indicate a movement or a change.

    Comment by David — January 7, 2010 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

  4. […] The ‘Lift the Siege’ Protest in Tel Aviv You Never Heard Of Jump to Comments this piece was originally posted at Fair Policy, Fair Discussion. […]

    Pingback by The ‘Lift the Siege’ Protest in Tel Aviv You Never Heard Of « Katya Reed on Palestine/Israel — February 19, 2010 @ 1:09 pm | Reply

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