Some Israelis Cry Out for Peace

Leftwing Israeli activists take part in a protest in Tel Aviv against Israel's offensive in Gaza January 10, 2009. Peace Now was joined by Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, after the joint Palestinian-Israeli non-governmental organisation Alternative Information Centre made an appeal to make Jan. 10 "a huge global day of mobilisation against the Israeli war in Gaza." (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

Some Israelis Cry Out for Peace

TEL AVIV - Another peace rally
Saturday night brought together about a couple of thousand Israelis to
demand an immediate end to the ongoing assault in Gaza. The
demonstration was held in front of the Hakirya, the central command of
the Israeli Defence Forces and the Ministry of Defence in the heart of
Tel Aviv.

This was the third peace rally in three weeks. The
first was held directly after the first air bombing of Gaza. It was
attended by a few hundred protesters. At the second, more than 2,000
people came out on the streets.

"We have a humanistic and political message," says Yosef Douek
of the movement Peace Now which organised the demonstration. 'Children
in Gaza and Sderot want to live in peace and security. There is no use
whatsoever to a continuation of these military actions."

Peace Now was joined by Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, after the
joint Palestinian-Israeli non-governmental organisation Alternative
Information Centre made an appeal to make Jan. 10 "a huge global day of
mobilisation against the Israeli war in Gaza."

"We are doing what we can to influence public opinion although I
believe the effect of our actions is very limited," says Yosef Douek.
"Because we live in a country where media aren't interested in breaking
the political consensus. At the same time, the political approach to
our message is non-existent. Everybody feels a patriotic urge to
support the war, at least at this stage. I strongly believe this will
change very soon. Public support will collapse, just as it did in
previous wars."

"This war started with a clear feeling of triumph," says Ido
Gideon, member of Meretz, a Jewish leftist party that supported the
Israel Defensive Forces operation when it first began. "People in
Israel thought that it would be a clean and fast operation to prevent
Hamas from firing any more rockets at us. There was a clear feeling of
vengeance amongst Israelis for what had happened that needed a
response. Now things are getting out of hand, and vengeance has made
place for disillusionment."

But the group is finding it difficult to gain support both within
Israel and internationally. "Whenever there is an Israeli military
action, all leftists around the globe become anti-Israeli," says
Gideon. "All anti-war protests around the world are mingled with an
anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish sentiment that is clearly aimed at the Jews'
right to live in this country. That makes it hard to be a leftist in
Israel. Because in the first place, it isolates the whole of Israel, in
the second place, it isolates the forces that are trying to change it.

"I am making the same battle as them," Ido adds, "with one big
difference: I'm making the battle inside of Israel. And whenever I go
outside of Israel, I have to make another battle: the one of defending
my right to be a Jew and live in this country."

"The difference now with previous wars is the disproportionate
use of violence, which has led to enormous anger in the rest of the
world," says Ronen Eidelman, an internationally known Jewish artist,
writer and activist. He is engaged with linking art, culture and
grassroots politics as editor of the online art and culture magazine
Maarav, and is setting up several initiatives against the war in Gaza.
"Last week we published a booklet with works of poets and artists
against the war, which we distributed at the demonstrations. For some
people, poetry is something they connect more to than an article in the

Last Tuesday, as President Shimon Peres attended the
dedication of Israel's national poet Bialik's house in Tel Aviv, a
group of poets recited Bialik's poem 'On the Slaughter', and asked the
attendees how they are able to "sip champagne while hundreds are being
murdered in Gaza."

"These initiatives are part of a much broader anti-war movement," says
Ronen Eidelman. "The cultural initiatives are only one thing out of a
huge Israeli peace movement which is much larger than newspapers tend
to say."

"It is time Israelis and Palestinians start talking about pain instead
of guilt," says Ido Gideon. "Both sides have to realise that the
holocaust is as much a part of the Israeli national psyche as is the
Nakba for the Palestinians." Nakba refers to the mass deportation of a
million Palestinians from their cities and villages, massacres of
civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian
villages when the state of Israel was founded in 1948.

"We have to find a way to make both stories live together in
the same land, whether or not you hold one of both to be more true than
the other," says Gideon.

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