Hillel Schenker

The TLV Demonstration that Wasn’t…and Will Be

Changing Direction for Peace                                                            

No to the path of wars – We must have a diplomatic solution

That was the title of the mass demonstration organized last night at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.   Among the speakers were writer David Grossman, Meretz Party Chair MK Zehava Galon, writer/sportscaster Zohir Bahalul, Hadash Party Chair MK Muhammad Baraka, Nomika Zion from “Another Voice” in Sderot, representatives of Peace Now, Combatants for Peace, the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Family Forum, and singers Mira Awad and Adam Gorlitzki,.

According to Facebook, many thousands were planning to attend the demonstration.

The only catch was…a few hours before the demonstration, the police declared a ban on demonstrations because the cease-fire between Gaza and Israel was not holding, and rockets were being fired at the south.

The organizers felt they had no choice but to cancel the demonstration, and they issued the following statement:

In light of the expected participation by many thousands in the peace rally scheduled for tonight (Aug. 9, 2014), the police announced it would not allow it to be held, due to the Home Front Command prohibition on the gathering of over a thousand people at open spaces in Tel Aviv.

The organizing committee therefore, decided that the rally must be postponed until the earliest date when it would be possible to hold it. The wide response to our call proves that a large part of the Israeli society supports a change in direction, opposes the way of wars and demands an end to the cycle of bloodshed through a real dialogue with the Palestinians, in order to reach a peace agreement that would ensure independence and justice for both peoples.

There is a large number of Jewish and Arab citizens who are prepared to stand together against the waves of racism and incitement and for democracy. We will continue to make this voice heard in every possible way.

We regret that the police and military authorities prove ineffective in protecting the freedom of expression in Israel, in particular the democratic right to demonstrate and protest. This is a badge of shame for Israeli democracy. 

Yet at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening, all the outdoor cafes around Rabin Square were filled to capacity.  Not a single rocket was fired at Tel Aviv, and no Call Red sirens were heard.   And 300 hardy, dedicated and mostly young Israelis came to the square, despite the cancellation, and demonstrated for an end to the fighting and a diplomatic process to end the occupation and achieve a two-state solution.

Some of the 300 demonstrators at Rabin Square last night

Since other demonstrations were held in Habima Square during the past month, some of which were even interrupted by sirens, it’s hard not to wonder what was the real motivation behind the police’s decision.  Were they concerned that they could not defend freedom of expression against violent right-wing protesters?

I couldn’t help reflecting that on Thursday night, I saw an extraordinary performance of the late Amos Kenan’s futuristic novel “The Road to Ein Harod” at the Nachmani Theater in Tel Aviv, prepared by the Hazira Performance Art troupe.

The blurb says that the performance, in a new genre called “PuppetCinema”, is carried out “by means of a movie camera, a puppet and half a ton of salt.”    You’ve got to see it to believe it. The original novel, published in 1984 (that iconic Orwellian year), and the new performance, opens in a Tel Aviv which is being controlled by a military coup in which demonstrations are forbidden. The hero/narrator/Kenan stand-in figure is trying to escape and make his way to Kibbutz Ein Harod in the north, where Radio Free Ein Harod declares in broadcasts that the opposition to the military government is alive and struggling to return the country to its original values.

הדרך לעין חרוד‬‎ – YouTube

 Trailer for The Road to Ein Harod (in Hebrew)

Now I of course don’t want to claim that there is any similarity between the novel/play and the current circumstances.   But I also couldn’t help noticing that the music for the new production was written by Amos Kenan’s daughter, Rona Kenan, one of the leading younger generation singers in the country, who was forced to cancel some of her recent performances because of threats against her from right-wing racists. Did the police protect her, and others facing such threats?   And did anyone prosecute right-wing rapper “The Shadow” for calling people on his Facebook page to come to anti-war demonstrations to beat up the protesters?

As the organizing committee wrote, “a large part of the Israeli society supports a change in direction, opposes the way of wars and demands an end to the cycle of bloodshed through a real dialogue with the Palestinians…”    And if the demonstration was not held on Saturday night, it will be held in the next available opportunity.

Tonight is the evening of Tu B’Av, the summer holiday of love, according to the Jewish tradition.   In honor of the occasion, Time Out Tel Aviv decided to place a subversive message on its cover – an image of Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas kissing, under the slogan Make Love Not War.

The morning DJs on 88 FM always have an appropriate song for the occasion.   This morning, Boaz Cohen on his program Rocker Tov decided to play David Byrne and Talking Heads “(We’re on a) Road to Nowhere” Talking HeadsRoad To Nowhere (Official video) – YouTube

Right now, that’s the way it seems.

But as David Grossman recently wrote, the choice is between hope and despair.   We can’t give in to despair. Now is the time for an Israeli initiative, to work out a cease-fire arrangement together with the Egyptians, and President Abbas representing the Palestinian reconciliation government (meaning that Hamas will be obligated to what is agreed upon), and to move on to a renewal of serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with the aid of the Arab Peace Initiative, to resolve the conflict.   That’s the ultimate key to security and peace for all Israelis and Palestinians.

It’s up to all of us to push all the players forward in that direction.

About the Author
Hillel Schenker is Co-Editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, and lives in Tel Aviv