Political tension in Israel grows, as Left and Right protesters clash
Former MK and peace activist Uri avneri (left), befor he was attacked by rightwing people today in Tel Aviv
Between 7,000 and 15,000 people (depending on who you ask) marched this evening in Tel Aviv to mark 43 years of occupation and to protest Israeli government policy. Following recent events, the demonstration, which was scheduled weeks in advance, turned into a protest against the attack on the Gaza flotilla.
While the march itself was relaxed for most parts, a few dozens of right-wing people held a counter-protest, and several of them tried to break into the Left’s rally. During the speech of a Hadash representative, a smoke grenade was thrown (There are conflicting reports as to who threw the grenade – the right or the left protesters). Later, Uri Avneri, the 87 years old former MK and peace activist, was attacked. Ynet reports that Avneri was rescued from the area in a car, with police escort. Right-wing activists also clashed with coffee shop goers in Tel aviv and shouted insults at locals.
Here is a video of the moment the smoke grenade was thrown into the crowd. it was taken by a friend who was standing next to me. You can see the speaker cuts his speech and join the crown in calls “no to fascism”.
Earlier this week, Israeli right-wing protesters threw stones and a smoke grenade at the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv. Later, a Turkish memorial site in Beer Sheva was vandalized, and the Turkish flag at the place burned.
During the night: Israelis burning Turkish flags, vandalizing Turkish memorial site.
Is Israel ready to partly lift the Gaza siege? Earlier tonight Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that Israel will be willing to allow non-military goods into the strip, after inspection. At the same time, officials said that Israel would not allow the Rachel Corrie arrive at Gaza, and the ship will be led to the port of Ashdod, if necessary by force.
Right now, Israel is not letting most civilian items, including most food items and construction material, into or from Gaza. If a policy change will happen, it will be a tremendous victory for the organizers of the flotilla, after they had their first achievement when Egypt opened the Rafah crossing at the south of the strip.
UPDATE: There are reports the Rachel Corrie is turning back, and will not try to reach Gaza.
Casualties:Furkan Dogan, 19 years old, was the American who died on the Mavi Marmara. Reports in Turkey indicate that the NY born Furkan was shot four times in his head and one in the chest, all at close range. Here is the full casualties list. It doesn’t tell us much, but judging from their ages and family status, most of them don’t seem to fit the Shaheed profile (for a different opinion on this issue, see comments).
Nationalistic mood in Israel: Around 1,000 Israelis demonstrated in front of the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv (after the rally I saw some of them marching and singing football fans’ nationalistic songs on Ben-Yehuda Street). Protesters burned a Turkish flag, threw stones and even one smoke grenade at the embassy. Three of them were arrested. UPDATE: it seems that many of the protesters were fans of Beitar Jerusalem football team, know for there racism and nationalism.
Update II: Israelis sprayed pro-IDF slogans and tried to burn the Turkish flag in a Turkish memorial site in the town of Beer Sheva (Hebrew report and picture here).
Interior Minister Eli Yishy is asking to revoke not only the immunity but also Israeli citizenship (!) from Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi (Balad) who was on board the Mavi Marmara. In a letter to the government attorney, Yishay has accused Zoabi with treason. Yesterday Knesset Members tried to prevent from MK Zoabi from speaking at the Israeli parliament; 12 of them – an all-time record – were expelled by the speaker during the heated debate (video).
Palestinians and Israelis will mark tomorrow (Friday) 43 years of Occupation in protests and rallies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A march is planned for Saturday night in Tel Aviv (I’ll be going to some of the events, so I probably won’t be blogging until the evening).
- IDF Retracts claims about flotilla’s Al Qaeda links.
- Former US Ambassador Edward Peck: “I was deported for having violated Israeli law. And I said to the gentleman, “What law have I violated?” He said, “You have illegally entered Israel.” I said, “Well, now, wait. Our ship was taken over by armed commandos. I was brought here at gunpoint against my will, and you call that illegally entering Israel? You and I went to different law schools, guy.” (video here)
- The Mavi Marmara’s passengers’ accounts tell a different story from Israel’s, including claims that Israeli soldiers fired live bullets from the air on the people in the upper deck. As Israel confiscated all recorded material, these accusations cannot be confirmed nor denied right now.
- Daniel Luban has an interesting article in Tablet, a middle-of-the-road Jewish magazine, on the nature of the debate regarding Israel in the American Jewish community, and how it avoids moral and political issues.