Yesterday, a united Israeli left was supposed to hold a major anti-war rally under the banner of “Changing the Direction Toward Peace: No to the Way of War, a Political Solution is Necessary.” Among the participants were Peace Now, Meretz, Hadash and other liberal-left groups and parties. But a funny thing happened. Tel Aviv police told the event organizers that the Home Front Command had forbidden gatherings in the city of greater than a thousand people. This was supposedly to protect Tel Avivans from being struck by Hamas rockets. On the strength of this refusal, the political parties decided to postpone the rally.
Haggai Matar notes in his article for Mekomit that there were many other events last night in Tel Aviv that attracted even greater crowds than the thousands expected at the peace rally. Yet somehow they weren’t cancelled as well. A curious case of selective use of police power to repress inconvenient political expression.
This dysfunction and lack of will is emblematic of the sickness in the soul of the Israeli soft left. It doesn’t know what it wants, doesn’t know how to get there, and caves at the first sign of rightist opposition.
But there were 500 hearty souls who would not be deterred by the refusal of the police. They marched anyway. They did so peaceably and wonder of wonders–the police didn’t interfere! Imagine if the organizers of the original event had stood their ground. What might have happened then? Imagine displaying a left that couldn’t be cowed by the security apparatus?
But Shimri Segal, a Knesset aide to Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, published a curious diatribe on his Facebook account (since removed but saved for posterity here) which blamed the protesters who demonstrated last night for promoting “violence” instead of peace:
The peace rally which had been planned was postponed. In its place, people came to the Square supporting armed struggle.
I’ve never understood people who think that violence can solve violence [sic]. I don’t understand it when I see it from the talking heads in TV studios nor when I hear [it from] radicals at a rally in the Square.
We will fill the Square soon with cries for solidarity, opposition to violence, and a demand for peace.
Watch the video and tell me where you see violence. What disturbed Segal no doubt was the slogan and placards at the rally which called for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel (“U.S. Arms, Israel Kills”) and an end to the Gaza siege. No doubt cutting off U.S. military aid to Israel could tar the soft left with the brush of being anti-Israel. So in that sense, cutting off arms to Israel might not allow Israel to ‘defend’ itself (or drop bombs on Gazan babies, depending on your view of the matter). So you could make an argument (a rather feeble one) that U.S. arms prevent violence against Israel.
Another factor that likely disturbs Segal is that a real left ignored the warning and threats of the security forces and took a brave stance that made freedom of speech a meaningful value in the Israeli context. The left of political parties, beholden to their sinecures in Knesset, bowed and scraped before the powerful and the police.
After attempting to contact Nitzan Horowitz in several different ways to ask for his comment on his aide’s remarks, instead he forwarded my e mail to Segal, who replied:
I didnt blame Israeli peace activists for promoting violence in Gaza. What i did write, I wrote as a private person.
So the opening remarks in the FB post announcing postponement of the Meretz rally were official. But the words following in the next paragraph which condemned the “radical” left for fomenting violence were not official. Are you following?
H/t to Talkaholic.