Most tellingly, no important Palestinian personality was given the microphone; rather the organizers, many long-affiliated with the Labor Party, turned to King Abdullah and President Mubarak! Oy veh!
THE PEACE RALLY IN ISRAEL ON 1 NOVEMBER
On Saturday night the Rabin Memorial Rally at Tel- Aviv's Rabin Square - also
this year a major gathering of peace-minded Israelis, in which all
self-respecting peace groups feel bound to make a presence but as before, it
was an ambigious event, in which your participation is hedged with reservations
about the program.
At least, attending this year's rally - unlike those of the past two years -
did not involve the emotional wrench of having to listen to a keynote speaker
directly involved in the war against the Palestinians - PM Ehud Barak in the
rally of November 2000; Dalia Rabin-Pelosof, Deputy Defence Minister in 2001.
In retrospect she herself, the daughter of Yitzchak Rabin, may have felt
uncomfortable with it; she resigned from the government a few months later, a
step which marked a beginning of internal pressures and grassroots resurgence
in the Labor Party, and which finally led to the party ministers' long-overdue
resignation from the Sharon Government.
So, this year's Rabin Rally, seven years after the murder, however officially
touted as "non-partisan", was in a way the first manifestation of a new
political reality. In other times, the enormous sign "We Believe in Peace" over
the podium may have been only a cliche or pious wish; in the Israel of
November 2002 it was just a bit more: a crowd of about 100,000 mostly young
people defying the trend of 'peace is dead'.
The organizers, meanwhile, had gone to considerable trouble to obscure the
identity of Israel's partner for peace - featuring filmed addresses from King
Abdullah of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt and Former US President Clinton,
while pointedly neglecting to let any Palestinian speak; and the historic
handshake between Rabin and Arafat featured only in the stickers distributed in
big quantity by Gush Shalom, not in any of the organizers' posters and ballers.
But there were quite a few moments of dissidence - some on the podium, some in
the crowd, quite a few in the interaction between the two: the explicit anti-
occupation signs conspicious among the medley of banners and placards visible
in the square, "Hashomer Hatzair Youth Movement fights the occupation" and "Get
out of the Territories!" and "Refusal to serve the occupation is the true
Zionism"; and the upswelling applause to actress Anat Gov's words "The right-
wingers try to criminalize us, to put all blame for the country's woes on the
'criminals of Oslo'; well, better to be a peace criminal than a war criminal";
Singer Aviv Gefen calling upon "everybody who has had enough of the occupation"
to raise their arms and getting a resounding response.
Several peace groups - Bat Shalom, Gush Shalom, Kvisa Sh'hora, Women's Peace
Coalition - took up a specific issue which has gotten far less than
its fair share of public attention: "The Separation Fence" - "fence" being
an euphemism for what is in fact being erected as a monstrous 8-metre high
This project is often welcomed as both a panacea preventing the entry of
suicide bombers into Israel and the beginning of a "separation process" which
will supposedly lead to the eventual creation of a Palestinian state
- with little attention given to such details as that the monster wall is
being laid along a line cutting through the agricultural lands of dozens of
Palestinian villages, effectively annexing enormous swaths of territory to
Israel. Also, while being enclosed within an enormous wall would make the West
Bank even more of a prison camp than it already is, it does not at all automatically lead to Israeli withdrawal. It didn't in the Gaza Strip which is already for years enclosed by a similar construction.
So, throughout the rally there were activists circulating among the
crowd - the largest gathering of peace camp grassroots supporters anywhere in
the year - distributing leaflets on the iniquities and dangers of the Separation Wall.
Dozens of others held aloft large banners on which the bricks of a wall were
painted with the slogan "The Evil Fence - Ghetto for Palestinians, Disaster for
Israelis". With more than twenty of them held side by side, a quite realistic
image of a wall was created in the center of the Square.
From Adam Keller, Gush Shalom