Tens of thousands of Arabs and Jews from around the country gathered last night, Saturday, August 11, in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for the second large-scale protest in eight days against the recently passed racist Nation-State Law. The crowd marched from Rabin Square to the Tel Aviv Museum, carrying signs in Hebrew and Arabic calling for equality, the annulment of the law, and democracy. “No, no, the fascist [law] won’t pass,” they cried, as well as “Bibi, Bibi, resign, we don’t want you anymore!” and “We are all brothers,” “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” also sounded through the mass of people.
The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, a non-governmental umbrella organization that represents Israel’s Arab-Palestinian community in the political sphere, organized the protest. The Higher Monitoring Committee organized some 300 buses for the event from cities such as Haifa and Nazareth, Arab-Druze villages near the Lebanon frontier and Arab-Bedouin localities in the Negev. “Buses of Arabs are coming in droves” to the protest, its proponents said, ironically mocking a statement made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about buses of Arabs “coming in droves” to the ballot boxes last election day.
Dozens of organizations endorsed the demonstration, among them: Hadash-Communist Party of Israel, Meretz, Ta’al (Arab Movement for Renewal), Association for Ethiopian Jews, Peace Now, the Israel Religious Action Center, Standing Together, Sikkuy, The Coalition Against Racism in Israel, the Mossawa Center, Labor Party youth, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Zazim—Community Action, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, Kulan, Socialist Struggle, the New Israel Fund and Shatil, Givat Haviva, Gush Shalom, Koah La’Ovdim Worker’s Union, Physicians for Human Rights, Injaz Center, Emek Shave, Yesh Din, Combatants for Peace, The Israeli-Palestinian Parents Circle, Amnesty, and Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom.
Among those who spoke at the event were former Hadash MK and leading Communist Party activist, Mohammad Barakeh, Chairman of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Affairs, Mazen Ganaim, Mayor of Sakhnin and Chairman of the National Council of Arab Community Leaders, renowned sociologist Prof. Eva Illouz, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken and Historian Prof. Kais Firro.
Barakeh wished peace activist Uri Avneri who suffered a stroke last week, a quick recovery. “Friends, you know that not all the Arabs here think the same. Neither do all the Jews. But all the Arabs and all the Jews came here in droves to protest.” “There will not be another Nakba”, he said. “We are staying here.” He ended with the phrase “We shall overcome.” Barakeh, told the crowd to “erase this abomination and remove the stain made by Netanyahu and his government called the ‘Nation-State law.’”
Prof. Illouz broke into tears at the start of her speech, as she recalled the acceptance she received as a Jewish-Morroccan immigrant to France when she was a child. “Equality is not an abstract term,” she said. “When you are equal you don’t feel fear. You live with a feeling of self-respect. Equality builds the man from within and society from the outside.”
The head of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), told Ynet website before the protest that “thousands of Arabs and Jews are making their way to Tel Aviv with a democratic and ethical message [against] the nation-state law. A democratic state must be a state for all its citizens.” Hadash MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) called it the “most important protest in Tel Aviv for the Arab public” in many years.
Hadash Former MK Issam Makhoul, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, emphasized the importance of the demonstration. “This is one of the most important demonstrations, one that demands an alternative to the current way of thinking in Israel—that which is dangerous to both nations, which tries to delegitimize the Arab sector. We are part of this country’s landscape. Our citizenship stems from our sense of belonging to our homeland, and we will not allow anyone to harm our status, not our national status and not our civil status.”
All members of the Joint List and Meretz parliamentarian fractions took part in the demonstration. However, MKs Micky Rosenthal and Zuhair Bahalul were the only two members of the Zionist Union who participated in the protest. While new opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) told Army Radio that, she would not attend the march because “some of the members of the Arab Joint List don’t share her view on Israel as the nation-state of the Jews.”
On Thursday, the Council of the Greek Orthodox Church in Israel called for its members to attend Saturday’s protest, stating that the Nation-State Law denies the Arab minority’s historical presence in Israel and severely violates its rights, while endangering Christian and Muslim holy places. The Latin Patriarchate called “to all citizens of the State of Israel who still believe in the basic concept of equality…to express their opposition to this law and the dangers inherent in it for the future of this country.”