Following Deadly March, 1,000 Israelis Rally for Gaza in Tel Aviv

One thousand Israelis protested in Tel Aviv Sunday evening, April 1, in front of the party headquarters of the Likud, which leads the governmental coalition of Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding an end to the escalation of violence along the Gaza border and calling for a peace process to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza-Israel border fence on Friday, March 30, marking the beginning of the “Great March of Return,” a 45-day-long series of protests and events planned to culminate on May 15 – Nakba Day. The organizers of the Gaza return march had said that the protest was meant to be nonviolent yet Israeli forces fired live bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators.

MK Dov Khenin (first from left) during the protest in Tel Aviv Sunday evening, outside the party headquarters of the Likud

MK Dov Khenin (first from left) during the protest in Tel Aviv Sunday evening, outside the party headquarters of the Likud (Photo: Zu Haderech weekly)

Israeli troops killed 16 Palestinians during Friday’s protests, which took place at several points along the besieged coastal strip’s border. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that an additional 1,400 people were wounded, roughly half of them from Israeli army sniper fire. The Israeli army reported zero injuries among its troops.

In Tel Aviv protesters carried signs bearing various slogans, such as “There’s another way,” “Stop the gunfire,” and “Two peoples, one hope,” while some Palestinian flags were unfurled. In a Facebook post published before the demonstration, the organizers wrote: “Last weekend we witnessed what the next war might look like. … Over 15 Palestinians killed and thousands injured; more pain, more fear, more hate and zero progress towards a life of peace and security for the people who live on both sides of the border.” They added: “Both the Israelis and the Palestinians deserve to live in security, and for that to happen; the siege of the Gaza Strip must be ended now.”

The protesters in Tel Aviv included activists from the Communist Party of Israel (CPI), among them the party’s General Secretary, Adel Amer, Hadash, Standing Together, Another Voice, Combatants for Peace, Peace Now, The Forum for Bereaved Israeli-Palestinian Families, Hope Instead of War, Meretz and Breaking the Silence.

“During the festival of liberation [Passover], Gazans came to search for their freedom and came under live fire,” told the crowd Hadash activist and MK Aida Touma-Sliman from the Joint List. “The Bibi-Lieberman government prepared the ground for the slaughter and fired at unarmed civilians without blinking an eye, at women and children who were looking for their freedom,” she added. “We stand here in the heart of Tel Aviv to say ‘not in our name; enough with the wars, enough with the killing!'”

“We came here this evening to protest against what happened in Gaza – a march to the fence that ended in a terrible tragedy with the deaths of 16 and thousands wounded,” said Hadash MK Dov Khenin, also from the Joint List. “We demand that these incidents be investigated … but an investigation is not enough,” he continued. “We must change direction. We cannot continue to ignore the turmoil and threats against Gaza. We demand that the government stop this escalation and incitement.” Both Khenin and Touma-Sliman are members of the Political Bureau of the CPI.

On Saturday, some 300 Israelis protested along the Gaza border in solidarity with the Great March of Return demonstrations in Gaza that began so bloodily a day earlier. Saturday’s protest was organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace, a feminist, anti-occupation organization.

In response to the latest deadly events in the Gaza Strip, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – issued the following statement: “The Israeli military’s use of 100 snipers against unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip is illegal. Live gunfire against unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel is obliged to act in accordance with international law. Adalah will call for an investigation into those responsible for today’s deadly incident in Gaza and will demand that those found responsible for the killings be brought to justice.”

Adalah and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza) sent a letter on Sunday to Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the Israeli Military Advocate General demanding they act to prevent the use of sniper fire against protesters or for crowd dispersion, and to clearly and directly order Israeli forces to refrain from the use of live ammunition of any variety – including sniper fire.

Adalah and Al Mezan issued a second letter calling on the Israeli military to remove all social media posts threatening participants in subsequent days’ Gaza marches that they will be considered military targets as well as to remove all social media posts threatening the civilian population of Gaza; all such acts would constitute gross violations of both international criminal law and Israeli law, wrote the two organizations.