Ignoring police orders to call off the large-scale protest due to the continuing rocket fire in the south, hundreds of left-wing activists gathered in Rabin Square on Saturday demanding an end to Israel’s military actions in Gaza. Roughly 800 peace and Left activists flooded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square in defiance of the ban, which was put in place ostensibly to stop large gatherings during a time when missiles are being fired at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. Protesters chanted slogans such as “Funds to welfare not to war,” “Build more classrooms not more bombs” and “In Gaza and Sderot children want to live.”
Despite heightened tension and a small counter-protest of ring-wing activists, no major clashes were reported between leftist and rightist demonstrators. In addition, no arrests were reported. Citing the resumption of hostilities on the Gaza front, police officials informed organizers of an anti-war demonstration in Tel Aviv scheduled for Saturday evening that the event cannot be held due to the public safety risk.
Police officials said that they are legally bound to adhere to the directives handed down by the IDF Home Front Command, which does not permit large gatherings in public during times of conflict.
The left-wing demonstration, which was expected to draw at least 15,000 people to Rabin Square, was organized by a number of political movements and parties, including Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – Communist Party of Israel), Meretz, Peace Now, Combatants for Peace and the Palestinian Israeli Bereaved Families for Peace.
“Due to the threat of rockets and in accordance with the instructions of the Home Front Command, the authorities have resolved to not permit any events which involve the participation of large crowds in open areas,” the police said. “As such, it will not be possible to permit the protest that was planned for this evening in Rabin Square in deference to the safety and security of the greater public.” MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) called on Saturday the cancellation unacceptable. “This means we cannot protest the war during the war. This is exactly the time when the police and security forces should defend our freedom of expression and demonstration and not rush to block it,” he said.
Protest organizers released a statement saying that the event would be rescheduled. “The tremendous response to our call to demonstrate proves that in Israel there are many people who support a change in direction and who oppose the path of wars,” the organizers said. “They are demanding a diplomatic breakthrough by means of real dialogue with the Palestinians in order to reach a peace agreement that will ensure independence and justice for two peoples.” Last month, on Saturday July 26, nearly 7,000 people gathered at Rabin Square to protest Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. In another part of the city square, a counter protest was organized by racist right wing demonstrators.