Hundreds Gathered in Tel Aviv for Anti-War Protest, Calling for Ceasefire

Hundreds of Jews and Arabs gathered Saturday evening in Tel Aviv’s Charles Clore Park for a demonstration led by Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – Communist Party of Israel). The protest called for the immediate ceasefire and an end to the war. Protesters say they support an “all-for-all” hostage deal where all Israeli hostages are brought back in exchange for all Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Mohammad Barakeh, the head of the Follow Up Committee, addressing the crowd at the anti-war protest held in Tel-Aviv, Saturday evening, November 18, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

Protesters carried signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English calling for an end to the war, with slogans reading “In Gaza and in Sderot girls want to live,” “No to occupation and siege, yes to peace,” “Peace solution – not war,” “War has no winners,” “An eye for an eye and we are all blind.” The police forbade the waving of some anti-war signs among them: “Massacre does not justify massacre,” “Peace solution,” “Bibi [PM Benjamin Netanyahu] should be imprisoned,” “No to Apartheid,” “Food instead of bombs,” and “Return the captives, stop the revenge.” Cops also tried to prevent people with t-shirts with the phrase “Looking at the occupation in the eyes” from entering, claiming that even using the word “occupation” constituted incitement, but after a long argument, they let them in. The police censorship was not hermetic, and all the signs were later seen in the demonstration.

Hadash MK Aida Touma Suleiman spoke at the protest, saying: “They will not silence us. We won’t let the human voice against the war be unheard, so here we say: we are against the war. From the first day, we said that we oppose the atrocities and crimes committed against civilians, and when civilians in Gaza die from bombings – we will condemn these crimes as well. You will not prevail because there is also a voice in Gaza, and there are also citizens and children in Gaza.”

Dana Mills, former Peace Now director, declared, “Enough of the war, enough of the murder and massacre in Gaza. We will not be silent or calm until all the prisoners return home safely.'” Maoz Yinon, both whose parents were murdered by Hamas on October 7 said: “I now have four goals. 1. To bring back the hostages held by the terrorist Hamas. 2. End the war. 3. Bring down Netanyahu. 4. Revive hope for all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, that we will have a better future of peace and equality.”

Even though the demonstration was organized by Hadash and the Communist Party, former MK Sami Abu Shehadeh, the leader of Balad (the National Democratic Alliance), came to take part. The organizers spontaneously added him to the list of speakers, giving a boost to the most needed unity in these hard times, overcoming painful divisions that resulted from the Joint Lists splits in the last Knesset elections. Also, former Knesset speaker, Avraham Burg (Labor) addressed the crowd.

The last speaker was leading Communist Party member and former Hadash MK, Mohammad Barakeh, the head of the Follow Up Committee, the united leadership of the Arab-Palestinian citizens in Israel. He started his words by mentioning that his family was expelled in 1948 from Saffuriya in the Galilee and half of them are now refugees. While lamenting suffering on both sides of the conflict, he mentioned that more than a hundred thousand Palestinians lost their lives before October 7 and more than 14, 000 last month.  Barakeh was detained Thursday morning after he announced a protest against the war in Gaza and called for Arab officials to demonstrate in Nazareth

Dozens of fascists demonstrated around the anti-war protest, and they were kept, mostly, at some distance by the police. When the protest finally dispersed and were supposed to go through a safe passage northward, the police disappeared and allowed the fascists, many of whom were armed, to harass and curse the demonstrators. They especially concentrated on Barakeh and Att. Noa Levy, secretary-general of the Hadash Tel-Aviv branch and blocked they cars. But finally, the police intervened and let him go.

Last Thursday, the police agree to allow the Hadash demonstration after the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding it order the police to issue a permit for the rally. The Tel Aviv Police Department initially refused to authorize the event, on the grounds it could lead “to civil disturbances, may harm the feelings of evacuees from southern Israel currently residing in Tel Aviv, and that the police lacked the manpower to secure the rally.”

During the court hearing Thursday, and for first time since October 7, police agree to allow the demonstration to go ahead, but at a different location than originally planned and with a limit on the number of participants to five hundred. On last week, the High Court rejected similar Hadash petitions against the police’s decision to ban demonstrations in the Arab cities of Sakhnin and Umm El Fahm. The ruling states that “despite the high status of the right to demonstration and assembly, the complex reality in which we find ourselves has the potential to influence the manner in which the balances are drawn up in this matter.”