Thousands of Jewish, Arab Activists Gather in Tel Aviv to Call for Peace, End to War and Occupation

In an impressive display of numbers for the Israeli peace camp since the October 7 several thousands of Jews and Arabs gathered in Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliyahu neighborhood on Monday evening, July 1, for a conference demanding a hostage deal and end to Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza and the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The large conference has brought together activists veteran peace activists, musicians, Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders, intellectuals and lawmakers, including Hadash MKs Ayman Odeh, Ofer Cassif and Youssef Atawneh, Labor MKs Gilad Kariv and Naama Lazimi, and former MKs Dov Khenin (Hadash), Mossi Raz (Meretz), Zehava Galon (Meretz) and many others.

The peace conference held in Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliyahu neighborhood on Monday evening, July 1, 2024 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

After nearly nine months of deadly war, the enduring bloc convened to reaffirm its basic premise following October 7 — only a negotiated political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that ensures peace and equality for both peoples can prevent another massacre.

The conference struck a somber yet hopeful tone, with bereaved families who lost loved ones on October 7 speaking early on at the event. Maoz Inon, whose parents were murdered by Hamas in their home in Netiv Ha’asara on October 7, told the crowd that the pain of losing his family only strengthened his desire for peace. “To save myself, I embarked on a journey, on the path of peace and reconciliation. We create hope together by envisioning a common future, and working to make it a reality,” he said.

MK Odeh, echoed a similar sentiment in an impassioned speech, bringing many older members of the audience close to tears. “Most of us here still remember the days when public opinion here in Israel was different. In the 1990s, support for peace was loud and widespread. It is our duty to rebuild that faith and declare that peace is possible!” he exclaimed to the crowd.

Odeh went further back in time, remarking that just a century ago, Europe found itself between two world wars. “This month we are watching the Euro games, a thrilling soccer tournament of teams of countries from that continent that in just the previous century fought world wars, were sworn to destroy each other,” Odeh said. “And now we’re all waiting for the big game between Germany and France, and this doesn’t even seem extraordinary to us. We deserve this too!”

Alluding to the Rabin years, MK Lazimi told an emotional crowd that she was born into “a family that believes in peace, in days when we all had this hope.” “We were part of a generation that was promised a different future,” she said, but expressed worry that the younger generations of Israelis, markedly more right-wing than their parents and grandparents, have never been exposed to the possibility of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The internationally renowned Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari said: “It’s true, we have tried to make peace in the past, and we weren’t good at it. So what? We also haven’t been very successful in making war, which doesn’t prevent us from trying again and again. All these wars have led us into an abyss. The time has come to make peace.”

Yanal Jabareen, a Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem and Hadash activist who, earlier this year, covered a conference of the messianic religious movement promoting the Israeli occupation and Jewish resettling of Gaza, told the audience that he conceived of Monday’s conference as a firm rejection of Israel’s fascists and racists. “Against all this, it is the time to unite — Arabs and Jews,” he said. “Despair is no action plan, peace is the word.”

MK Cassif described this status quo as the notion that “the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people can be managed.” “It cannot be managed, it should be eliminated,” Cassif told The Times of Israel on Monday, harshly criticizing the right-wing vision of the so-called “day after” in Gaza. “There is no total victory, it’s a sham. They [the Israeli right] think that this is a zero-sum game, that Israel must win and that necessitates the elimination of the Palestinians.” “There is a win-win situations — both peoples win; or a lose-lose situation — both peoples lose. The win-win situation comes from here,” Cassif continued, referring to the peace conference.

The event in Tel-Aviv was led by several major peace and human rights organizations, among them: Partnership for Peace, Combatants for Peace, the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, Forum, Zazim, Women Wage Peace, Standing Together, Peace Now, Ir Amim, Peace Now, Mehazkim, Abraham Initiatives, Rabbis for Human Rights, Mizrahi Civic Collective, The Faithful Left, Mothers Against Violence, Peace NGOs Forum, Psychoactive, Other Voice, Social Workers for Peace and Welfare, Mothers’ Cry, Kedma for Equality in Education, The Anti Occupation Bloc, Ir Amim. Itach-Ma’aki – Women Lawyers For Social Justice, The Negev Coexistence Forum For Civil Equality, Sadaka-Reut Arab-Jewish Youth Partnership, Breaking the Silence, Kahanism, Racism and Homophobia – Not In Our School, Machsom Watch, Parents Against Child Detention, Jordan Valley Activists, Social Workers for Democracy ,Yesh Gvul, Torat Tzedek, Isha l’Isha Haifa Feminist Center in Haida, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, Emek Shaveh, Culture of Solidarity and Tlalmim – Young Adults in the Jewish Reform Movement.