Over 10,000 people assembled in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday night for the largest pro-peace rally the country has seen since the start of the war in Gaza in early July.
Protesters held signs that read “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” “When there is no peace war comes,” and “Yes to a diplomatic solution.”
The event was attended by Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-on, Hadash party leader Mohammed Barakeh, and renowned author David Grossman and was organized by Peace Now.
Gal-on took the podium and told the crowd that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a failure and that he should resign. She also called for an end to the Gaza blockade.
Grossman, a long-time mentor of the Israeli peace movement who lost his son, then a soldier, in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, said that the conflict didn’t generate the perception of victory for either side, only an image of destruction.
He also lamented what he described as growing, unchecked radicalism in Israeli society.
“Dangerous movements are coming to pass in Israel because of the despair, the anxiety, nationalism and racism erupting all at once,” he says.
“Not one word of condemnation has been uttered by the prime minister,” Grossman added. “It will be very difficult to rein in the dark forces. I’m concerned that the leaders enjoyed seeing the left held hostage, but this tide will turn against them when they appear too moderate.
“These processes and phenomena will unfortunately turn Israel into a radical, militant, xenophobic cult, isolated and ostracized.”
Barakeh also addressed the crowd, describing a desire “to build true amity between Arabs and Jews.”
“Since the signing of the Oslo Accords,” he said, “the state and the right have been trying to negate the civic legitimacy of Israel’s Arabs, who will never opt for war and will always be in favor of peace.”