Thousands of people attended a number of anti-violence, anti-homophobia rallies across Israel Saturday evening.
The protests came in the wake of the stabbing attack Thursday at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade in which six people were injured, one of them seriously, by an ultra-Orthodox man — who had just finished serving a 10-year sentence for stabbing three people at a similar parade 10 years prior — followed by the firebomb attack Friday morning in the West Bank village of Duma which left a Palestinian toddler dead and his family fighting for their lives. The suspected perpetrators are Jewish extremists.
A Peace Now rally in Tel Aviv against incitement and violence began at 7:30 p.m. local time at Rabin Square. Demonstrators then headed toward Gan Meir to join up with those marching for LGBT rights — a separate event organized by LGBT and youth groups.
The LGBT rally also marked the six-year anniversary of a shooting at a Tel Aviv gay youth center in 2009 in which two people were killed. The perpetrator has yet to be caught.
“I came here with a heavy heart following the Jewish pogrom on Friday,” Herzog told the crowd. “Terrorists are terrorists whether they are Jewish or Muslim. The Jewish people are ashamed of the actions by some among us and we have come to ask forgiveness.”
“If I were the Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], I wouldn’t simply condemn [the firebomb attack], I would bang my fists on the table and tell our security forces to do everything they can to find [the perpetrators],” Herzog said at the rally.
“Those who know how to find the murderers of the three Israeli teenagers [abducted and killed last June by a Hamas-affiliated cell in the West Bank], also know how to find those who killed Ali Dawabsha,” he added.
Gal-on said the perpetrators were nothing short of a “Jewish Daesh,” an acronym used for the terror group the Islamic State.
“This is not how you fight Jewish terror,” she said, addressing Netanyahu and other right-wing politicians she blamed for creating an atmosphere of incitement against Arabs. “This is not how you fight a Jewish Daesh, with homophobia, with incitement, with racism. Facebook condemnations [of these actions] will not stop the violence.”
The uncle of the slain Palestinian toddler, Nasser Dawabsha, also spoke at the event, describing the harrowing moments when the family tried to escape their burning house. The uncle said baby Ali’s mother Riham grabbed a blanket she believed contained her baby and only once she was outside did she realize he was not in it, but still inside.
“They burned a family that was sleeping quietly, a family that does not believe in violence. Netanyahu expressed his condolences but we ask for protection for Duma and for other Palestinian villages. Why was Ali killed? He was 18 months old, what did he do? What did he do to the settlers? We ask that this [incident] mark the end of the suffering of our people. Before this we had Muhammed Abu Khdeir [abducted and burned alive by Jewish extremists as a reprisal attack for the three murdered teens last summer], now Ali, and we don’t know who will be next,” said Dawabsha.
— Anna Ahronheim (@AAhronheim) August 1, 2015
The parents and older brother of the slain toddler are still in life-threatening condition in Israeli hospitals.
Former president Shimon Peres told the Tel Aviv protesters that “those who incite against Arab citizens of Israel should not be surprised when mosques and churches are set alight or even when a baby is burned alive in the night.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Yuval Steinitz, minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources, from the Likud party, were also to address the crowd.
“After a long week of incitement and violence, we must speak up,” read the Facebook event page for the Peace Now Tel Aviv rally. “The events of this week, ending with the attempted murder at the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem and the deadly arson attack on Palestinians in Duma are a result of a toxic and violent atmosphere led by public figures. We must say no to Jewish terrorism and act against those who allow it to grow.”
In Jerusalem, the rally was scheduled for 9 p.m. local time at Zion Square. President Reuven Rivlin was to address the crowd, as well as family members of those injured in the stabbing attack Thursday.
Similar protests were also taking place in Haifa and Beersheba.