Sunday, July 23, 2006

This demo counts, even if the BBC can't!

TEL AVIV Saturday evening July 22 (photo from Jacob Katriel)
THERE were demonstrations around the world this weekend against Israel's war on Gaza and Lebanon. People marched in Sydney and Toronto, Amsterdam and Manchester, Edinburgh and London.

There were some 5,000 people out on the street in Tel Aviv. Or 2,500 if you prefer the report in Ha'aretz. Taking into account the relative sizes of population, that's like getting 25,000 out in London. Not bad in wartime.
(and those brave Women in Black who regularly defy abuse and threats insisted on maintaining a peace vigil in Haifa between showers of katyushas!).

BBC Radio Four news had ommitted to tell people that morning there was going to be a demonstration in central London, though it gave pre-publicity to an Israeli embassy-arranged Zionist rally on Sunday. On Saturday evening the Beeb did report the London and Tel Aviv demonstrations. But somehow it only counted 1,000 on the Tel Aviv demonstration. Maybe this was just an arithmetical difference. Nothing to do with Blair and Bush supporting the Israeli aggression.

Here's a report from Peretz Kidron, a long-standing Israeli peace campaigner and one of the founders of Yesh Gvul (There is a border, or there is a limit), formed by reservists who refused to serve in Lebanon or the Occupied Territories. (That's their banner behind the young people in our Tel Aviv march picture.)

Dear friend,
Saturday's peace march in Tel Aviv was mounted by a coalition of left-wing parties and non-parliamentary peace groups, Yesh Gvul included. Participation turned out much larger than anyone had foreseen ("over 2,500" according to Ha'aretz, "almost 5000" by Uri Avnery).Bystanders looked on in amazement as the noisy demonstration chanted slogans against the war (one offered a Hebrew version of a Vietnam era cry: "Defence Minister Amir Peretz, how many kids have you killed so far ?").

The Israelimedia have promoted the false impression of 100% unity behind the attack onLebanon, and citizens seemed stunned to hear such outright voices of dissent. Among the speakers at the concluding rally, Yesh Gvul coordinator Ishai Menuchin focussed on the war crimes being committed daily, calling on soldiers to refuse any part in such excesses, and warning that perpetrators will ultimately face justice, before Israeli courts if possible; if not, he promised that the movement would act to bring them before foreign courts.

Further protests are in preparation. The anti-war coalition is determined to step up its efforts, and we rely on our friends and supporters worldwide to spread the word about internal Israeli opposition to the war. We need your help and solidarity !

To soldiers and reservists: Yesh Gvul is operating its hot line with counselling for those refusing to take part in the Lebanon offensive (02.6250271)Photographs from the march and rally will shortly go up on our website

Peretz Kidron

THERE'S MORE about the July 22 demo., including more photographs, now available at

The BBC's wrong-end-of-telescope reporting (a change from their more usual blind-eye) prompted Julia Bard, a member of the Jewish Socialists' Group in London and herself a professional journalist, to write to them:

Dear BBC News,

I am a member of one of the Jewish groups that participated in yesterday's demonstration in London against the war in Lebanon, which sent a message of support to a similar demonstration called by Israeli peace campaigners. So I was disappointed to hear that, according to your news bulletin late yesterday evening, only '1,000 people' demonstrated in Tel Aviv.
Even the Israeli press -- which is not noted for its sympathetic reporting of events that challenge the government -- said there were 2,500 on the Tel Aviv demonstration yesterday, and we have received a report from a participant who says there were 5,000.
It's par for the course for the media, including the BBC, to slice these figures in half, but to misreport it to the extent that you have, is irresponsible. Given the population of Israel, a demonstration of 2,500 would be the equivalent of 25,000 in Britain – a remarkable level of dissent in the middle of a war. It is important for the world -- and for the Lebanese people -- to know that there is such a high level of opposition amongst the Israeli population to their government taking them into this cruel and destructive war.You can see how Haa'aretz reported the event at ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=demonstration&itemNo=741412

Yours Julia Bard

Julia has also forwarded a message from Israeli women's peace activist Gila Svirsky:

The peace movement in Israel has pulled out all stops to end this mad war. Lots of groups are active, and we had a big joint demonstration last night - at least 5,000 people (though the media reported 2,500). Marching through the streets of Tel Aviv with signs, "End the War", "End the Occupation" felt like a relief after the roar of pro-war-talk on all the media. Women in Black held vigils last Friday throughout Israel. The reactions from the street were quite violent and the police were out in numbers keeping onlookers (and on-shouters) at bay. After our vigil, we read the list of 55 (!) locations [see list below] that held solidarity events this weekend. Some were Women in Black and others organized by allied groups. We felt greatly encouraged by this international solidarity.
I end with a short note from Hannah Safran of the Haifa vigil of Women in Black. The women were shelled during the vigil, but they returned to complete it. Later that day, under the newly formed "Women Against War", they again left their homes to protest. hi gila, how are you? we are having a terrible day today. while we were demonstrating at our regular Women in Black square (30-40 people in all), we were bombed on both sides. it felt like being targeted from close. we had to abandon the vigil and look for shelter. we came back 20 min. later and completed the vigil on time. As we were traveling home, there was a second attack and we had to stop the car and look for shelter. When we came home we opened the newspaper to read letters of women from Lebanon. The devastation is horrific. Has Israel gone crazy or have we not noticed what a mad country we live in? It is 5:45 p.m. now and we had two attacks since then. I am off to our daily demonstration of Women Against War in front of the Foreign Office and all the foreign press. We will not be silenced. War must be stopped now. Every min. counts as people's lives are in danger. do all you can to stop this madness. only someone from outside can put pressure on Israel to stop. i have to hurry. be well and let's pray for better, hannahPlease continue to voice your protest throughout the world.

Gila Svirsky

Demonstrations and Vigils held this weekend (or just before)
Albuquerque, NM, US: Amsterdam, Netherlands: Armidale, Australia: Asheville, NC, US: Baltimore, MD, US: Bay Area, CA, US: Belgrade, Serbia: Bellevue, WA, US: Berlin, Germany; Bonn, Germany; Burlington, VT, US; Calgary, Canada; Canberra, Australia; Cologne, Germany; Concord, MA, US; Edinburgh, Scotland, UK; Farmington, MA, US; Göteborg, Sweden; Greece; Halmsted, Sweden; Kitchener, Canada; Lancaster, PA, US; London, UK; London, Ontario, Canada; Los Angeles, CA, US; Malmö, Sweden; Marseille, France; Melbourne, Australia; Minneapolis, MN, US; Montreal, Canada; Naples, Italy; New Orleans, LA, US; New Paltz, NY, US (near Woodstock)New York, NY, US; Oslo, Norway; Ottawa, Canada; Oxford, UK; Padova, Italy; Piteå, Sweden; Paris, France; Pune, Marashtra, India; Rome, Italy; San Luis Obispo, CA, US; Santa Fe, NM, US; Seattle, WA, US; South Dakota, US; Stockholm, Sweden; Strasbourg, France; Toronto, Canada; Tucson, AZ, US; Switzerland; Turin, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Vienna, Austria; Washington, DC, US;



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