Yesterday the Israeli communist party Hadash held a fairly large rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on the 43rd anniversary of the Occupation. They were joined by some liberal Zionist factions including the left of center Meretz party and the National Left movement, which is basically an astroturfed Peace Now initiative designed to project a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” veneer, a la J Street. The demonstration is an annual ritual for the beleaguered Israeli left, and though some participants waved Turkish flags in solidarity with the murdered passengers of the Mavi Marmara and many people had signs and shirts protesting the massacre, it was not a protest of the flotilla raid per se. You can see my video of last year’s Hadash protest here; it was characterized by pathetic pleas for Obama to save Israel from itself. No mention of the Messiah this year.
What made this year’s rally most distinct was the fact that it was virtually encircled by bands of right-wing fanatics, including many soccer thugs from the Israeli football club Betar Jerusalem. First, the thugs set off a smoke grenade in the middle of the rally (some participants wondered if the grenade would be real next year), then they assembled just outside Rabin Square to provoke demonstrators. Eventually, they spotted veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery and attacked him. I shot a few short videos that captured the atmosphere. And Noam Sheizaf has a good write-up at Promised Land. Here are my videos:
Later, the right-wingers poured out into the streets of Tel Aviv, antagonizing bystanders but also eliciting many favorable reactions. I am working on a video about the hyper-nationalist mood that has consumed Israel since the flotilla massacre; my footage provides a slight glimpse into the collective hysteria. More from Yedioth:
Following the leftist rally, dozens of rightists marched along Ibn Gvirol Street, one of Tel Aviv’s major thoroughfares, shouting at coffee shop goers: “Stinking Tel Avivians, get out of your bubble…While IDF soldiers are subjected to a lynching you remain indifferent – you’re traitors.”
Several physical clashes were reported between protestors and residents. Some coffee shop goers responded to the rightist activists, telling them to “go to hell” and referring to them as far-rightists who should “go back to the hole they crawled out of.’
Earlier, rightists spotted left-wing activist Uri Avnery going into a taxicab on Ibn Gvirol Street and charged at him, attempting to wrest away the signs he was holding. Police officers at the scene intervened and rushed Avnery away from the scene.