It took me some time to write about the wonderful experiance I had last Saturday in the demonstration in West Jerusalem. It was a very busy week for us in Peace Now, arranging the demo, spreading flyers, putting signs at nights etc. There was a lot of work waiting for me, coming back home after 2:00 pm from the demonstration(s) to start yet another regular week of work.
At least 2,500 people showed up in Zion Square in West Jerusalem to say: “Enough with the lie about the “United Jerusalem”; the settlements in East Jerusalem are not in the consensus, and are not a real Israeli interest”. I am sure that Netanyahu (and some people back in the US) must hear the clear voice of a serious part of the Israeli public saying that the so called “freeze” in Jerusalem is actually an Israeli interest that should lead to the final status talks and eventually to a peace deal.
Another reason for my tiredness was that on Friday I went to the weekly Sheikh Jarrah demonstration. This is an amazing rise of young people that started to fight heroically against the settlements in East Jerusalem. This time the police acted brutally against the demonstrators, and arrested 14 of us. So, we went to the police station to escort them, and arranged for a demonstration in Saturday night in front of the Jerusalem Court, as they are brought to trial.
So this was the scene at the center of West Jerusalem last Saturday night: 2,500 “Peacenics” demonstrating at the Peace Now demonstration (arranged together with other groups), and another 300 “Peacenics” demonstrating 200 meters away, in front of the Jerusalem Court (After the first demonstration they are joined by hundreds). Such a scene we didn’t have in the last few years, especially not in the heart of Jerusalem. The two groups represent a very large scale of opinions in the Peace Camp: from the very Zionist and Blue&White flagged demonstrators, to the more radical, which has a different interpretation to the word “Zionist” that would feel as comfortable demonstrating under a Palestinian flag as well.
For the past few years, the Peace Camp in Israeli politics has been pretty well small. In fact, being part of Peace Now has felt a bit lonely; we are a Zionist organization, which is to say that we believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. We further believe that Israel’s unique status as a free and open democratic society in the Middle East endows the Israeli public with a special responsibility to promote the basic human rights of freedom, justice, and equality for all people in this region. Therefore, we have long advocated an end to the occupation and to Jewish settlement outside the pre-1967 borders of the state of Israel.
But Saturday night’s rally(s) in Jerusalem was a clear signal that the tide has changed. It was truly a milestone in the reawakening of Israel’s Peace Camp and was very exciting to be a part of. All of the people there recognized that stopping the settlements actually makes Israel stronger, both morally and in terms of defense. It has become obvious to even the most casual observer that the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are not really part of a “united” Jerusalem; there is no consensus here about continuing the Jewish settlement of these areas and in fact most Israelis now recognize that continuing the settlement simply means continuing the conflict.
That the tide has turned was obvious not only from the large numbers of people who turned up for the rally but also from the political parties represented there. On Saturday we had Meretz, Labor, the National Left, the Kibutz movement, and other political representatives joining with Israeli citizens proud to fly the Israeli flag and lend their voices to a new call for peace and progress.