Israeli peace movement grows

TEL AVIV – Although a majority of Israelis support Sharon’s “Lebanon War II,” the peace camp is gathering increasing strength. A recent poll showed over 70 percent of Israelis supporting the withdrawal of Jewish settlements in Arab-majority areas, up from just over 50 percent in the past.

On Saturday, April 6, a crowd from 15,000-20,000 marched here from Rabin Square to the Kiryah Defense Ministry’s Office. The march was called for by the Shalom-Akhshav (Peace-Now) movement and was joined by others, including the Gush-Shalom peace bloc, the Ta’ayush, Women’s Peace Coalition and the Israeli Communist Forum.

At the rally in front of the Defense Ministry, banners and posters called for an end to the war, bloodshed and war crimes. Some signs declared, “No military option – back to peace negotiations.” The rally was addressed by Meretz and Labor party Knesset Members who are “doves,” as opposed to the participation of their party in the Sharon coalition.

At a vigil in front of the U.S. Embassy on Thursday, April 4, about 300-400 Israelis were attacked by the Tel Aviv police. The vigil was called for by the Monitor Committee of the Arab Population of Israel and was authorized by the police. Many Jewish Israelis joined the vigil to express their solidarity with the just demands of their Arab co-citizens who demanded that the Bush administration stop its one-sided pro-Sharon bias.

It was arranged that the U.S. Embassy would accept a delegation of the Monitor Committee to present their demands in a statement. But when the delegation wanted to enter the building they were asked to undergo a harassing bodily “security check.” They refused and went back to the vigil.

At this moment, a police force, partly horse-mounted, brutally attacked the vigil. Seven vigil participants and one police sergeant were injured and brought by ambulance to the Ikhilov hospital. Former general secretary of the Communist Party of Israel and veteran Knesset Member Meir Vilner was among the seven vigil participants injured by the police attack. Vilner is one of the two still-living signatories to the Israeli Independence Charter of 1948. A police spokeswoman later excused the unprovoked attack because a Palestinian flag was shown at the vigil.

On Wednesday, April 3, the occupation forces and police used brutal force against a peace march from the A-Ram roadblock on the Jerusalem-Ramallah highway, preventing more than 3,000 Israeli anti-war protesters from reaching the besieged sister cities of Ramallah and El-Birreh.

The marchers were accompanied by ten trucks loaded with foodstuff, baby food and medicines for those confined to their houses and shelters. There are at least 150,000 hungry inhabitants in those cities.

At the fortified A-Ram roadblock, the marchers were brutally attacked and dispersed by tear gas, truncheon-swinging soldiers and mounted police. Many were injured. On TV screens across Israel you could see the Arab Knesset Member Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) with blood spilled all over his face from a wound to his head, but continuing to vehemently protest the attackers’ brutality.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org