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My First Peace Demonstration – The Realities of Protesting in Israel


Today I went to my first demonstration, organized by the Hadash party and the organization "Peace Now". It was a small peace rally in front of the Ministry of Defense building, in Tel Aviv. I was exited to go and felt it was important I take this step.  I’d love to say it was filled with adrenalin and inspirational, but the truth is rather disappointing. Here’s a short video I nicked off the Hadash website:

 

The Protestors
Despite Hadash’s reports of a thousand people, it’d be optimistic of me to estimate 300 when I was there. Most were standing quietly, and a minority was raising their voices a bit, to say the slogans.

Heavy Police Presence
To the protestors’ defense, the police presence was huge! It’d be fair to say there was a ratio of at least 1 officer for every 2 protestors.

As you walk up the street to the Ministry of Defense square, there are officers all the way along the street. The square is fenced with mobile barriers and a dense group of police cars, police officers and military police officers stand about two meters (about 6 and a half feet) from it and look on.

For me, the biggest eye openers were the jail van, parking on the sidewalk, doors open and ready to go. The other thing was explained to me by a friend of mine, who has been going to protests with his father since he was about 15, who was kind enough to give me the grand tour:

 

"You see the guys with the leather jackets and no badges? Those are the ones that pound you. If we weren’t in the middle of Tel Aviv, their faces would be covered with motorcycle helmets."


Dispersing as Quickly as Possible

Less than an hour into the demonstration a megaphone sounds, politely asking everyone to  "gather all the banners near the stage and disperse."
 
The Media
On the way- to and back- from the demonstration I heard the hourly, 5 minute segment of the news on the radio. It was the same every time, 3rd-5th item (to the best of my translation):

"A Peace Now rally, of a few hundreds, against the war is being held outside the Ministry of Defense. The police is heavily distributed in the area, keeping the peace."

Apart from the obvious fallacy of portraying the police as a "protector of the peace", something else about this sentence bugs me: The newscaster never names Hadash as responsible for the protest. This creates the impression that this is not a protest that a part of the government is actually a part of.

My Personal Impression of My First Peace Demonstration
I was scared. As I walked up the street, to get to the demonstration, the long line of police officers were making negative comments and giving dirty looks. When I met my friend there, he had already bean harassed and threatened.

We left early, as my friend explained to me that those who left last week’s March (over 10,000 people!) last, got beaten, by pro-war protestors (the creeps who come out only when peace protests are being held) and arrested by the police, their houses searched and computers confiscated. Fear was felt all around and a sense of urgency to leave as soon and as quietly as possible.

Here’s an article from The Real News Network, to expand on the government pressure put on protests:

 

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