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In Defense of Democracy: Protests in Israel/Palestine

Mass protests this weekend in Israel/Palestine against the new government, in defense of civil rights and democracy, and against ethnic cleansing of Bedouins and Palestinians.

by Stephen Shenfield



2 min read

"Free Palestine" by alisdare1 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Yesterday (Friday January 13) a rally was held on the plaza outside the Rahat Community Center in the Negev to show solidarity with local Bedouins facing eviction from their campsites as part of the campaign to “Judaize” the southern semi-desert region. 

During the rabble-rousing campaign that catapulted him to control of the Israel police, Itamar Ben Gvir of the ‘Jewish Power’ party asked: Whose home is this? He meant that the country belongs to Jews only. The demonstrators responded: This is the home of us all! This country belongs to all who live in it!

On the same day, as every Friday, a protest was held in solidarity with another community resisting eviction from their homes -– the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem.

Also facing imminent “Judaization” is the district of Masafer Yatta in the South Hebron Hills on the West Bank, comprising 13 Palestinian villages and about 1,000 residents. The Israeli army is taking their land for a new firing range. It was not feasible to hold a protest in an area so remote and under direct military occupation. 

So the Nakba — the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the indigenous population of Palestine by the Zionist movement and then by its state — continues. 

The main march against the new government and in defense of civil rights and democracy took place in Tel Aviv this evening (Saturday January 14), starting with a rally on Habima Square. There have also been marches in Jerusalem and Haifa. 

Here is the appeal issued by veteran peace activist Adam Keller to his fellow citizens:

“This government is bad for everyone. It appears to be headed towards an open dictatorship that will continue the oppression of the Palestinians, increase settlement construction, expose Palestinian residents to settler terrorism, and seek to expel them from their homes.

Some say this is not the time to talk about the occupation, because the government is also threatening the basic rights of Jewish Israelis. We say every time is a right time to talk about the occupation and now is the best time for it. For decades there was an attempt to ignore the occupation and exclude it from public debate. discussion. Now the oppression is seeping from the West Bank and threatens also the residents of Tel Aviv who thought themselves immune and averted their gaze from the oppression of the Palestinians! …

Knesset Member Zvika Fogel, also of ‘Jewish Power’, has called for opposition leaders to be arrested and charged with High Treason, which in Israeli law is subject to the death penalty (although as yet no one has been executed for the offense). These are the dark days in the history of Israel.

The hallmarks of Fascism are already visible: the attempt to take over the judiciary, calls to imprison opposition leaders and use police violence against pro-democracy demonstrators. 

We call on citizens to take to the streets, to fight for democracy before it is too late!

We call on the police to remember they are supposed to serve the public, not Ben Gvir’s racist agenda. But whatever happens, whether there is police violence or not, we are coming! We are taking to the streets, we do not hesitate, we are not intimidated!

The program of this government amounts to a coup d’état – the crushing of the judiciary, making all officials totally subservient, suppression of the media. In face of this, it the right and duty of the people to revolt!

Citizens, don’t be intimidated by Netanyahu and Ben Gvir. This is the time to come out and be counted. This is no time to stay home, no time to say: ‘I have other plans for this evening, I will come next time.’ There might not be any next time.”

Latest Reports:

Mass anti-government rallies held in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa despite pouring rain (Times of Israel).

80,000 Israelis protest in Tel Aviv, police turn protestors away (Jerusalem Post). 

Who is behind the new far-right government?

According to Ha’aretz (Jan 15), the think tank that drafts laws for Israel’s far-right parties is the Kohelet Policy Forum, which is ‘active in promoting legislation to abolish [such welfare policies as] the minimum wage, public housing, and rent control as well as labor rights. The main funders of this ‘forum’ are two Jewish-American (not Israeli) multibillionaires, Jeffrey S. Yass and Arthur Dantchik, closely associated with the securities trading firm Susquehanna International Group. The same men fund American far-right think tanks like the Club for Growth, which opposes all corporate taxes and regulation. Such socioeconomic policies lack wide popular appeal — an ingredient supplied by alliances with racism and religious bigotry (which religion — Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist — depends on local circumstances).

Tags: demonstrations, ethnic cleansing, Jewish Power, nakba

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I grew up in Muswell Hill, north London, and joined the Socialist Party of Great Britain at age 16. After studying mathematics and statistics, I worked as a government statistician in the 1970s before entering Soviet Studies at the University of Birmingham. I was active in the nuclear disarmament movement. In 1989 I moved with my family to Providence, Rhode Island, USA to take up a position on the faculty of Brown University, where I taught International Relations. After leaving Brown in 2000, I worked mainly as a translator from Russian. I rejoined the World Socialist Movement about 2005 and am currently general secretary of the World Socialist Party of the United States. I have written two books: The Nuclear Predicament: Explorations in Soviet Ideology (Routledge, 1987) and Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (M.E. Sharpe, 2001) and more articles, papers, and book chapters that I care to recall.

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