Wenn Ihr es wollt, ist es kein Traum:
... but I'm not the only one!
in Tel Aviv für ein Ende der Besatzung...
|During the negotiations with the
Tel-Aviv police we had asked a permit for 5,000 people. About a year
ago, in a rally called by much the same peace and human rights
groups, only some hundreds showed up.
But we knew that something has changed by now and we were
reminded of that fact by a daily stream of supportive messages and monetary
donations from all over the country and the world - many of them from readers of
related websites, to whom we are very grateful.
Still, we told each other: as long as there will be "thousands"
we can declare success. Without the participation of Peace Now we didn't dare to
hope for the ten thousand that in the event did turn up.
We had been right that the time was ripe. The Israeli people
didn't altogether forget that during the December cease-fire, maintained by the
Palestinians for over three weeks, there were virtually no Israeli casualties.
And part of the public even realized that this cease-fire was rudely broken by
Sharon in a series of deliberate provocations and assassinations, which started
a new and still ongoing cycle of bloodshed. No more is there the atmosphere of
"National Unity" with hardly any expressions of dissent. The discussion on war
crimes became fashionable (for which we take some
credit). Critical views became frequent in the media, also from
politicians not noted for bravery or radicalism.
Above all, there was the spectacular success of the
petition by reserve soldiers and officers
refusing to have any further share in the occupation - whose number mushroomed
from the original 56 to more than two hundred at present (and continues to rise
daily) and whose act got wider and more sympathetic publicity than anybody could
have dared to expect the traditionally militaristic Israeli society to give
soldiers and officers flagrantly disobeying the orders of their superiors.
Yediot Aharonot opinion poll of
Feb. 8 found no less than 26% of the Israeli public sympathizing with the
officers' refusal to serve in the Territories; the paper noted that even at the
height of the anti-war movement of the 1960's and early 1970's, there had never
been such a percentage of Americans in support of the soldiers who refused to
fight in Vietnam.)
It was the refusers who were undoubtedly at the center of the
rally. This was evident as the thousands started pouring into into Museum
Plaza. Among the colorful medley of printed and hand-made flags and signs and
banners in Hebrew and Arabic and English, there were many expressing warm
support for the refusers. And there were prolonged cheers whenever a speaker
mentioned the refusers, and even more so when a refuser mounted the improvised
podium set up on the steps of the Tel-Aviv Public Library. There were three of
them among the twelve featured speakers: Yishai Rosen-Tzvi, fresh from a term in
military prison; Yishai Menuchin, a veteran refuser who was already imprisoned
during the Lebanon War twenty years ago; and Noa Levy, one of a group of
highschool kids who are determined to follow in these two's footsteps upon
reaching conscription age.
Those of us who had carried on the struggle in the past year and
half, who more then once reached the edge of despair in lonely vigils of a
few dozen which were so woefully inadequate for what we were protesting against,
felt a bit delirious. A large and heterogenous crowd - outspoken gays and
lesbians from cosmopolitan Tel-Aviv, side by side with villagers from rather
conservative Arab communities; the moment of silence, with hundreds of black
flags of mourning held aloft; and except for that moment, the continuous
chanting, sometimes rising to drown out the speaker "Fuad, Fuad Sar Habitachon -
Kama Yeladim Haragta Ad Hayom?"(Fuad Minister of Defence, how many children did
you kill onto this day?); the catcalls and whistles which greeted any mention of
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, once the darling of dovish crowds; the voice of
well-known singer Ahinoam Nini rapt in John Lennon's words "You may say I'm a
dreamer, but I'm not the only one".
Uri Avnery thundering "Once we thought that there are war crimes
perpetrated in the occupation - now we see that the occupation is a war crime!";
Shulamit Aloni reciting Nathan Alterman's poem denouncing the killing of
civilians by the army in 1948 - a classic of modern Hebrew poetry - and adding
"If Alterman had written it today, Army Chief of Staff Mofaz would have
started investigating him as a leftist agitator"; Yasser Arafat's greeting, sent
out of besieged Ramallah: "Only the peace of the brave will ensure our children
and yours a future without violence and bloodshed"; writer Sami Michael's
observation: "We must all free ourselves of the occupation, the Palestinians
from occupation by the army, we from occupation by the angel of death;
Abed Anabtawi of the Arab Monitoring Committee: "The occupation does not
distinguish between Jewish Blood and Arab blood; we all stand to be its victims,
we all must fight it - together!"; Writer Ronit Matalon: "Sharon's train is
taking us to total war and total destruction. We must derail it - and the
refusers' letter is a good start"; Jamal Zahalka: "A specter is haunting this
country's political and military leadership - the specter of soldiers' refusal,
a specter which refuses to be exorcized however much they try"; Yehuda Shenhav:
"The occupation is financed by our tax money. The tanks, the helicopter
gunships, the bulldozers, the war crimes are all financed by our tax money. This
money should go elsewhere - to the poor, to the disabled, to the creation of a
just society!"; the cheering and wild clapping which punctuated each and every
speech, especially when someone made a particularly daring or militant remark.
None of the speakers had been officially designated keynote
speaker. The one who may have come closest to that description was Yishai
Rosen-Tzvi - not because of a superior rhetoric skill, but because of the recent
intense experience which was clearly still fresh in his mind:
"I want to tell of how people come to take this act of
refusal. In the past year, since I was in prison, I met many people who stand on
the very threshold, people who - above anything else - feel terribly cheated. A
soldier gets to the Territories and is confronted with a terrible situation.
thousands upon thousands of people sunk in deep misery, poverty, humiliation.
And then you get your orders and find out what your job is. Your job is to push
these people deeper into misery and poverty and humiliation, to keep them caged
in towns and villages, not to let them get out, not to let them earn a living,
not to let them live a normal life. And then two things happen. First you look
around in disbelief, you take your had into your hands and ask: God, can this be
true, is this really what I am supposed to do, how did I get here, how did I
come to get such orders, to be asked to do such things? And the second thing
which happens is that you cry out "I've been cheated!".
All the propaganda arguments collapse - that we are a
peace-loving people, that the war was imposed on us, that we do what we must in
order to fight terrorism. Everything collapses, all these specious arguments,
collapse like a house of cards. And then you are faced with the reality, the
cruel reality. Fighting terrorism - what a joke! They are maintaining a hothouse
of misery and poverty and hopelessness, our army does, a hothouse where the
plants of terrorism have the ideal conditions for growth. The government policy
is keeping the terrorism hothouse going and flourishing. And the conclusion is
very simple. There are things which a decent person just does not do. A decent
person does not starve people, and does not humiliate people, and does not treat
people as if they were dirt. A decent person JUST DOES NOT DO THAT. Not under
any circumstance. And there are more decent people in this country then we
thought. And every day more people discover that they are decent, and start
behaving as decent people should. And when there are enough of them, then the
occupation will just come to an end."