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Anti-war Demonstration in Tel Aviv

Thousands of people packed Kikar Malchei Israel Square in front of City Hall here last night, to protest the continuing fighting in Lebanon.

The organizers, a loose group of people not affiliated with any regular political party, put the attendance at “well over 20,000.” The police estimated the crowd at “about 10,000.”

Whatever the figure, this was the first time in all of Israel’s wars in which a demonstration has been held against the war while the war was in progress. Speakers, many of them university professors, writers and intellectuals, noted that this first demonstration was taking place during what had become Israel’s longest war, apart from the War of Liberation in 1948.

Most of them stressed that it had taken much soul-searching both to organize and to attend the demonstration while soldiers were still on the frontlines. But they stressed that any national consensus which had existed in favor of the original limited aims, of clearing a 40-kilometer belt of terrorist artillery, had disappeared with the extension of the fighting to the suburbs of Beirut.

All speakers concentrated their main attacks against Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon personally. They were accused of waging a “political war, rather than a war of defense which the entire country could support.”

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