TEL AVIV (Dec. 27)
Thousands of opponents of Israel’s expulsion of 415 Moslem fundamentalists from the administered territories braved an unusually cold and rainy evening here Saturday to join in a demonstration called by the Peace Now movement.
Hundreds of activists marched through the streets of Tel Aviv, bearing torches and posters decrying the deportations, which have been welcomed by the vast majority of Israelis.
At the square outside the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, the marchers were joined by thousands of fellow protesters. But the rally was still significantly smaller than previous Peace Now demonstrations, which have drawns tens and even hundreds of thousands.
Conspicuous in their absence were leaders of the dovish Meretz bloc, who had in the past almost invariably taken part in previous Peace Now rallies. But this time, members of the left-wing bloc, angered by the recent killings of five Israeli security officers by fundamentalists, voted in the Cabinet in favor of the expulsions.
However, many of those present at the rally were rank-and-file members of Meretz and its component political parties: the Citizens Rights Movement, Shinui and Mapam. The Cabinet ministers’ votes were denounced by many speakers, who accused them of “bankrupting the party.”
Peace Now activist Tsali Reshef sarcastically denounced the “pure doves who have all stood on this stage with us in the past and now support this terrible decision.”
Although most Israelis have backed the deportation of the Islamic fundamentalists, who are said to be members of the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, there is some sentiment here for the deportees’ situation in the no-man’s land between Israeli and Lebanese army checkpoints in southern Lebanon.
The consensus of both speakers and demonstrators was summed up by an 18-year- old youth about to be inducted into the army, who told the crowd that “the deportees must be returned, brought to trial and, if necessary, imprisoned.”
The organizers, anticipating a rather small turnout, chose to gather in the smaller square for the venue, rather than the giant Malchei Yisrael Square in front of the municipality building generally used for mass rallies.
They also chalked up the light showing to the short notice given to call it together and the cold winter weather.