Thousands of Israelis Protest Tough Policies in the Territories
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Thousands of Israelis Protest Tough Policies in the Territories

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Tens of thousands of Jews and Israeli Arabs took part Saturday in coordinated demonstrations in Nazareth and Tel Aviv to protest the tough measures taken by Israeli security forces against Palestinian disturbances in the administered territories and to demand an end to the Israeli occupation.

The mass rally in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, drew between 20,000 and 40,000 participants, according to its organizers, the National Committee of Arab Local Councils. It was addressed by Eli Shimoni, representing Israel’s Peace Now movement.

Peace Now held a torchlight parade and demonstration outside Tel Aviv’s City Hall that evening, addressed by, among others, Nimr Al-Hussein, mayor of the Arab town of Shfaram and chairman of the Arab committee.

The marchers in Nazareth carried black placards bearing the names of 38 Palestinians they claimed have been killed by the Israel Defense Force and border police since unrest began in the Gaza Strip and West Bank on Dec. 9.

They shouted and chanted slogans, demanding that the government stop the killings, beatings and deportations and that Israel pull out of the territories.

For all the fervor, the demonstration was peaceful. Only one scuffle broke out when a few youths raised Palestinian flags, an act forbidden by Israeli law, which the Arab organizers of the rally swiftly put to an end.

In Tel Aviv, between 20,000 and 30,000 marchers trekked from the Israel Museum to Malchai Yisrael Square, where Peace Now activists, intellectuals and leftist politicians mounted a platform in front of the municipal building to urge peace negotiations, an end to the IDF’s tough policies and territorial concessions for peace.

The speakers said the continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip meant the rioting would go on. They also said that assaults with rifles and clubs were debasing and humiliating Israeli youth.

The American poet, Allen Ginsberg, who fathered the “beat” generation more than 30 years ago, read one of his protest poems.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as author of the IDF’s policies, was the chief target of the protestors in both Nazareth and Tel Aviv.


Arab Knesset member Abdel Wahab Darousha dropped a political bombshell in Nazareth when he announced he was quitting the Labor Party, because it has become a “rubber stamp” for Rabin’s policies.

The defense minister also received a verbal lashing from his party’s elder statesman, former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, who declared in a statement to the Jerusalem Post over the weekend that Rabin’s policies in the administered territories are an “insult to intellect and morality.”

Eban, who chairs the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, told the Post, “To advocate beating rioters as a substitute for shooting at them is dangerous. It implies that there was no necessity to use live ammunition to kill people in the first place.”

Eban was referring to the orders that went out to the IDF troops in the territories to pursue demonstrators and vigorously beat them. The rationale as stated by military sources was that stone-throwers could not throw stones if their hands or arms are broken.

“It is an insult to intellect and morality alike to create the illusion that the beating of rioters will restore calm,” Eban said. “Meanwhile, we run the risk that the sticks and the thrashing will become the symbol for Israel.”

He denounced “the defense minister’s angry rhetoric and the wretched baton he waves” which” has sent reverberations around the world. Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish friends alike are embarrassed. . . It is high time to reappraise our security tactics,” Eban said.

Darousha’s announcement was a more immediate blow to the Labor Party, which is already campaigning for Arab votes in the Knesset elections next November. The Arab Knesset member said he would remain in Parliament as an independent one-man faction while trying to organize an Israeli Arab political party.

He said he hoped it would serve as an alternative for Arab voters who cast their ballots for either Labor or for one of the two predominantly Arab leftist parties, the Progressive List for Peace and the Hadash Communist Party, neither of which have any influence in Israeli politics.

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