Pro-IDF rallies sweep country, countering int'l condemnation

By ABE SELIG,
June 2, 2010 07:21

‘We came with paint guns and got lynched,’ say protesters

4 minute read.



Pro-IDF rally

Pro-IDF rally 311. (photo credit: Gilad Cohen/Im Tirtzu)

As nations lined up to condemn Israel over Monday morning’s naval raid on the Gaza-aid flotilla, rallies held from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat on Tuesday expressed solidarity with the IDF and “a unified front” against the country’s detractors.

The Im Tirtzu movement led a series of rallies at university campuses across the country, with hundreds of students taking part in demonstrations at Haifa’s Technion, the University of Haifa, Tel Aviv University, the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba.

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At all the rallies, students waved Israeli flags and held up signs reading, “We stand with the IDF” and “Peace activists don’t beat people with metal rods,” alluding to the violent outbreak on the Marvi Marmara, which IDF commandos boarded early Monday morning in an attempt to stop it from sailing into Gaza.

Around 1,000 students rallied at Ben-Gurion University. “We came with paint guns and got lynched,” read one sign.

A few of the demonstrations sparked counter-protests from Arab and left-wing students. At the University of Haifa, police formed a barrier between the two groups and prevented the situation from deteriorating into fisticuffs. At Hebrew University, a similar situation unfolded when a handful of students protesting the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla confronted the nearly 100 pro-IDF students who were rallying outside the campus entry gates.

“There was some pushing and shoving, and a lot of heated remarks,” one student who took part in the pro-IDF rally told The Jerusalem Post. “But the police were there and prevented the sides from fighting. Had they not been there, I’m sure it would have come to blows.”

Nevertheless, the tensions eventually subsided, and the rally dispersed after about an hour.

On Tuesday evening, similar demonstrations were held from the North to the South, with word of the rallies going out via the Internet. Pro-IDF rallies were held in Kiryat Shmona, Tiberias, Hadera, Afula, Beit She’an, Netanya, Tel Aviv, in Gush Etzion, Jerusalem, Beersheba, Eilat and some 30 additional locations.

In Jerusalem, nearly 100 people gathered at the city entrance, under the String Bridge, waving Israeli flags and signs reading, “We salute you Tzahal!”

While the demonstrators themselves were quite enthusiastic, the throng of rush-hour traffic speeding along the thoroughfare gave rise to a nearly-continuous chorus of horn-honking, yells of support and ecstatic thumbs up from drivers.

“I think the best part is seeing their reactions,” a young hesder yeshiva student named Yishai told the Post. “I think you can see that everyone has felt the current situation weigh on them, and they’re obviously moved to see us here, they’re happy to see that no matter what, Am Yisrael Chai (the nation of Israel lives)!”

“It is so important for us to be here right now, not only for us, to show the country and the world that we’re one, but also for the soldiers themselves,” Uri, a Hebrew University student and reserve soldier told the Post

“They need to know that we’re behind them, because as a soldier, when you come home on the weekend and you turn on the news, and feel so much criticism from the foreign press, from the countries that hold us to such a ridiculous double standard, well, it can have an effect.

“We’re here to neutralize that affect, and hopefully reverse it.”

While Im Tirtzu was involved in the campus events, many of the others were spontaneously organized by the public.

“We are expressing support for the IDF and the state of Israel,”  said Ronen Shoval, chairman of Im Tirtzu. “And we are protesting the false descriptions of terrorists as ‘peace activists,’

“Violent terrorists have learned that the battleground has shifted from bombings to the media arena. Turkey’s support for this is scandalous.”

Shoval said he was surprised by the number of students who participated at the Ben-Gurion University protest.

“This is usually the most apathetic and apolitical
campus in the country. I am getting so many calls. The public’s response has been big,” he added.

On Monday evening, around 500 protesters waving Israeli flags demonstrated outside of the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv. Protesters chanted slogans in support of the IDF and held up signs which equated the Turkish government with Hamas.  Passing drivers honked in support, as protesters called on Israeli tourists to boycott Turkey.

One placard mocked advertisements for package vacations to Turkey and carried the message, “Turkey – all inclusive: Firearms, knives, hate and blood!” Other signs read, “Free Kurdistan,” “Who is responsible for the Armenian genocide,” and, “Since when [do] human rights activists carry weapons??”

Still, not all was pro-IDF.

On Tuesday morning, nearly 100 Arab Jerusalemites demonstrated in front of the Turkish Consulate in east Jerusalem,  waving Turkish flags and chanting anti-IDF slogans.

While no unusual occurrences were reported there, dozens of female Palestinian students later set out from the nearby Ambassador Hotel for what police described as “an attempt to block off Road 1, apparently to protest the naval raid. One woman was arrested by police.

A small demonstration denouncing the flotilla raid was held in front of Damascus Gate earlier Tuesday morning, but police it dispersed peacefully.


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