Under the banner “Zionists are not settlers!” thousands of people demonstrated near Zion Square in Jerusalem on Saturday night to voice their disapproval of government policy and declare their support for a “Jewish state, for the Jewish people, with clear and recognized borders.”
The demonstration, organized by the National Left (Smol Leumi) movement, Peace Now and Ofek (the Meretz faction at the Hebrew University), lasted for nearly an hour and featured brief remarks from each of the movements’ representatives.
“We’re calling for an end to the occupation – with or without an agreement!” Eldad Yaniv, Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak’s former bureau chief and one of the National Left movement’s founders, told the cheering crowd.
“We’re calling for a Jewish state, for the Jewish people with clear and recognized borders!” he said. “Not a Jewish state built on settlements and discrimination!”
Yaniv’s fledgling political movement aims to rebuild the Left from the ground up, encourage Zionism among the left wing, and serve as an umbrella for parties to the left of Kadima in the next election.
“We have been working for months to wake up the Zionist Left in Israel,” Yaniv told The Jerusalem Post
last week. “We have held parlor meetings across the country three or four times a week, and now we have decided to return to the streets with Israeli flags and say that Zionists aren’t settlers, and that the time has come to end the occupation and build a society that can be a light unto the nations.”
The participants – police estimated the crowd at 2,000; organizers put that number closer to 5,000 – chanted slogans enthusiastically and cheered the speakers on.
“We are here tonight to reclaim the Zionism of Ben-Gurion,” one participant, Tzachi, from Tel Aviv, told the Post
. “We’re tired of Zionism being associated with the right wing only, and we came out tonight, to Jerusalem, the capital, to let our voices be heard.”
While buses brought scores of demonstrators from Tel Aviv and other locations across the country, a large contingent of Jerusalemites turned out for the protest as well.
“Living in this city, working or studying here, you can really feel that
there are segments of the population that are trying to hijack the
political process and shut out anyone who doesn’t fit their mold,”
downtown resident Alon Zehavi told the Post
felt it quite strongly while watching the Jerusalem Day parade last
Wednesday,” he continued. “All I could see were yeshiva students and
settlers, dancing and cheering their way toward the Old City. The crowd
was so homogeneous.
“And as someone who sees his future here in
this city and in this country, it was important to me to come down here
tonight and make my voice heard. Because I am left-wing, because I am a
Zionist, and because it’s important to me that [Israel] remain a Jewish,
democratic state,” Zehavi said.Gil Hoffman contributed
to this report.