Loyalty Oath March 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Thousands of people marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest the
cabinet’s approval last week of a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Law that
would require naturalized citizens to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and
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The demonstrators also voiced opposition to what they
described as a rising tide of fascism in the country, as well as the growing
legitimization of calls to transfer Arabs out of Israel.
Under the slogan
“Together against racism – Arab and Jewish March for Democracy,” the walk from
the Gan Meir park to the Kirya Defense Ministry headquarters brought together
demonstrators from the Hadash and Meretz parties, members of a number of NGOs
and activists groups, and thousands of unaffiliated
Organizers said the march was called to “protest the murky
tide of Liebermanism, the threats of transfer, and the legislative initiatives
of the past week and those planned for the coming months.”
The group also
said it is protesting “the dangerous retreat of Israeli democracy.”
amendment was approved by the cabinet last Sunday by a vote of 22 to 8. If it
becomes law, non-Jews applying for citizenship would have to pledge loyalty to
Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
The eight opposing votes
included five ministers from the Labor Party and three from the
Many protesters, including Hadash Party chairman Dov Henin, spoke
about what they said is the mainstreaming of calls to transfer Arabs from Israel
proper, citing a police and Prisons Service exercise earlier this month as
“Transfer is no longer something that only the extreme parties
talk about, or that is only on the extreme margins,” Henin said, speaking
outside the Defense Ministry.
“We must fight this and that is one of the
reasons we are here today.”
The security forces held a large exercise in
the North on October 6, partly to prepare for a scenario in which Israeli Arab
riot in the wake of a population exchange agreement with the Palestinian
Authority, Israel Radio reported.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) said the exercise was meant “to train officers
for an imaginary incident dealing with demonstrations, and does not indicate any
sort of current or planned policies.”
One marcher said on Saturday it
brought up memories of her past protesting fascism in the UK, before she
immigrated to Israel in the 1960s.
“I remember standing in Trafalgar
Square to protest fascism 40 years ago. And now here I am doing the same in
Israel,” she said.
Watching what is happening in Israel gives “me a
terrible, sad feeling. I’m crying on the inside,” she said.