Human Rights March in Tel Aviv 311.
(photo credit: Moshe Rafaeli)
Over a thousand people marched in the third annual Human Rights March in Tel Aviv on Friday, decrying what many said was a decline in the state of Israeli democracy.
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Speaking from the stage at Rabin Square, where the march from Habimah Theater ended, author and Association for Civil Rights in Israel President Sami Michael said, “The forces of evil are exploiting the spirit of the social protest movement and are peeling away the shell of democracy.”
The demonstration fell one day before the UN’s international Human Rights Day, which commemorates the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 63 years ago.
Michael described Israel as being led by a majority that is trampling the rights and concerns of the minority.
Israeli supporters of human rights “will stand in their way,” he vowed. “The democratic institutions, the human rights organizations, the social justice movement have been marked as targets for elimination, but we will stand in the way of this.”
Many at the protest described the past year in Israel as one characterized by attacks on left-wing NGOs, freedom of the press and minorities.
The march was organized by the Association for Civil Rights, which estimated the crowd at 5,000. The event was run in collaboration with a wide range of NGOs and followed months of social-justice protests held over the summer, which saw streets across the country filled with hundreds of thousands of people.
On Friday, around 50 counter-demonstrators stood across the street behind a cordon of police, waving Israeli flags and signs that read, “Jews have human rights too” and bore the slogan of the Im Tirtzu – The Second Zionist Revolution NGO.
A statement by Nariman Tamimi, wife of Bassem Tamimi, jailed for organizing protests against the West Bank security barrier in Nabi Salih, was read by a speaker from the stage at Rabin Square.
In her statement, Tamimi vowed to “continue to protest against the actions of the occupation with the hope that our voices will overcome the occupation bullets and tanks; that our voice would rise higher and higher over the racist separation wall and settlements and be heard by believers in freedom and human rights.”
Abdel Hamid Yousef, a refugee from Darfur in Sudan, told the crowd of fleeing the fighting in his country by himself to make it to Israel, where he was recently reunited with his brother.
“Being free and helping others who need help is a human right.
Yes we are different in culture and religious and everything, but we have to live together. Let’s demand justice, let’s demand democracy, let’s demand human rights. When the God create us he create us as human beings: black, white, pink, Indian, chocolate, whatever we are human beings and we have the right to live together.”