As the body count rises in Syria, a group of activists held a candlelight vigil on Saturday night outside the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv to protest Moscow’s defense of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.On the Facebook page advertising the event, organizers called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “take a brave action and announce the opening of the northern border for Syrian refugees looking for shelter” from the violent conflict between opposition groups and Assad’s government forces, who have been accused of the large-scale massacre of citizens.Organizers said the event was held to show support for the Syrian people “who are being butchered” by the Assad regime and to voice their protest against Russia and China, who last week vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Assad’s crackdown.
Across the street from the embassy on Saturday evening, a woman with a megaphone led a chant in Arabic, saying, “Get out, Assad! Get out, you liar! You killer!” By the third refrain, the non-Arabic speakers had picked up the words and the cadence, but the lights inside the Russian embassy remained off.The woman with the megaphone, Asma Agbaria Zahalka, said that the approximately two dozen protesters came to show solidarity with the people against Assad and to send a message that Israel is part of the Middle East and not an island detached from the tumult of the region.When asked if she thinks that Assad and others could use images from the protest to argue that the Jews and Zionists are supporting the anti-regime uprising in Syria, she said, “He’s already said that 1,000 times. It doesn’t matter.” Zahalka added that, despite the low turnout, she was convinced that the protest showed that the summer’s “social justice” protesters had finally begun embracing the Arab Spring.The protest did feature many familiar faces from the Rothschild tent city that was the epicenter of the social justice movement. In keeping with the spirit of the movement, the Saturday night protest included an “open stage” and the megaphone was open to whomever wished to speak.Speakers included a young woman wearing a “Free Palestine” shirt and holding a Syrian flag who spoke of the carnage in recent weeks in the Syrian city of Homs, and a young man who took the megaphone to promote a sign-language street protest against Assad outside the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv next week.In addition, a number of obscene slogans were shouted at the embassy in Hebrew and Russian.
At one point, someone called for a chant in English, to which one protester answered, “Russians don’t speak English.”The signs on display articulated the crowd’s sentiments perhaps better than any slogan. These included a poorly translated English sign that read, “People alive buried under the slogans and you are only with useless diplomacy.”Another placard accused China and Russia of supporting widespread “slaughter.” One sign that was the hardest to misunderstand, however, included a caricature of Assad with a Hitler-style mustache, wearing a swastika armband.