Peace Now, Meretz hold Left's first anti-war protest

"Calls for a cease-fire are not anti-IDF," Peace Now secretary-general tells crowd of some 600 people.

peace now 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
peace now 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Peace Now organized the first demonstration of the Zionist Left since Operation Defensive Shield began two weeks ago on Saturday night outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. The event marked a change in direction for the organization, which had previously limited itself to calling for a cease-fire via an on-line campaign. Peace Now expressed understanding for the operation when it began, but started calling for a cease-fire six days into the fighting. "Calls for a cease-fire are not anti-IDF," Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer said at the rally. "We just don't want the soldiers to lose their lives in an operation that should not be continuing. The Left was divided at the start of the fighting. But when the choice is between staying in Gaza for years or leaving now, it is clear what we support." Some 600 people attended the rally, including many of the anti-Zionist Hadash activists who have been demonstrating against the operation since it began. The Hadash activists accepted a request from the rally's organizers not to bring the Palestinian flags that had been a part of their demonstrations. While Hadash MK Dov Khenin and Arab MKs have attended many demonstrations, Saturday night's was the first attended by MKs from Meretz. "Even though we supported initiating the operation after Hamas broke the cease-fire, now we are saying enough," Meretz head Haim Oron said at the rally. "A cease-fire must be reached now. We must do everything possible to reach a peace agreement under the umbrella of the Arab League. Only an agreement between us and the Palestinians can end terror." Meretz released a statement criticizing the security cabinet's decision on Friday to continue the operation, saying that remaining in the Gaza Strip was against Israel's interests and would result in losses on both sides and the loss of international support.