Thousands march in Tel Aviv against loyalty oath

Organizers say demonstration against "Liebermanism, the threats of transfer, and the legislative initiatives of the past week."

Loyalty Oath March 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
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 democratic state.
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.
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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 protesters.
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.”
The 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 Likud.
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 evidence.
“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.