1,000 march in Tel Aviv against war with Iran

Protesters express opposition to strike on Iran, voicing anti-Netanyahu slogans and railing against AIPAC.

Anti Iran war rally in Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Anti Iran war rally in Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
In the first significant antiwar- with-Iran protest held in Israel, around 1,000 people marched through central Tel Aviv on Saturday evening to voice opposition to those calling for a military strike to stop the Islamic Republic’s quest for nuclear weapons.
“We will not agree to an irresponsible Israeli attack on Iran, leading to a war with an unknown end-date and casualty count,” organizers said on the protest’s Facebook page, under the title “Israelis Against the War.”
“The billions that this war will cost will be paid by us – in health, education, housing – and in blood.”
One protester, Chen Sharabi- Cohen, 32, couched his opposition to a war in terms of how it would affect poorer Israelis.
“I live in south Tel Aviv, where we don’t have bomb shelters or the protection we need. We have nowhere to go. If they want to attack Iran, they should first worry about preparing the home front,” Sharabi-Cohen said.
The rally was inspired by a campaign launched last week by an Israeli couple looking to reach out to their Iranian counterparts.
Last Monday, Ronny Edri, 41, and his partner, Michal Tamir, 35, both graduates of the capital’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, uploaded pictures of themselves on Facebook that read, “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We love you.”
The anti-war meme quickly went viral, and within days there were dozens of such photos posted online by beaming, non-threatening Israelis.
Soon, the Iranians got into the mix, with several posting messages of love to Israelis, albeit most with their faces blurred or removed altogether.
The Israeli and later the global media took notice, and a graphic artist’s posting became a major news item.
Saturday night’s protest was not planned by Edri and Tamir, but organizers said it was a natural extension of the spirit of their online campaign.
In many ways the demonstration brought to mind the J14 social justice protests held last summer.
There were many familiar faces from the summer at Saturday’s rally, and the march began at Habimah Square, where the J14 protests started. In addition, the organizers of Saturday’s rally were all heavily involved in the J14 movement, which, much like Saturday’s protest, was started by a young Tel Aviv woman who launched a Facebook initiative that caught the attention of the media and quickly soared to unforeseen heights.
Saturday’s demonstrators voiced many of the anti-Netanyahu slogans that were heard from time to time during the summer’s protests, including “Mubarak, Assad, Bibi Netanyahu” and “bring down the government,” among calls for peace and social justice. In addition, there were several placards voicing opposition to the American pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.
It appeared to be a quintessentially Tel Aviv crowd, with many people from the city’s protesting caste, a rather significant number with red flags and Hadash party posters.
Two protesters wearing posters with the slogan “Iranians we love you” from the Facebook campaign, Einav Raz and Shelly Nativ of Tel Aviv, said they were not only against a war with Iran, but also against the existence of nuclear weapons anywhere in the Middle East, including in the Jewish state.
“We must disarm all of the Middle East from nuclear weapons, Israel included,” Raz said.
When asked how she would stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, she said, “I would speak to them, invite them to sit at the table and talk to us. There are peace offers out there, but Israel just wants war.”
By the time the march made its way to Meir Park across from Metzudat Ze’ev, the Likud Party headquarters on King George Street, the crowd had dwindled from its peak of around 1,000. They continued to chant at the park, with a small crowd moving from Israeli peace songs to The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” and John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”
A large counterprotest was expected, but in the end only around a dozen people came. One of them, Eliyahu Nissim, 24, from Herzliya, carried a sign that read “the Left embraces our enemies.”
“The Jewish People is eternal, and anyone who rises up to destroy us is a legitimate target for attack,” Nissim said. “The entire nation [of Israel] is with us on this.”