Left and right clash at Tel Aviv rally to support Palestinian state
Rally participated by 21 Israel Prize laureates was to culminate by signing declaration of Palestinian independence outside Tel Aviv's historical Independence Hall.
Leading left-wing cultural leaders, including several Israel Prize laureates, were verbally accosted on Thursday during a rally in support of an independent Palestinian state.
The rally, taking place outside Tel Aviv's Independence Hall, was reportedly disrupted by right-wing activists equipped with bullhorns, who called out: "leftist professors, it will all blow up in your face," "Kahane was right," and "traitors."
Rally organizers and participants, who included 21Israel Prize laureates, said present police forces did not separate rally goers from objectors, as they usually do during right-wing events.
The speech by Israel Prize winning actress Hanna Maron was disrupted several times by right-wing counter-protesters, who yelled out "fifth column." Disruptions reportedly continued even after attempts by organizers to quell the anti-rally sentiment by mentioning Maron lost her leg during a 1970 terror attack on an El-Al flight.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak released a statement following the clash, saying disagreements must be solved "without the word' 'treason' and without violence."
"The state is facing fateful decisions and everyone wants a safe and strong Israel," Barak said. "I call on all to demonstrate responsibly."
Prior to Thursday's rally, protest organizers said they planned to sign their own written declaration to this effect, adding they intended to invite members of the general public to join them in signing the document.
"The Jewish people arose in the Land of Israel, where its character was forged. The Palestinian people is rising in Palestine, where its character was forged," the proposed document declared.
"We call on everyone who seeks peace and freedom for all peoples to support the declaration of Palestinian statehood, and to act in a way that encourages the citizens of the two states to maintain peaceful relations on the basis of the 1967 borders... The total end to the occupation is a fundamental precondition for the liberation of the two peoples," the statement continues.
Sponsors of the event insist it will not be a token protest, but rather part of a larger process that will lead to a legitimate alternative to Israel's current policies.
"Our initiative is not a naive one," said Sefi Rachlevsky, one of the initiators of the demonstration and a Haaretz columnist.
"Instead of Israel being the first to extend its hand and support Palestinian independence, it is trying to warn against it. That is not only a moral disaster, but it's also liable to bring about a practical catastrophe in which Israel will isolate itself and turn into a kind of South Africa."