torah - Moti Kimche - April 22 2011
The scene outside Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall, where activists planned to sign a declaration supporting a Palestinian state. Photo by Moti Kimche
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A rally organized by leftist intellectuals in support of a Palestinian state yesterday descended into a verbal free-for-all after a group of right-wing activists gate-crashed the demonstration in Tel Aviv.

Among the organizers and left-wing participants were 17 Israel Prize laureates, looking to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to embark on a diplomatic initiative, ahead of the expected declaration of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders at the U.N. General Assembly in September.

The protesters' declaration said it supported the "independence of two peoples who strengthen each other, is both a moral and an existential need and is the basis for the possibility of good neighborliness."

While the ceremony was underway with a "declaration of independence from occupation" being read, right-wing activists shouted "fifth column" and "traitors" at the demonstrators.

When the actress Hanna Maron read from the declaration, right-wing activists interrupted her repeatedly, shouting, "You forgot what they did to you in Munich."

Maron was seriously injured in 1970 by a grenade thrown by Palestinian militants at Munich airport, resulting in the amputation of her leg.

The declaration, which was read on Rothschild Boulevard outside Independence Hall, was couched in phrases recalling Israel's Declaration of Dependence, which David Ben-Gurion read in the same hall on May 14, 1948.

"We have gathered here on this 21st day of April to welcome the expected declaration of independence of the Palestinian state, the state bordering on Israel according to the borders of our independence, which were created with the end of the War of Independence in 1949, known as the 1967 borders," proclaimed the declaration.

Other participants were author Sami Michael, playwright Yehoshua Sobol, filmmaker Ari Fogel, and Professor Zeev Sternhell. Later, in a televised debate on Channel 2, Ben-Gurion's grandson, Dr. Yariv Ben-Eliezer, lashed out at Sternhell, asking: "Who do you think you are? My grandfather's vision has been turned into a gimmick."

"There is intentional symbolism in it," Sternhell responded. "We are raising the Declaration of Independence to a higher level."

The incident spurred various responses. Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said: "Such actions only drive the chance for peace, reconciliation and the establishment of a Palestinian state farther away. They create false hope among the Palestinians that they can establish a state unilaterally without negotiations with Israel."

The head of the Likud response team, MK Ofir Akunis, called the initiative "a sorry provocation of an extreme and bizarre leftist group pretending to represent the left."

MK Zahava Gal-On (New Movement-Meretz ) said the initiative should be part of the political platform of the left.