First Major Anti-war Rally Draws 2,500 in Tel Aviv

More than 2,500 people yesterday attended the first major demonstration against the war, marching from Tel Aviv?s Rabin Square to a rally at the Cinemateque plaza.

The rally differed from protests that accompanied previous wars. This is the first time that major Arab organizations in Israel ? among them Hadash and Balad ? arrived in large numbers from the Galilee for a demonstration in Tel Aviv in the midst of a war. They were joined by the left flank of the Zionist Left ? former Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni and Prof. Galia Golan, alongside the radical left of Gush Shalom, the refusal to serve movement Yesh Gvul, Anarchists Against the Wall, Coalition of Women for Peace, Taayush and others.

These Jewish and Arab groups ordinarily shy away from joint activity. They couldn?t come up with a unifying slogan this time either, except for the call to stop the war and start talking. However, protest veterans noted that in the Lebanon War of 1982 it took more than 10 days of warfare to bring out this many protesters, marking the first crack in the consensus.

The protest drew some new faces, like Tehiya Regev of Carmiel, whose two neighbors were killed in a Katyusha attack on the city. ?This war is not headed in the right direction,? she told Haaretz; ?the captured soldiers have long since been forgotten, so I came to call for an immediate stop to this foolish and cruel war.?

The rally, which received wide international press coverage, had an unfamiliar theme. Beside the usual calls for the prime minister and defense minister to resign, this was a distinctly anti-American protest. Alongside chants of ?We will not kill, we will not die in the name of Zionism? there were chants of ?We will not die and will not kill in the service of the United States,? and slogans condemning President George W. Bush.