Waving signs that read “Stop the Live Fire” and chanting “Arabs and Jews refuse to be enemies,” hundreds of demonstrators flooded a main Tel Aviv thoroughfare Tuesday blocking traffic in protest of Israel’s firing on Palestinian protesters along the border with Gaza.
More than 60 Palestinians were killed in Monday's clashes, which came the same day the relocated U.S. embassy was inaugurated in Jerusalem. The clashes followed over a month of high casualties as Palestinians protested along the border fence against their living conditions inside Gaza. Monday's protest also marked 70 years since the creation of the state of Israel which displaced over 700,000 Palestinians. They call it the Nakba, Arabic for disaster. Some protestors tried to break through the fence and cross into Israel.
The demonstrators in Tel Aviv, organized by a grouping of left-wing activist organizations, emphasized that most of the Palestinians who were shot and killed in the recent violence were young and unarmed.
“I can’t take the massacre that is happening in my name, I don’t want to be associated with it,” said Tamar Selby, 72, a psychotherapist who says she has been protesting Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands since 1968, the year after Israel took control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the Six Day war.
As she spoke a pair of women walked by her and one said, “May your name be erased from the Earth.”
Looking towards them she shrugged and said of her fellow Israelis: “We have trouble seeing ourselves as anything but victims.”
Protesting nearby was Alon-Lee Green, 30, wearing the purple shirt of his organization, Stand Together, written in Hebrew and Arabic.
“Instead of killing Palestinian protesters Israel has to see how desperate their need is for jobs, electricity and clean water under the siege,” he said, referring to Israel’s severe restrictions on what is allowed in and out of the Gaza Strip.
“Seeing the images yesterday on a split screen on Israeli television news was jarring – in Gaza there was death and then there was Ivanka Trump, actually drinking champagne (at the embassy opening). It was surreal and impossible to digest – the juxtaposition of celebration with the 60 people who lost their lives,” he said.
Several demonstrators interviewed said they could not imagine staying silent in the face of the ongoing bloodshed in Gaza. They dismissed the government line that Hamas was to blame for the violence because they were knowingly sending their youth to the fence that Israel has repeatedly warned them to stay away from.
“We need to ask how these people got to such a state of desperation. To say it’s just Hamas to blame is to close one’s eyes,” said Liel Magen, 32, who works at Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiatives, a think tank.
He noted that in Gaza, jobs, food, water, and electricity are in short supply and the small, crowded coastal strip has been hovering on the brink of humanitarian collapse.
And for that Israel bears at least partial responsibility, he said. Israel evacuated its settlements from Gaza in 2005, but, citing ongoing terror activities and rocket attacks by Hamas, it has imposed an air and sea blockade and controls land crossings into Israel including what goods and which people can come in and out.
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