On Saturday night, about 1,000 left-wing activists — Jews and Arabs, politicians and ordinary folks — demonstrated in downtown Jerusalem against the continuation of the occupation. It was the first event in a series organized by a coalition of peace organizations and left-wing political parties in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War — which is also the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians.
Throughout the right’s years in power, its people have succeeded in presenting the protest against the occupation as illegitimate. Anyone who opposes the occupation has been labeled by the prime minister, his cabinet ministers and many of their supporters as illegitimate, anti-Zionist or a hater of Israel. Many right-wingers engage tirelessly in searching out opponents of the occupation, labeling them, denouncing them and curtailing their freedom of expression and protest.
Many leftists, including politicians from centrist and leftist parties, have adopted this approach, which was dictated by the right, and stopped opposing the occupation. It is obvious that the opposition is a partner with the government in rejecting the two-state solution, and sometimes even backs its inflammatory statements against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. The opposition has also failed to protest laws and other measures that restrict freedom of expression pertaining to opposing the occupation and criticizing government or army actions in the territories.
Faced with this prevailing mood among the public and the government, the increasing talk of annexing the territories and the attempts to obscure the two-state solution, it’s appropriate for individuals, organizations and parties to make their protests heard loud and clear. The Hadash and Meretz parties did well to set aside their political disagreements and join together to amplify this protest. It would be even better if more parties had joined their call for ending the occupation.
The demonstration took place not long after Saturday’s stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem. As some of the speakers noted, this attack isn’t evidence that security considerations preclude ending the occupation, but rather demonstrates the need to end the occupation immediately, in order to try to break the familiar cycle in which despair turns to anger that is then translated into violence.
Protesting against the occupation is an important reminder to the Israeli public and its leaders that it’s impossible to be both a democratic state and an occupying state, and that we have a responsibility to oppose the immoral acts done in our name beyond the Green Line. This coalition of organizations, which is coordinated by Standing Together, noted that it plans to continue its demonstrations in various places around the country. Everyone who opposes the occupation and the government’s policy of incitement has a moral obligation to join this wave of protest.
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