Monday, January 29, 2024

Ceasefire Now! Thousands protest across Israel calling for release of hostages and Netanyahu’s dismissal

Tens of Thousands protest Saturday night, January 27, in various demonstrations across Israel, demanding the release of hostages, immediate elections, against war in Gaza and the removal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Protests were held this in several locations across the country. Protests demanding elections were held at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, Horev Center in Haifa, Karkur Junction, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Rehovot, Nes Tziona, Kafr Saba and Caesarea. 

A big demonstration for the release of the hostages was held in Tel Aviv’s Hostage Square, and in Eilat there will be a solidarity rally with the hostages. An anti-war protest take place also at Kaplan Street, in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

Noga Friedman, whose partner Ido Rosenthal was killed in the battle on October 7, spoke at a protest calling for elections in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square. “I can’t just grieve and be sad, because I’m very angry,” she exclaimed, “I’m not ready for the death of Ido and others to be a story about sacrifice. It should be an indictment against the government and its leader.”

Friedman added: “I’m supposed to sit and grieve. I’m not even supposed to be here right now, to be angry that the government has to go home. I’m the one who should be at home, sad, but it’s impossible anymore. It’s impossible. How many demonstrations will it take for this government to realize that it needs to fold the coalition and go from here? This country is losing the best of its sons and daughters, abandoning the hostages, and not accepting responsibility.:

Hundreds of protesters clashed with police forces and mounting officers at the demonstration against war on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv. The police forcibly removed protesters who tried several times to block the road, and five of them were even arrested. In addition, the police confiscated the protesters’ signs and other property. In videos from the scene, protesters can be seen pushing back at the mounted police. Latterly, activists rallied outside a police station in Herzliya demanding that protesters arrested at the anti-war rally in neighboring Tel Aviv hours earlier be released.

In Jerusalem, police officers forcibly removed demonstrators at a women’s protest for the release of the hostages, who were trying to block a road at Paris Square. In a video from the demonstration, one of them is seen being forcibly dragged by policemen, who were beating and kicking her. The protester went to the hospital after feeling pain in her back.

Two thousands of people demonstrated against the far-right government in the Horev center in Haifa. The protestors called for the removal of Netanyahu. At the same time, hundreds rallied at the Karkur junction for the release of the hostages and the advance of the elections. One of the drivers who passed by the demonstration tore signs of protestors who were blocking the intersection. Uri Arad, who was captured by Egypt in the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, gave a speech at a demonstration in Haifa. “Netanyahu’s insistence on prolonging the state of war that serves him is costing us unnecessary blood and bereavement, in the blood of soldiers and hostages alike. Therefore, we demand elections now,” he said,

Former Shin Bet head Carmi Gillon, spoke at the protest in Kfar Saba, calling for early elections due to loss of confidence in the government: “After 113 days of fighting, 1,400 dead and murdered and more than 1,600 wounded, it’s time we move to conclusions. It is not possible for the IDF to wage war on four fronts at the same time. Our dependence on the US is absolute. Every Israeli citizen will bear this mark on their conscience if the hostages, alive or dead, do not return home. My conclusion is that the prime minister does not want the end of the war and therefore will prevent the return of the hostages in any way. We have no faith in the government that brought us to the brink of destruction. We demand elections now!”

Also, family members of hostages held in Gaza demonstrated in front of Netanyahu’s house in Caesarea. Yuval, the son-in-law of the kidnapped Keith Siegel, appealed to Netanyahu, saying: “I’m asking you – come out to me and talk to me, show me the attitude of a leader and his citizen. Tell me you’re working hard to save my father-in-law! That’s all I’m asking.” He said that “the only way to prevent unnecessary deaths of soldiers is to sign a hostage release agreement. Do it now, because soon there will be no one to release.” Hundreds demonstrated against the government in the plaza of the Mishkan for the Arts in Be’er Sheva, for the first time since the outbreak of the war. The demonstrators carried flags and signs that read “oust him now,” “no to fascism,” and “remove the government of neglect.” Netanyahu said at a press conference held on Saturday night that the demonstrations of the families of the hostages do not help the effort to reach a deal for their release. “It only strengthens the demands of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.

On past Saturday, January 20, peace and Hadash activists have taken part in a protest in Israel’s third-largest city, Haifa, demanding a ceasefire in the war on Gaza and the exchange of captives and prisoners between Hamas and Israel. “This is the first time we are seeing this protest happen in the north,” said Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Haifa. “The message here is to end the war and that they can only live peacefully side by side with a political solution for the Palestinians,” she said.

Omri Evron, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Israel, who helped organize the anti-war protest, spoke to Al Jazeera about the message the protesters were hoping to convey. “The killing of thousands and thousands of Palestinians, the vast majority of whom are innocent civilians, is not only reprehensible, it does not serve the security of the people of Israel. It does not bring us security, it only ensures the next massacre, the next cycle of violence,” he said. “Currently, they [the protestors] are chanting ‘refuse to kill, refuse to fight, refuse to murder’ – this is our call.”

Evron admitted there were difficulties in organizing a protest of this kind. “It has been difficult, not because there aren’t Jews and Arabs who want to come together who believe in a joint future of peace and equality and national liberation of both people in two states,” he explained. “It has been difficult because the government and the police in particular have done everything in their power to prevent us from coming together, to prevent us from voicing a lawful and peaceful voice. We had to appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice just to allow us to come together and demonstrate.”