First Person: Israeli Peace Activists Continue to Protest

Jacob Scheier Feb 6, 2009

While a strong majority of Israelis supported the military siege of Gaza, there are some outspoken Israeli opponents of the war.

I am very close to one in particular, my Israeli-born father, Yossi Schwartz, who currently lives in Haifa, a city in northern Israel. He is a leading member of the ISL (International Socialist league), an Israeli Marxist group that advocates for a Palestinian worker’s state (with democratic rights and cultural autonomy for Jews living there). Yossi and other ISL members took part in several protests during the height of Israeli aggression in Gaza. In downtown Haifa, Yossi tells me, there were several demonstrations of mostly Arabs and some Jews, numbering the hundreds and reaching as many as 2,000 people. He also helped organize a demonstration of approximately 50 Jewish people in Carmel, an affluent Jewish neighborhood in Haifa.

Such protests are, of course, far from popular in Israel. In Carmel, Yossi says, “many Jews came to attack us verbally, some (Jewish) youth came with a song praising the fact that Palestinians do not have electricity and water, but bombs falling on them.”

Yossi also told me that Israeli police briefly detained some of the Jewish protesters, charging them with ‘inciting riots.’ But, notes Yossi, this is nothing compared with the approximately 700 Arab protesters, during the course of the war, who were arrested, ironically enough, for ‘breaking the peace.’

Despite how unpopular and potentially dangerous it is for Israelis to protest their government’s military actions, Yossi feels that “it is important for the West to know that there is a peace movement inside Israel that opposes what the Israeli state is doing.” But, he adds, “the cruelty of the Israel state and the resistance of the Palestinians are the real factors that influence public opinion in the West.”

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