Posted an articles earlier a few weeks ago on
the state of the Israeli left, this may be seen as
a follow up to that.
100,000 call for peace at Rabin memorial rally
Murdered prime minister was right, Shimon Peres tells huge Israeli
demonstration urging an end to occupation
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Monday November 3, 2003
A rally in memory of Yitzhak Rabin eight years after his murder turned
into the largest leftwing demonstration since Ariel Sharon came to
power as more than 100,000 people at the weekend gathered under
banners denouncing occupation and demanding peace.
Although the organisers had said that Saturday night's memorial was
intended to be non-partisan, many of those who descended on the Tel
Aviv square where the former prime minister was assassinated carried
banners demanding: "Leave the [occupied] territories - save the
country", and "Sharon go home".
Shimon Peres, the former prime minister and architect of the Oslo
peace accords with Mr Rabin, added to the political tone by telling
the crowd that the present Israeli government's emphasis on force over
negotiation had failed, and that the country would return to Mr
"Yitzhak was right, and his path just," he said. "His views today are
clear and enduring. There will be no retreat; we will continue."
The organisers were surprised at the turnout - the biggest since the
first anniversary of the assassination - and attributed it in part to
a growing realisation among Israelis that Mr Sharon's policies had
brought more violence, not peace.
This realisation was reinforced in recent days by a warning from the
Israeli army chief of staff that the government's treatment of
Palestinian civilians was "strengthening terror organisations".
The crowd was also bolstered by widespread revulsion at the
desecration of the memorial to Mr Rabin, which was daubed with
swastikas the day before the rally.
Mr Rabin was murdered by Yigal Amir, an extremist Jew who was opposed
to surrendering any part of the West Bank to the Palestinians.
The vandalism came after the arrest of a man who was shown on
television stopping at the memorial and spitting on it three times.
In a further reminder of the hatred for Mr Rabin and his colleagues,
who are routinely denounced by Israeli rightwingers as the "Oslo
criminals", Mr Peres spoke behind bulletproof glass.
He derided Mr Sharon for pinning his entire policy "on one leg - the
leg of security".
"Without a clear decision, the Zionist enterprise will stand in mortal
danger," he said. "Even the right has started to understand that it's
better to have two states which will have to live in peace, than one
state where two peoples fight for ever over every piece of land, every
drop of water."
Mr Peres called on the government to pull Jewish settlers out of the
Gaza strip immediately, and questioned what Israel gained from them
being there. He also praised the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed
Qureia. "He believes terrorism must be stopped for the good of the
Palestinians, that peace must be achieved and compromises made," he
said. "He is a man of deeds, someone with whom it is possible to hold
The size of the rally and its tone encouraged some on the left to
believe that Israel's marginalised and dormant peace camp was finally
showing flickers of life.
It came after the government's furious reaction to a dialogue known as
the Geneva initiative, led by a former Oslo accord negotiator, Yossi
Beilin, and Yasser Abd Rabbo, a close ally of the Palestinian leader,
The government's attempts to portray the talks as akin to treason have
delighted the peace camp, which sees it as evidence of Mr Sharon's
vulnerability over his failure to deliver the peace with security that
The comments last week by the army chief of staff, Moshe Ya'alon,
criticising the harsh treatment of Palestinian civilians as
counterproductive and fuelling terrorism, have drawn support from
former members of the security establishment and further divided Mr
The second largest party in the coalition, Shinui, at the weekend
presented its own peace plan, which was seized on as evidence that
pressure is growing on the prime minister to take negotiations
Mr Rabin's daughter, Dalia Rabin-Pelosoff, a former deputy defence
minister, denounced the hatred responsible for the murder of her
father, which she said is still tearing at Israeli society.