Saturday night anywhere between 2,000-2,500 protesters against the wars on the Lebanese border and in Gaza gathered in Tel Aviv. For the first time in history, official Israeli Jewish and Israeli Arab political movements organized the event. This coalition of organizations included Meretz and Balad, Gush Shalom and Hadash, and there was an anti-American theme voiced along with calls for Olmert and Peretz to resign. One of the slogans used at the protest was: "We will not die and we will not kill for the USA" (trust me, it works as a chant in Hebrew).
There is of course an interesting parallel, to the 1982 protest movement which arose over Israel's major invasion of Lebanon, and changed the public perception of the war. While there are substantial differences between this confrontation with Hizbollah and the 1982 invasion (it would be better to compare it to Operation Accountability of 1993), this first public crack in the Israeli "consensus" may be significant. What is missing this time is the Labor party as an opposition party, as it was in 1982. This time Labor is up to its neck in Lebanon and cannot serve as the galvanizing force of a protest movment. It is clear for the moment that the majority of Israelis supported the air campaign which has been waged for the first 8 days of the northern war. But either the air campaign failed to achieve its objective (despite a drop of 23 tons of armament on Burj al-Barajneh - an Israeli version of the failed "head shot" of Shaykh Nasrallah on Wednesday); or the plan all along in "binder 2" was to continue on with a ground campaign. Now there are a new string of significant ground casualties, young men in their 20s. Is a domestic protest movement shaping up?
While Haaretz and Maariv both report that the protest was peopled by "Arabs and Jews" (note which group comes first in both formulations), right-wing Maariv goes one degree further in marginalizing the protest with the internet headline: "The Tel Aviv 'Bubble' is also against the war," a reference to the new Eitan Fox movie I reveiwed in a previous post. Maariv you might remember is the same paper that earlier this week that referred to Shaykh Nasrallah as "Satan." It is the Fox News of Israel.
(Technical note: I've added "word verfication" to the comment feature for this blog because the blog is being spammed with useless comments, which I have erased)