Despite the concerted efforts of several leading left-wing groups, only about 1,000 people showed up in downtown Jerusalem for a sharp anti-settler demonstration Saturday night.
Organizers said the number of participants at Zion Square was about 2,000, but police insisted it was 1,000. Mosi Raz of Peace Now told the crowd, however, that it was “the largest left-wing demonstration in western Jerusalem in the last ten years.”
Even a performance by famous Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, who performed Ave Maria in the Vatican before the Pope some years ago despite criticism, did not bring out the masses. A group of pro-Land of Israel protestors stood nearby, holding signs expressing the bonds between Jerusalem and Judaism.
Whatever the number, not all of those present even agreed with the organizers' "Zionists are not Settlers" message, dominating the scene on a giant banner behind the podium and on signs held by participants. Chilik Barr, Chairman of the Labor Party’s Jerusalem branch, told Ynet, “I helped organize this protest, but I think we made a mistake. I have a problem with the sharp statements made against the settlers and against the settlement enterprise. Instead of taking the left towards the center, or even to the center-right, they’re taking it back to the hallucinatory left.”
Among the speakers were hareidi-Meretz member Tzviya Greenfeld, Dr. Gadi Taub, Eldad Yaniv, Kadima MK-hopeful Nino Absedza, and others. Speakers called for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, “with or without an agreement.” “Zionists are not settlers, pigs, or racists,” Yaniv said in his speech, but did not explain the choice of words.
100,000 Support, 1,000 Oppose
The Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria issued this statement in response: “The failure of the ‘nationalist left’ demonstration with its tiny amount of protestors, despite the appearance of Achinoam Nini, proves once again that the vast majority of the Nation of Israel understands that the settlers are in fact Zionists, and in a big way.”
“The failure resonates even more strongly against the backdrop of the fact that just a few days earlier, on Jerusalem Day, more than 100,000 people took part in the festivities at the Western Wall celebrating the reunification of the city.” This was the official police estimate. The Haaretz report (click here for Hebrew link) on the demonstration quoted the same response, but changed the number 100,000 to 10,000.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) had harsh words for the extreme left after last night’s event: “The anti-Zionist left wraps itself in the Israeli flag to cover its shame, but the public does not forget that [Peace Now leader Yariv] Oppenheimer and friends took part in a series of protests over the past few months in which the Israeli flag was abused and the PLO flag was waved.”
The Saturday night protest was organized by the Geneva Initiative, Peace Now, the National Left, and other groups.