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Ha'aretz: "Israelis protest Gaza offensive..." & Jerusalem Post: "Peace Now, Meretz hold Left's first anti-war protest"

Some one thousand Israeli activists from Peace Now and the left-wing Meretz party protested Saturday against the offensive in Gaza, opposite the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv.

1/10/09

Ha'aretz: "Israelis protest Gaza offensive: Our Zionism does not make us crave blood and war"

By Ofri Ilani

Some one thousand Israeli activists from Peace Now and the left-wing Meretz party protested Saturday against the offensive in Gaza, opposite the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv.

"We have assembled to call on Israel to think twice before expanding the [Gaza] operation, we are here because we care about the IDF soldiers," said Peace Now chief Yariv Oppenheimer.

Israel indicated Saturday that it would begin a third phase of its two-week operation aimed at halting rocket fire on its southern communities, dropping leaflets in Gaza warning civilians that it plans to step up its military campaign.

"This is a demonstration that includes many true Zionists who fear for peace in the country, but our Zionism does not make us crave blood and war," Oppenheimer said.

Meretz chairman Haim Oron also attended the demonstration, and called on the Israeli government to "Stop the war and reach an agreement as soon as possible." This is "the only way to stem the bloodshed," he said.

Oron and Meretz initially supported the Israel Defensive Forces operation when it first began. But, he explained Saturday, "We said that the action's objective was to reach a cease-fire as early and as quickly as possible in order to achieve calm." He said that the time had come for even those who back the operation to call for a truce.

The protesters were joined by activists from the Hadash movement and members of the radical left in Israel. There was a minor skirmish at the sidelines of the protest when Oppenheimer, who is also a member of the Labor Party, tried to pull down a banner reading: "Not pleasant, a murderer," a reference to the election campaign headed by Labor Party leader Ehud Barak.


Jerusalem Post: "Peace Now, Meretz hold Left's first anti-war protest"

Jan. 10, 2009
Gil Hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST

Peace Now organized the first demonstration of the Zionist Left since Operation Defensive Shield began two weeks ago on Saturday night outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

The event marked a change in direction for the organization, which had previously limited itself to calling for a cease-fire via an on-line campaign. Peace Now expressed understanding for the operation when it began, but started calling for a cease-fire six days into the fighting.

"Calls for a cease-fire are not anti-IDF," Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer said at the rally. "We just don't want the soldiers to lose their lives in an operation that should not be continuing. The Left was divided at the start of the fighting. But when the choice is between staying in Gaza for years or leaving now, it is clear what we support."

Some 600 people attended the rally, including many of the anti-Zionist Hadash activists who have been demonstrating against the operation since it began.

The Hadash activists accepted a request from the rally's organizers not to bring the Palestinian flags that had been a part of their demonstrations.

While Hadash MK Dov Khenin and Arab MKs have attended many demonstrations, Saturday night's was the first attended by MKs from Meretz.

"Even though we supported initiating the operation after Hamas broke the cease-fire, now we are saying enough," Meretz head Haim Oron said at the rally. "A cease-fire must be reached now. We must do everything possible to reach a peace agreement under the umbrella of the Arab League. Only an agreement between us and the Palestinians can end terror."

Meretz released a statement criticizing the security cabinet's decision on Friday to continue the operation, saying that remaining in the Gaza Strip was against Israel's interests and would result in losses on both sides and the loss of international support.