the Disillusioned kid
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

It's pretty difficult to find much positive to stay about the situation in Israel-Palestine, even at the best of times, but the one thing which it seems possible to take from recent events is the emergence of a revived Israeli peace movement. This demonstrated its strength in a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday calling for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which drew (depending on whose figures you believe) anything from 100-250,000 people.

The protest comes in response to Likud's rejection of Sharon's "unilateral withdrawal" plan. This would have seen Israel impose a "peace process" on the Palestinians, ensuring that Israel retained control of large chunks of the West Bank. Some signs declared "Sharon, the nation is with you" and "the majority decides". Additionally Simon Peres, former Israeli PM and a man responsible for much suffering among the Palestinians addressed the rally. Nonetheless there are real hopes that we could be seeing an emerging movement which can have a real, positive influence on Israeli policy.

They demonstration met under the banner "get out of Gaza and start talking", the latter being something Sharon refuses to do as he insists there is no-one to talk to. Former cabinet minister Yossi Beilin remarked, "The biggest lie is that there is no partner. There is a partner to get out of Gaza with agreement. Anyone who says there is no partner doesn't want to talk." He continued, "Ariel Sharon is not the first prime minister who didn't want to make peace, but he's the first who didn't even try. Sharon is a political and military danger to Israel."

Refuseniks on the march were prevented by organisers from displaying banners calling for soldiers to refuse to serve in the occupied territories. Nonetheless a small group of anarchists held signs calling for a complete withdrawal from the territories and denounced the IDF as an "army of terrorists".

A minute silence was held to commemorate Israeli soldiers killed in clashes recently. This was a concession to those who had called for the event to be cancelled in light of an upsurge in fighting. Nonetheless criticism from the right, in the form of Likud and the settlers was considerable.

It is clear that this is not a movement without flaws and contradictions, but then which movement isn't? The anti-war protests in this country were incredible, but February 15 was addressed by Charles Kennedy of the Lib Dems, who went on to vote for the war. Ideological purity is all well and good, but no the be all and end all. It is to be hoped that the global peace movement supports and nurtures its Israeli arm. It may just be the best hope for peace in the region and by extension (given the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) the world.

That's one moment of optimism. Normal service will resume shortly.

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