Demonstration

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Kids being adorable as they posed their thoroughly peace-branded selves for passing photographers. 2005:03:19 19:34:15

Last night while buying nuts, I was approached by one of the servers at the cafe next door. He asked if he'd seen me at the Disengagement demonstration. I said that he had; I recognized him from the Rehovot bus. He said that it's good to know there's people like me in Rehovot.

That made my night. As promised, pictures from the demo.

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Two Bostonians I ran into on the bus from Rehovot. It's always comforting to run into someone who knows even less Hebrew than I do, and to discover that I actually can usefully interpret. 2005:03:19 19:34:54

Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) organized this demonstration as a counterweight to the regular protests held by the Yesha Council and other right-wing, pro-settler Zionist groups opposed to the Disengagement. As such, it put everyone there is the rather odd circumstance of demonstrating in favor of a government policy. This is being blamed for the notably low turnout relative to expectations -- most Israeli liberals (or whatever you care to call that large Israeli majority that generally wants nothing more to do with Gaza), it is thought, simply couldn't bring themselves to come out in favor of the hated Sharon.

And there's also the fact that, even before the demonstration, the withdrawal from Gaza was pretty much a done deal -- and now it's done, signed, and funded. So its supporters could be forgiven for not quite seeing the point of rallying for it. Nevertheless, it was getting absurd to have these gigantic weekly anti-disengagement protests in Jerusalem going entirely unanswered.

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A crowd of 15,000 or so sets off down Dizengoff Street from Rabin Square. While there's no shortage of long haired lefty types (yours truly, e.g.), the bulk of the marchers are just average people. Lots of families with kids in tow, you'll notice. 2005:03:19 20:06:14

There were only three or four major sign designs present at the rally; very few people had brought their own. I, like most people, just picked one up from the giant piles in Rabin Square. Shalom Achshav is an old and experienced organization, which clearly understands that the modern protest is primarily a media event. Message discipline is essential to be effective. American protests aren't very good at this.

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More marchers, including one of the rare homemade-sign wavers. Couldn't tell you what it says. In the background, the Yachad Youth banner. Yachad is Israel's Social Democratic party, and was one of Shalom Achshav's partners in organizing the demonstration. 2005:03:19 20:20:19

The slogans are pretty straightforward. The big blue signs read "Israel is getting out of Gaza" -- punchier in Hebrew. The squatting stick figure is captioned, "You know when you have to go," which I think would be a tad scatalogical for an American media event. Many were carrying simple placards in big bold red and black that read "Peace Now."

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Some Yachad Youth carrying a cardboard cottage. I'm not sure of the exact translation, but it says something about being good neighbors. The closest thing this march achieved to any sort of protest theater, which isn't very. 2005:03:19 20:24:49

The crowd was enthusiastic and the speakers had some fire, but in the end I don't know that this march accomplished a whole lot. Of course, as far as the greater narrative goes, the Disengagement was never very likely to be derailed, and unless a huge number of people had come out this event couldn't reasonably be expected to make it even less likely. If it had been better managed, the Israeli Left could have used the present state of affairs to reenergize its base. But it hasn't done that, and Ha'aretz continues to print a daily litany of bitter op-eds about Labor's failure to even try to steer the unity government.

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I worked my way up to the front of the march just as it arrived at this overpass, from which speechifying occurred. Being in Hebrew, I didn't follow much of it. I actually got all the way up to the front, but this picture is better, taken after they moved the signs aside so the audience could see. 2005:03:19 21:29:39

3 Comments

I'm attending an all-day working group meeting in California, via conference call from my desk in Israel. So as you can see, I've got some time to kill this evening.

I'm struck by the lack of signage in English. I'm guessing that was because there wasn't much foreign media attention to the event. It never ceases to amaze me how you can see pictures in the newspaper of a protest in central-southasia-no-where-stan and they've got at least one or two big signs in English. When you think about it, signs in English are a good strategy if you want international attention to your cause so the lack of them is notable.

There were a few batches of placards in English, mostly copies of the mass-produced blue-and-white and black-and-red patterns seen above. But all of the big banners, for instance, were in Hebrew, as were the vast majority of the smaller signs.

As you say, this event was primarily intended for domestic consumption. Pretty much everyone else on the planet is already in favor of the withdrawal. And since Hebrew is the language of politics (and of the religious types on the other side), it's the language of choice for events like this, too.

In fact, it's something of a maxim around here that you should always ignore anything a politician (especially an Arab one, the Israelis say, but the Palestinians probably say the same thing about Jews) says in English, because it's meant strictly for the international media. So lots of English signs could actually have detracted from the credibility of the demo.

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on March 31, 2005 8:56 PM.

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