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50,000 rally in Tel Aviv for a just peace

By Hans Lebrecht, in People's Weekly World,
20 September 1997

Tens of thousands - the peace camp organizers estimated 50,000 - most of them young, filled Museum Plaza here Sept. 13 and traffic gridlocked surrounding streets. The demonstration commemorated the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Declaration of Principles (DoP) sealed by a peace-promising Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn in Washington D.C.

The rally was called by Peace-Now, the Labor and Meretz parties, the Hadash Front (with the Communist Party of Israel), the Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, the Gush-Shalom bloc, the youth movement Dorshalem doresh Shalom (a whole generation demands peace), with dozens of smaller movements and organizations joining it. The plaza was a forest of placards and banners with slogans calling for Netanyahu to step down and for stopping the bloodshed.

Four years ago, the door to peace was opened a little, hopes running high at first, then, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated and Benjamin Netanyahu and his anti-Oslo radical right-wing and Jewish fundamentalist coalition partners were elected by a minuscule margin.

Although U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was in Tel Aviv recently, her visit was not intended to put real pressure on Netanyahu to change his policy and could not dissipate the feelings among the Palestinians that the U.S. has long ago lost its self-appointed role as a neutral peace broker.

She did not pressure Netanyahu more than by muttering half-mouthed criticism of Israel's expansionist settlement policy and kindly asking him to ease the inhuman collective punishment of the two million Palestinians detained within their towns supposedly as security measures against terrorism.

Four years ago, the peace process was born, but after only 15 months in office Netanyahu has brought us to the brink of war, said former Labor chief and PM Shimon Peres. Where is the 'peace and security' Netanyahu promised on the eve of the elections?

Muhammad Barake, general secretary of the Hadash Front, stressed that any hope of assistance from the U.S. for neutral mediation in the region was an illusion. They have in mind a 'peace' between the rulers and big capitalists, not for the people, he said.

Rabin's widow, Leah, told the crowd, The bullets that killed Yitzhak were aimed at the peace process. She blamed Netanyahu for Rabin's murder and the murder of the peace process. Netanyahu did not raise a word, or any gesture, when, shortly before the assassination, crowds of Likud and other right-wingers carried a coffin with the words Rabin, the traitor and placards with slogans against the Oslo treason during a campaign rally in Jerusalem.

We lost a battle, Leah Rabin said, but the fight for peace, the fight to topple the warmongering Netanyahu government, will be won by the people and its peace forces.