This week marks 47 years since the start of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, the product of the Six-Day War that took place June 5-10, 1967. That is almost half a century, and nearly three-quarters of Israel’s entire existence.
Like every year, the tiny Israeli left plans to hold a protest march down the streets of central Tel Aviv. The demonstrations are never very large, at best several thousand attend (last year’s demonstration barely reached 1,000 participants). But this year, for some reason, the police decided that even that is too much.
According to MK Dov Khenin, a member of the left-wing Hadash Party, which has been the primary organizer of the protests the last few years, the police did not agree to block the main roads in central Tel Aviv leading to Habima Theater, through which the march usually runs. Instead, they offered two shorter alternative routes on side streets that would receive much less public attention. The police has also reportedly prohibited the use of a car with loudspeaker for slogans.
The reasoning, according to the police statement submitted to Hadash, is that it would “disrupt the routine fabric of life” in the city, bothering theater goers and others consuming cultural events in the area.
Dov Khenin spoke to +972 about the decision:
It turns out that the people who live under occupation, as well as all of us who continue to pay the high price for this conflict that much end, do not constitute sufficient enough grounds for ‘disrupting the fabric of life.’ Police conduct in this matter is not isolated, but rather part of a trend of increasing restrictions on freedom of speech. It is not the protest but rather the reality of occupation that disturbs life in this country.
Indeed, the notion that citizens cannot go out and loudly voice their opposition to Israel’s largest, most violent and controversial project on the main streets of Israel’s cosmopolitan city because, for a couple of hours on one night of the year, it would bother the “routine,” is absurd and despotic.
Khenin added that despite the decision, “Jews and Arabs alike will go out and protest for an alternative, for Israeli-Palestinian peace, like we do every year. And this year, we will do it to protest the attempt to keep us silent.”
Organizers, who have appealed to the High Court on the matter and hope to get an answer by Saturday, insist they will go ahead with the march through the main streets as planned, whether or not they receive police authorization.
The march is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 7th from Meir Park on King George St.