Israel's movement against oppression

Genevieve Passamonte

Cambridge activist Genevieve Passamonte was in Israel at the height of the war against Lebanon and Gaza. Socialist Unity spoke to her recently about what she saw of the movement against the war and the wall.


>> You attended one of the anti-war demonstrations in Israel during the invasion of Lebanon and Gaza, could you tell us a bit about that?

It was on August 5th in Tel Aviv, it was a march where anything from three to ten thousand people turned up and quite a few different kinds of people involved. There were anarchists against the wall, queeruption, quite a few internationals involved with that, the communists were there, womenís peace organisations, and Gush Shalom.

The march ended in Maagen David Square at the entrance of the Carmel Market where a stage was set up. A woman laid a wreath for the innocent lives lost. Thousands of people flowed onto neighbouring streets. We were squashed together. There was a lot of chanting and stuff some in English , 1234 we don't want your F* war, in Hebrew Jews and Arabs will not be enemies. There were some scuffles with people who were for the war, you know, in support of soldiers who were trying to heckle and argue with people.

>> So was that passers by or had people deliberately come down to disrupt the event?

Passers by and people who lived on that street, you know, looking over. I remember passing some people and they were pointing thumbs up from their balconies so they were in support of us. It seemed quite peaceful overall.

>> On the demonstration how many people were Israeli and how many internationals?

Its hard to estimate a good mix overall, Israelis from all over the country, internationals, many Palestinian faces, teenagers, families with children and old people.

>> Do you think in general itís quite difficult to be opposed to the war in Israel?

Oh yeah, definitely, it seemed like most of the country was in support of the war. So to have that many people come out against the war is really something.

The speakers were from various groups, one in particular I remember was from the Knesset [the Israeli Parliament] which caused quite a lot of controversy and people wanted to storm the stage. He was just saying that the war was justified in the beginning, but now its not. Itís really hard when someone is trying to translate to you from Hebrew to English in the middle of a crowd

>> He was arguing that the response was disproportionate Ė but what was the flavour of the other anti-war arguments?

There were a lot of different opinions expressed there, but mainly people thought the war was completely wrong and they could have had negotiations before hand, you know. What was going to happen is they had the war and will have negotiations anyway so most people were pretty much opposed to the war from start to finish.

>> Itís quite interesting in some of your photos there are placards with the Israeli flag and Palestinian flag fused together. Do you think a lot of the people who were on that demonstration were critical of Israelís policies in general towards Palestine and it neighbours, or do you think they were specifically opposed to that war. So for instance in the anti-war movement here a hard core are opposed to the nature of the Israeli state, many are specifically concerned about the invasion of Lebanon.

I kinda of got the impression that almost everybody would want to see some sort of fundamental change Ė especially the communists, but I didnít get much of a chance to talk to them.

>> You were also involved in Queeruption whilst you were over there; tell us a bit about that.

Queeruption was running from 3rd Aug to the 13th Aug in a hired out club in Tel Aviv, it was gay rights, a lot of things about the war and the occupation of Palestine Ė a lot of events about activism in general and whatís going on.

It was completely vegan. Breakfast, dinner and lunch was provided although donations were taken Ė no smoking during normal hours, during party hours it became a smoking event.

When I arrived on Friday there was some training going on for people to go up to Benin, which is an area of Palestine, so people could do the protest there against the wall.

There were some people who had actually been to Benin when I arrived but they had to leave pretty quickly because some of the Palestinian children didnít understand why they were there and started throwing stones and rocks and that kind of thing so they had to get out.

>> So presumably the event was planned well in advance and they didnít know it was going to be during the invasion of Lebanon - what effect do you think this had on the event, if any?

I think it created more of an impact really, it was a very controversial and interesting time and most people had different opinions, different views about things and it kinda of made emotions build up a lot more I guess.

>> From the literature its really in your face about how politicised it is Ė the front page of the infozine is an Israeli and Palestinian woman kissing each other so right up front they are not only saying it is about gay rights itís also about other issues.

Thatís right it was very in your face the whole time during the thing gay rights, the war everything was in your face. The Israelis had a good sense of humour about the whole thing, one of the Israelis said donít worry if a bomb hits Tel Aviv it will hit the north and weíre in the south but if there is a bomb weíre going to have a massive street party.

We did have some Palestinians there as well, on the Sunday was ĎPalestinian dayí when some gay Palestinians came over and one performed a drag show in a Palestinian flag. It was kind of hard to speak to them without any Hebrew or Arabic but they kind of just shared, played Arabic music and talked too.

>> Do you think that uncompromising political stance comes from the fact that core organisers were ISM members and part of the anarchist info shop?

Yeah, thatís right. I think there were different elements from here and there who were involved with the whole queeruption event.

>> It wasnít just party stuff though was it?

No, no, no, the Saturday before the march Ichad took us around the occupied territories in Jerusalem and spoke to us about how Palestinians are cut off from basic services like garbage collection and you could see it all mounting up and talking about what they have to go through in their lives. The check points, and the terror they have, one family member lives on the west side and the other on the east side, IDF people coming into their homes to check they are living there and it was really in your face seeing the wall and the things written on it.

It was very, very disgusting and it was a rude awakening seeing how affected people living in those territories were by the conflict.

>> Iím still interested in this intersection between Queeruption and the movement against the wall. How explicit was it that the two things were interrelated?

It wasnít really an assumption Ė it was more about putting the two things together and educating and learning and experiencing, that kind of things. Some of the people were talking about what itís like to gay in the army and how you have to go through a conscience committee which is supported by Amnesty International Ė there were a lot of issues addressed in the whole event. I think people who went were generally not just pompous rich gays without any sensible parameters, they were people whoíve thought about things and were interested in what was going on.

>> How much of a sense of a movement was there, of a progressive milieu? Do activists feel isolated or do they feel lots of people agreed with their views?

Somewhere in between I think, a bit of both from the sense of what I got. They are fairly integrated but in terms of opinions, in terms of what they stand for ,they are slightly isolated because the majority is on a right wing path

>> There had been plans to have a pride march in Jerusalem...

That was called off. The reason given was that there wasnít enough policing staff for it because of what was going on in the north. But the rabbi of Jerusalem was really opposed to it and I think it was a bit of an excuse. You have really nutty orthodox people saying yeah, lets kill the gays so there is a proper lobby standing against gay rights but I did hear that there were some events going on in Jerusalem anyway.

The thing I most enjoyed about the events was learning and sharing experiences because there were so many internationals and Israelis there to talk to and get their views and also to hear young Israelis voice there opinions.


Some links 



August 2006

> > home page > >