florian schneider on 3 Oct 2000 15:07:21 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] The explosion

From: "The Other Israel" <otherisr@actcom.co.il>

THE EXPLOSION - Briefing nr 19

Tel-Aviv, October 3

We knew that it would come; in a way we saw it coming, and still - it
took us by surprise. On the first Friday when we heard of "rioting" on
Temple Mount - the morning after Sharon had paid a "visit" to the Al
Aqsa Mosq - we still thought that this was a one day event, an outburst
at an occasional offense, and maybe also a reminder like there had been
before as to what the explosion would be like if the peace talks would
come to naught. Gradually we start to realize that the big explosion is
happening here and now. From talking to Palestinian friends it seems it
also surprised them. Nobody had really expected that there would be such
an overreaction by the police, whose only response to what started with
stone throwing was shooting to kill. 

On Saturday there were riots all over the Palestinian territories, which
was the first day of Rosh Hashana (holiday marking the begining of the
Jewish new year). Activists of Gush Shalom and Committee Against House
Demolitions started calling each other, mobilizing within a few hours
via phone and email a tiny vigil - including of course Uri Avnery - at
the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, with as its most remarkable
event: a religious bypasser, supporter of the Shas Party, complaining
"why did Sharon have to do it the day before Rosh Hashana. Now I can't
go pray at the Wailing Wall."

On Sunday, Oct. 1, at 8.00 o'clock - after public transportation
restarted at the end of the two-day Holiday, and after another day of
violence and bloodshed - and the spreading of the terrible pictures of
the killing of a so obviously innocent child. On the pavement in front
of Dizengoff Centre, Tel-Aviv main shopping mall, as central a place as
can be found to address the metropolitan public, we arrive, some forty
peace activists. We know most faces, though some have not been seen for
years. Different groups are represented: Gush Shalom, Committee Against
House Demolitions, Hadash, Women for Political Prisoners, Nuclear
Whitleblowers... in fact, many participants have overlapping
organizational affiliations. Some have brought signs with them. Others
take up marking pens and improvise their own slogans, sitting down on
the sidewalk. Soon, two ragged lines take up position, holding both
sides of the intersection. Sign after sign is displayed to the bypassers
and the motorists halted at the traffic light: "Stop shooting!" - "Down
with the Occupation" - "Stop the murder of demonstrators!" - "We have no
children for unnecessary wars!" - "Get out of the Territories - Now!" -
"Killing Palestinians is not the way to peace" - "Hands off Temple
Mount" - "Sharon sets the fire, Barak kills" - "Enough blood has been
shed" - "Yes to the 1967 borders" - "29 dead Palestinians on Rosh
Hashana - Happy New Year!". We have come with some trepidation to this
site. During the Intifada, on days similar to this one, peace
demonstrators have more than once been violently assaulted on this very
spot. But this evening there is nothing of the kind. There are, in fact,
astonishingly few reactions of any kind. Most bypassers just glance at
the signs and continue on their way. How are we to interepret this
indifference? As lack of support for what the army and police are doing?
As lack of moral concern? Probably a bit of both - and what does that
say about Israeli society at the start of the Third Millenium?  

A police patrol car stops by, then another one. A mild-mannered officer
approaches the line. -"Who is your leader?" -"We have no leader". -"Who
is responsible for this demonstration?" -"We all are". -"Who organized
it?" -"The Internet". He scratches his head. For a moment he seems about
to arrest us, or at least some. Then he goes back to the patrol car.
Half an hour later, he comes again, accompanied by a female colleague.
"Listen, you guys! Do you know that the whole of Jaffa has burst out in
violence? More than half our force is over there, and here you are tying
up two patrol cars. Can you not end this, so that we can go to reinforce
our fellows over there?" We find it difficult not to laugh. Just before
the officer came over we had held a quick consultation and decided to
pack up the signs and go to Jaffa so as to stand in the way of the
police which had reportedly started shooting the (not so innocuous)
"rubber bullets". 

Could the outbreak of spontaneous anger of Arabs in one of the most
miserable slums in Israel be combined with the more measured protest of
middle-class leftist Jews? But when we pile into taxis and private cars
and arrive in the Ajami Quarter of Jaffa - a short distance, yet worlds
away, from downtown Tel-Aviv - we find Yeffet Street, the main
throughfare of Arab Jaffa, completely empty: pavements strewn with
stones, many smashed windows, some scorched paches on the pavement, no
demonstrators. At home on a later hour, we hear - among all the
dispatches from further away - a report of "a new outbreak in Jaffa,
ending the shaky ceasefire agreed between the police and the Jaffa Arab
leadership". Of our own action, not a word. On such a day, editors do
not seem to consider a demonstration without violence to be news. 

Today (Monday) we are more than a hundred, outside the Defence Ministry.