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Antifa 972
Israeli Peace Movement under attack from violent fascists

“We suspect that the shift of the Israei public to the right and the birth of these fascist gangs is not spontaneous, but is a result of decades of incitement by the government. This incitement escalated quickly, and now Israeli Jews who criticize their government are attacked as well. This violence is also supported by the police. I can’t say right now what is going on and where we are headed to, but things aren’t pretty here.” -   David, Israeli activist

So far, the dominant image of the Israeli public’s reaction to the onslaught on Gaza is the chilling sight of groups cheering the explosions from the hills around the Strip. Less widely reported is the anti-war resistance within Israel - a movement which is becoming increasingly afraid to speak out.

The Israeli radical left have come under attack while demonstrating to end the attacks on Gaza. But this time it's not only repression by the government: There's also a new, violent far-right street movement. SchNEWS spoke to some Israeli peace activists. Their names have been changed.

What is happening on the Israeli left right now? Are people calling for an end to the attacks on Gaza?

Benjamin: Last night there was an artists' demo which was organised from scratch in three days. It drew 500 people. On Saturday a demonstration in Nazareth drew about 2000, and another one in Jaffa later drew 500. The more established groups have drawn about 2000 for a mostly Jewish demo in the centre of Tel Aviv and mixed demonstrations in Haifa draw about 500-1000. There is a demonstration practically every day somewhere in Israel.

David: There have been dozens of Palestinian-organised demos so far, mainly in Palestinian cities inside the 1948 borders. Demos organised by Jewish Israelis have taken place, mostly in Tel Aviv. Israelis don't want to hear about the massacre, especially not that they are the aggressor and not the victim in this case. Most left-wing demonstrations encounter violent opposition.

You're under attack by a far-right street movement – can you tell us about this?

Benjamin: This has been one of the clearest signs of a change in Israeli society. In the '80s anti-war demonstrations were attacked on the margins. I asked older folk about it and they said that they've never seen current scale of right wing attacks. It used to be small groups on the margins following people after the demo and attacking them - now they are numerous and confident enough to attack the main crowd. They are trying to do that even in mixed towns like Jaffa, Lid and Haifa.

The worst attack was in Haifa which was historically a bastion of the Left. There, about 1500-2000 fascists surrounded the demonstration of a few hundred people, who needed the police to escort them to the buses. Any time there was any clash the police would take the opportunity to attack the left demonstrators and they arrested about 30, mostly Palestinians.

Rachel: Last Thursday in Haifa a demonstration in Haifa was attacked. Those responsible attacked Palestinian members of the Knesset [Israeli Parliament] and beat up the Deputy Mayor of Nazareth, because they’ve used their position to call attention to what is happening in Gaza.

[Video: Right wingers confront peace activists in Tel Aviv]

David: The situation in the streets is very bad right at the moment. Fascists are organising violent attacks on any opposition to the massacre in Gaza.

Last week a famous Israeli fascist rapper named "The Shadow" posted on his Facebook page information about a left-wing demonstration in solidarity with Gaza in Tel Aviv, calling for his fans to come and disrupt the demo. Hundreds of them showed up, shouting “death to Arabs” and throwing eggs. The few police that were there did nothing, and as soon as the siren [signalling a rocket attack] was heard, the police disappeared and abandoned the area completely, allowing the fascists to storm the demonstration and physically attack people. Three people were injured, one hospitalised and dozens traumatised.

This is the first time it's happened against left-wing Jews, and most of us did not expect it. Fascists have been attacking only the most vulnerable populations, such as Palestinians and African refugees [see SchNEWS 855], and attacking left-wing Israeli Jews is really an escalation.

We also know about racist gangs who patrol areas in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, intimidating people who they suspect to be leftists or Arabs. We heard about the racist pogroms in Jerusalem and hundreds marching in the centre of the city shouting “death to Arabs”, looking for Arab-looking people on the train and shopping centres, attacking passers-by.

We know about Mohamad Abu-Khadir, the Palestinian kid from east Jerusalem who was kidnapped by fascist Jews and burned to death. We know now, after the demonstration in Tel Aviv last week and the events in Haifa, that they have complete support from police and the government.

[Video : A mob roams Jerusalem looking for Arab taxi drivers]

Rachel: The actual physical assaults are just the tip of the iceberg: They are targeting anyone who even shares anything on social media critical of the current military policy. There’s a campaign called “Not in our Schools” that gets teachers and staff sacked. Hospital workers have also been targeted.

Why is this happening now and not during previous wars?

Rachel: This situation came out of the seventeen days when the Israeli government allowed the public to believe that the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were still alive. The news of their deaths, after this government engineered time of false hope, created an explosion.

A broad network of right wing, fascist and nationalist groups came into being on the streets. There were nationalist demonstrations across the country – it is a truly terrifying time in Israel. Buses and trains thought to be carrying Arabs have been stopped and attacked. There is a complete disregard for any human rights of the Palestinians at all levels of Israeli society. Mobs roam the streets shouting “Make Gaza a cemetery”.

Can the Israeli left do anything to combat this persecution?

David: Things are getting darker, and we are facing a lot of challenges. Most of us feel that the political situation has changed completely, and we are starting to organise to defend ourselves against them. So far anti-fascist action in Israel was mainly around solidarity with refugees and Palestinians, we're not used to massive streets fights and violent riots, but we can't afford to belittle them any more.

Rachel: The situation has inspired the creation of a small anti-fascist group, Antifa 972. They are acting to gather information on those organising the fascist attacks as well as taking direct action. At the next Tel Aviv demo members of the newly formed group formed a black block to protect those individuals targeted. After about a minute of this the police violently removed the peace demo from the square.

Benjamin: In preparation for the demos there has been an effort to control the crowd to reduce the risk of clashes and for less vulnerable people to be at the front of the demo and for people to not leave alone. It seems that in most places the fascists can easily outnumber us in the street, even in mixed cities. The fascists who come to attack the demos are mostly young men and I guess a lot of them are football hooligans who routinely get into fights. In contrast, the left demos can be made up of more children, women and old folk as well as men.

It is not surprising that politics in Israel will get to the point where it will be risky to demonstrate even in Tel Aviv.

Rachel: It is no surprise that this has happened. It’s an entirely predictable development of Zionism. This is a culture that is obsessed with ethnic purity and holds the army as sacred above all else.

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Twitter: @SchNEWS