It happened after the demonstration -the biggest in Tel Aviv against the war yet, estimates of over 6,000 demonstrators- had mostly dispersed. The now-familiar group of right-wing demonstrators had worked themselves up into a frenzy throughout the speeches by left-wing Knesset Members and bereaved parents and chants to end the war, end the siege, end the occupation, end the violence. They were screaming: “Traitors!” “Death to Arabs and Leftists!” “You all get fucked in the ass!” The usual. The two demonstrations had been tightly cordoned off by the police, though. And then, after.
A large number of us were walking away, in a cluster, for safety’s sake, and then suddenly, there’s yelling, screaming, pushing. I don’t know how it started, but I do know that I looked over to see the rightists begin hitting people on the heads with their flag poles, blue and white flags crashing down. I rush over to try to calm things, speaking in an easy tone, making eye contact, and it seems to work with a few of the guys, who hesitate as they look at me. And then:
And my eyes are burning.
I blink rapidly. Could this be tear gas? No. My throat feels clear. But my eyes are stinging and fuzzy. I ask a bearded man next to me, also blinking and tearing up, what happened, and he says: “Pepper spray.” I don’t know if it was the right-wingers or undercover police. Next thing I do know is that I look up to see another demonstrator hit over the head with a aluminum crutch– and then blood starts pouring out, and everything seems more serious and scary.
Some activists -a few who I recognized as anarchists experienced at dealing with violence- ask everyone to stay together, and we walk away quickly, as a group. After a block or two, Kobi asks me to take a few others off to the left, so five of us branch off, and the rest of the group begins to disperse in different directions. We walk, alternating between shocked laughter and silence, my eyes still fuzzy but the pain dulling. A group of about six guys- a few wearing kippahs, all seeming to be Mizrahi/Jews of Middle Eastern descent (a devastating element of these clashes is the race breakdown, with many of the leftists being Ashkenazi/white, and many of the rightists being Mizrahi. My friend, Daria, who is leftist and Mizrahi said that at another demo, she wore a shirt with some phrase about being Moroccan, and folks on both sides of the barrier seemed terribly confused) saw us, recognized something or someone, and started yelling “You all get fucked in the ass!” “Fuck you all!” “We should kill you, traitors.” We kept our eyes down, did not respond, and they walked onwards.
Then we got a drink -because we needed to process and because most of Tel Aviv seemed to be bopping along as usual, drinking, chatting, flags flupping, et cetera- and then went home.
And the demonstration?
The demonstration was good, considering. It was big, it was somber, it took itself seriously. The crowd was by far the biggest since the beginning of this recent violence, and it looked like people were trickling in all night. Here were a few of my tweet-observations:
And that is all for tonight. Facebook and twitter report of more demonstrators injured, which is horrible but also really not the story, just the subplot. Gaza. All of the people there. I can’t imagine. I am wired and alert with sadness; it is 1:00 in the morning. Please, enough.