I. The Annual General Classical March Against the Occupation is usually held in Tel Aviv. This year – last night, Saturday, May 31st – it took place in the streets of West Jerusalem. This change of locale may have cost the march thousands of potential Tel Avivi attendees, but I’d argue that it dramatically increased the march’s relevance, seriousness and purpose. I’m biased.
II. Unlike the previous years’ General Annual marches, each of which gathered at least a few thousand people in central Tel Aviv, last night’s march was only around 400-500 folks strong. But it felt a bit less like an intra-left reunion and a bit more like a protest march, and there was also a strong presence of Palestinians and of Arabic.
III. There were few noteworthy reactions from passersby. Just a few “fuck you”s and “Kahana was right”s and “How much does the EU pay you?”s. The lack of confrontation was OK. Sometimes, demonstrations are good for just strengthening the base, and an instance in which a large group of protestors marched through central West Jerusalem in protest of the occupation without being threatened or attacked cannot but be good for the city’s spiritual well-being.
IV. Unlike some protest rallies I’ve attended, wherein the speeches are the part in which everyone tunes out, this demonstration’s speakers were actually a highlight of the protest. For this I give huge credit to the organizers, especially Coalition of Women for Peace, and to the speakers themselves. The four speakers were Orly Noy, a brilliant writer for Sikha Mekomit (Hebrew) and +972 Magazine, Member of Knesset Ayman Odeh, about whom I have written a number of times recently, Huda Abu Obaid, a Palestinian activist from the Naqab/Negev, and Reuven Abergil, a veteran Mizrahi community organizer.
They spoke mostly about connection: Between the Nakba of 1948 and the Occupation of 1967 (Orly Noy), between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians under occupation (Ayman Odeh), between the oppression in the Negev and the oppression in the Territories (Huda Abu Obaid) and between the Mizrahi struggle for equality and the Palestinian struggle for equality (Reuven Abergil). They spoke with a mixture of sharp political edges and underscored human compassion that is uncommon, and should be emulated.
V. It was not a huge event. It was not drama-filled, or particularly tense or intense. But it was somber, and serious and decent, and that is worth noting.