MideastWeb Middle East Web Log

log  archives  middle east  maps  history   documents   countries   books   encyclopedia   culture   dialogue   links    timeline   donations 


Notes from the May 3 oust-Olmert rally in Rabin Square


Here are some impressions from the big May 3 anti-Olmert demonstration in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.

The program began one hour later than the announced starting time of 7 p.m. According to media reports, the organizers decided on the delay because people from outlying areas were arriving slowly. At previous Rabin Square events, whether of the Left or the Right, large numbers of demonstrators arrived in fleets of buses. Fewer buses were evident at this rally, which billed itself as a grassroots, non-political event.

People who arrived before the late start heard loudspeakers playing recorded music, interspersed with a live voice declaring repeatedly that the program would begin at 8 p.m.

The gathering crowd heard a recording of Bob Dylan performing his 1962 protest song "Blowin' in the Wind."

Other mood music included a recorded song by Shalom Hanoch, a great Israeli rocker who has performed live at peace rallies in the past. This evening they played one of his old songs, about a messiah who doesn't come and also doesn't telephone.

One reason a song like "Blowin' in the Wind" endures is that it doesn't purport to supply the answer. Such songs leave the answer up to the beliefs and imagination of the listener. So it was with the central message of the rally, that Prime Minister Olmert should resign. No speaker proposed an alternative to Olmert.

What made this demonstration different from others was the crowd's diversity. Members of opposing political factions shared the square. Young men wearing National Religious knitted skullcaps prayed in groups alongside secular Tel Aviv residents.

Also unlike some other Rabin Square crowds, this throng lacked the intensity that can come with commitment to a political cause. The one theme around which the crowd rallied---that Olmert failed in the Second Lebanon War and should resign---was not enough to keep people energized through two hours of standing and listening to speeches on the same message.

The only time the crowd seemed genuinely in unison was during a minute of silence for the dead of the Second Lebanon War.

Bereaved parents and army reservists did much of the speaking. They spoke pointedly and sometimes eloquently. Speakers did elicit cheers and applause, but these came from parts of the audience at various times, and never from the entire crowd at once.

The closest the audience came to a display of vocal unanimity was when Eliad Shraga, a reserve paratroop officer who heads the Movement for Quality Government, exhorted them to act as judge and jury and answer whether Olmert was guilty. They found the Prime Minister guilty, of course, but the performance lacked spontaneity. It was nothing like what sports fans show when they disagree with a football referee's decision.

Cheerleading aside, the only words that seemed to evoke a genuinely spontaneous reaction were uttered by Meir Shalev, the novelist. He mentioned 40 years of occupation in a disparaging way, and some people in the northwest part of the square started booing. Later, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha) commented that Shalev's remark showed "his hate of settlers."

Someone I know refused to attend the demonstration. He said he did not want to help Benjamin Netanyahu become Prime Minister.

His meaning became clear from the scene at Rabin Square.

Dark-blue signs calling for "Elections now" were everywhere. They competed against the red-and-black logo that displayed the demonstration organizers' motto, "Bunglers, go home." Many members of the crowd wore dark-blue "Elections now" stickers on hats and shirts. Young demonstrators displaying "Elections now" signs took over the top of a Holocaust monument that dominates the southern part of the square. "Elections now" was clearly a message from the organized political Right.

Despite the "Elections now" infiltration, people did seem to be making a real effort to keep the non-partisan spirit of the demonstration. Political parties refrained from displaying party signs, and few people in the crowd wore t-shirts with party slogans or symbols. No partisan politicians were invited to speak (unless you include Uzi Dayan, the demonstration organizer, whose Tafnit movement failed to win a Knesset seat in the last election).

It has become a tradition at Rabin Square to claim attendance figures that would make Pinocchio blush. As this rally began, the organizers announced that 100,000 people had arrived. Less than an hour later, an update doubled the number to 200,000. As the rally was ending at 10 p.m., they announced that the crowd had swelled to 250,000.

News reports set the total at no bigger than 120,000.

A walk through the crowd made it evident that the square did not contain more people than attended the big anti-disengagement rally in August 2005. At that event, Pinhas Wallerstein of the Yesha Council claimed 350,000 people were there but bumped the total up to what sounded like 600,000 as the program ended. A more realistic estimate set that total at no more than 120,000.

Ari Shavit of Haaretz wrote that "it doesn't really matter" whether 100,000, 150,000 or 200,000 people attended. He termed the May 3 event Israel's "first inter-tribal demonstration."

"It was the start of the uprising of the Israeli public against the unworthy elites," he wrote. By the time his article appeared, aides to the Prime Minister had already characterized the rally as irrelevant.

Before the program ended with the national anthem Hatikvah, pop singer Aviv Geffen performed his "Shir Hatikvah" (Song of Hope), a traditional closing number at big leftwing events. Its lyrics include an exhortation to "conquer peace and not the territories."

As the crowd dispersed, recorded music took over, with John Lennon singing "Imagine," his vision of a world at peace, without war and without religion.

If these songs offended National Religious members of the audience, they objected quietly. No booing was heard.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

[Cross-posted from Israel Like This, As If]

If you like this post - click to Reddit!
add to del.icio.usAdd to digg - digg it

Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000585.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Joseph M. Hochstein @ 11:39 PM CST [Link]


Middle East e-Zine

Midde East News

Opinion Digest

Late Updates


Middle East Glossary

Middle East Maps

Middle East Books

Middle East Documents

Israel-Palestine History

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Middle East Countries

Middle East Economy

Middle East Population

Middle East Health

Zionism History

Palestinian Parties

Palestinian Refugees

Peace Plans


Middle East


Blog Links

OneVoice - Israeli-Palestinian Peace Blog

Bravo411 -Info Freedom

Israel News


Michael Brenner

Dutchblog Israel

Dutch - IMO (Israel & Midden-Oosten) Blog (NL)



Alas, a Blog

Little Green Footballs

Blue Truth

Fresno Zionism

Reut Blog

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Blog

Simply Jews: Judaism and Israel

Jeff Weintraub - Commentaries and Controversies

Vital Perspective


Meretz USA Weblog


MIDEAST observer

On the Contrary

Blogger News Network- BNN

Google Sex Maps

Demediacratic Nation

Realistic Dove

Tulip - Israeli-Palestinian Trade Union Assoc.

On the Face

Israel Palestjnen (Dutch)

Middle East Analysis

Israel: Like This, As If

Middle East Analysis

Mid_East Journal

Z-Word Blog

Dvar Dea

SEO for Everyone

Web Sites & Pages

Israeli-Palestinian Procon

End Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: One Voice


ATFP- American Task Force on Palestine

Americans For Peace Now

Shalom Achshav

Chicago Peace Now


Peacechild Israel

Bridges of Peace


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict



Zionism and Israel

Zionism and Israel on the Web

Israel - Palestina:Midden-Oosten Conflict + Zionisme

IsraŽl in de Media

Euston Manifesto

New Year Peace


Christian Zionism

Jew Hate

Space Shuttle Blog

Israel News Magazine


My Ecosystem Details
International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Link 2 us
We link 2 U.
MidEastWeb- Middle East News & Views
MidEastWeb is not responsible for the content of linked Web sites

Please do not leave notes for MidEastWeb editors here. Hyperlinks are not displayed. We may delete or abridge comments that are longer than 250 words, or consist entirely of material copied from other sources, and we shall delete comments with obscene or racist content or commercial advertisements. Comments should adhere to Mideastweb Guidelines . IPs of offenders will be banned.

Powered By Greymatter

[Previous entry: "Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Just peace"] Main Index [Next entry: "Window of Opportunity for Middle East Peace: Arab or Saudi Peace Initiative?"]


Thank you for visiting MidEastWeb - Middle East.
If you like what you see here, tell others about the MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log - www.mideastweb.org/log/.

Contact Us


Editors' contributions are copyright by the authors and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.
Please link to main article pages and tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Do not copy MidEastWeb materials to your Web Site. That is a violation of our copyright. Click for copyright policy.
MidEastWeb and the editors are not responsible for content of visitors' comments.
Please report any comments that are offensive or racist.

Editors can log in by clicking here

Technorati Profile

RSS FeedRSS feed Add to Amphetadesk Add to Amphetadesk

USA Credit Card - Donate to MidEastWeb  On-Line - Help us live and grow