Israel / Occupied Palestine: Fascists Attack Pro-Gaza Demonstration in Haifa

Report by Boris Hammerschlag, Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT-Section in Israel/Occupied Palestine), 21.7.2014,  and

On Saturday night, July 19, we attended a pacifist, anti-war demonstration organized by the Communist Party of Israel and its Hadash front, held in Haifa starting from 21:30.

When we reached the location of the demonstration, we, along with the other participants, were overwhelmed by the number of the Zionist counter-demonstrators, some of whom were wearing yellow shirts with the raised black fist emblem of the Kahanist movement. As the organizers of the demonstration, the Communist Party and Hadash dominated it, but were so vastly outnumbered by the counter-demonstrators, that it was virtually impossible to hear the slogans of Hadash over the commotion made by the Zionists and Fascists.

The main slogans chanted by the CPI/Hadash were: “The people demand a ceasefire!” (Exactly which people and which ceasefire?); “In Gaza and Sederot, children want to live!”; “Gaza, don’t worry, we will end the occupation!”; “Fascism will not pass!”; “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!”; “Stop the war!”; “Stop killing civilians!

The police assigned to maintain order during the demonstration arrived with ridiculously insufficient anti-riot forces, having clearly underestimated the number and the vicious intentions of the Zionist count-demonstrators.

One of our ISL members volunteered to use as an improvised weapon one of the mock-flags distributed by a special contingent of able-bodied Palestinians who constituted part of the rear-guard which was supposed to ensure that no fascists infiltrate the demonstration or attempt to harm any of the participants.

At some point, large stones and water bottles began being thrown at us, while the police seemed to be protecting the Zionists from us rather than the other way around. The counter-demonstrators managed to box us into a confined area, with the result that we became sitting ducks for the stones, glass bottles, and eggs being hurled at us. In this situation, one of our ISL members was struck by a stone on his shoulder, which a day later was still very bruised and sore. Several other demonstrators were hit on their heads, causing minor to serious bleeding. While doctors were present at the demonstration, they came to demonstrate and were thus unequipped to help any of the injured, some of whom were taken to the hospital by the police. A number of Palestinians were arrested for crossing some imaginary police line. Any demonstrator overwhelmed by anger or excitement was forced to immediately calm down by the leaders of the demonstration. Member of the Knesset Mohammed Barakeh, the chairman of Hadash, was shouting out orders like an army sergeant, particularly to the more militant youth.

The organizers asked for the help of the police to end the demonstration and to evacuate us to safety. Not surprisingly, the police agreed. Using water cannons, they managed to disperse some of the Zionist counter-demonstrators so that we could board the busses which had brought us to Haifa. One bus, from the Palestinian town of Sakhnin in Israel, managed to take off with young demonstrators on board.

For quite some time we remained stranded in the confined area where we were continually pelted with rocks, branches of trees, and water bottles. Unable to flee anywhere, we waited for the police to receive backup so they could evacuate us. One woman leader of the CPI suggested out loud that the surest way out of there would be for us to attack the policemen just to get arrested and taken away.

The police devised their own inept plan. They decided that the remaining demonstrators should move through the streets of Haifa escorted by mounted riot police until we lose the mob. All the while the Zionists continued hurling stones at us with no interference at all from the police, who were vastly outnumbered and didn’t dare clash head on with the mob. Needless to say, should a Palestinian have thrown as much as a peanut in the opposite direction, this would have had much more serious consequences. The Zionists refused to abandon their pursuit of us, cursing and hurling objects all the time. They even called out to the residents who live in the streets we passed through to pelt us from their windows up above, and some idiots actually did so.

Fortunately for us, a public bus on its route with only a few passengers on board passed by us. The police stopped the bus and asked the passengers if they would be willing to get off the bus and make room for us, to which they agreed. The bus driver then took us all the way down Mt. Carmel to the seashore where a CPI bus was waiting at a gas station. As soon as we left the gas station, several fascists who had reached the place started hurling stones at the bus, and managed to completely shatter one of its windows which fell entirely off the bus. In parallel, the violence continued Saturday night: reports have reached us of a fascist gang beating up a 60 year old Palestinian man.

Eventually, we reached the Haifa offices of the CPI where an urgent meeting was held by the party leaders, with one of our ISL members attending as a guest. Those present calculated the number of arrested and injured, and then issued press releases and attempted to plan what to do next. Member of the Knesset Mohammed Barakeh, again chairman of Hadash, rejected a motion to respond to the attack by organizing a united demonstration together with all the Palestinian movements and Jewish anti-Zionists, claiming that he does not want people to arrive with provocative slogans. (Note that on Facebook, Hadash is continually accused of sectarianism because of its refusal to cooperate with the other nationalist and Islamist movements.) Barakeh also reasoned that the ongoing military operation would result in such a demonstration’s receiving, at best, only minor media coverage, something which would negate most of the effect that it would otherwise have.

Barakeh indeed knows well the mobilized nature of the Israeli media. During the time the demonstration covered in this report was going on, Israel’s state run television Channel 1 was broadcasting its weekend magazine news edition. Its report of the havoc then actually taking place in Haifa consisted of a medium shot of the channel’s reporter, surrounded by rightwing goons chanting jingoistic, pro-war slogans, and even dancing the hora around the reporter, while Hadash’s demonstration was only verbally referred to as the cause of the fascistic gathering being broadcast live from the streets of Haifa.

However, despite Barakeh’s initial opposition, pressure from below proved most effective: yesterday, it was announced that today, Monday, July 21, a united march and rally of all the Palestinian movements in Israel as well as and Jewish anti-Zionists will be taking place in the northern city of Nazareth starting from 16:30.

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