Thousands of Israelis rally against Netanyahu’s ‘apartheid’ bid to steal more Palestinian land

Several thousand Israelis have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest the regime’s highly controversial scheme to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, warning that the move would lead to permanent apartheid.

The rally took place at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday evening under the banner of “No to annexation, no to occupation, yes to peace and democracy” under the watchful eyes of security forces.

Police initially sought to block the demonstration over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic but backtracked after meeting with organizers of the event.

Wearing face masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines, many of the protesters waved national Palestinian flags.

They also held signs reading, “No Democracy with Apartheid” and “Palestinian Lives Matter,” a nod to America’s Black Lives Matter movement.

Several participants held up pictures of Iyad Halak, an unarmed Palestinian autistic man who was shot dead by Israeli police in Jerusalem al-Quds’ Old City last week.

The protest was organized by Israel’s Meretz party and the Hadash faction of the majority-Arab Joint List, along with rights groups.

Israeli lawmaker Nitzan Horowitz, the head of Meretz, told the crowd that the annexation scheme would be a “war crime” and bring about “bloodshed”.

“We cannot replace an occupation of dozens of years with an apartheid that will last forever,” he said. “Annexation is a war crime, a crime against peace, a crime against humanity, a crime that will result in bloodshed.”

“You have no mandate to approve this apartheid. You have no mandate to bury peace,” he added, noting that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was being pushed to take the controversial measure by the “messianic” administration of US President Donald Trump.

Israel’s new coalition, led by Netanyahu, plans to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley — some 30 percent of the West Bank — as of July 1.

Trump gave the Tel Aviv regime the green light for the land grab in his self-proclaimed “deal of the century,” which was unveiled in January with the aim of legitimizing Israel’s occupation and re-drawing the Middle East map.

Another Meretz lawmaker, Tamar Zandberg, denounced Trump’s Middle East plan as “a cursed deal between one man who’s trying to win an election and another who’s trying to escape a corruption trial,” referring respectively to Trump and Netanyahu.

The “deal of the century” would “officially make Israel an apartheid state… sovereignty without citizenship is apartheid,” she warned.

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh also spoke to the rally from quarantine by video link, saying all Jews and Arabs who support peace and justice must oppose Netanyahu’s annexation plan.

“Annexation is apartheid,” he told the protesters.

The organizers of the rally also screened a video address by US Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders.

“The plans to annex any parts of the West Bank must be stopped. The occupation must be ended and we must work together for a future of equality and dignity for all people in Israel and Palestine,” he said.

“It’s up to all of us to stand up to authoritarian leaders and to build a peaceful future for every Palestinian and every Israeli.”

Israeli police said five demonstrators were detained after resisting orders to evacuate. A photographer from the Haaretz newspaper was among those arrested.

Palestinian groups as well as the UN, Europe and Arab states have strongly criticized Israel’s illegal push for consolidating its occupation.

PLO, Hamas stress Palestinian unity against annexation plan

In a statement on Friday, Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s executive committee, emphasized that all Palestinian factions are united against Israel’s annexation plan.

The statement was issued on the 53rd anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds and the Gaza Strip,

Erekat emphasized that the long history of Israeli violence against the Palestinians “must be the incentive” for the international community to reject the land grab bid and take practical measures regarding the recognition of the state of Palestine.

Additionally on Friday, the Gaza-based Hamas resistance movement said that Palestinian unity based on the national principles and resistance was the real way to rein in the “Israeli aggression”.

It predicted that the annexation plan “will be defeated by the Palestinian freedom fighters.”

The resistance group further criticized some Arab countries normalizing relations with Israel, while the regime is planning to annex the occupied West Bank.


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