Thousands of people took part in rallies across Israel to protest Thursday’s stabbing attack at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade and the West Bank arson attack in which an 18-month-old Palestinian infant was killed.
Nasser Dawabsheh, the uncle of the infant burned to death in the West Bank village of Douma, said at a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square: “Netanyahu offers his condolences, but we ask the defense minister and the IDF to restore security in the village of Douma and in all Palestinian villages… we want this to be the end of the suffering of our people. Before Ali there was Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and we don’t know who will be next. We want the fires to end.”
“Flames have engulfed our country,” President Reuven Rivlin said at the rally in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. “Flames of violence, flames of hatred, flames of false, distorted and twisted beliefs. Flames which permit bloodshed in the name of the Torah, in the name of the law, in the name of morality, in the name of a love for the land of Israel. ”
“On Friday, I visited the family at Tel Hashomer hospital,” he continued. “I visited, silently, ashamed, ridden with dread for the power of hatred. Ashamed that in a country which has known the murder of Shalhevet Pass, of the Fogel family, of Adele Biton, of Eyal, Gil-ad, Naftali and Muhammad Abu Khdeir, there are still those who do not hesitate to ignite the flames, to burn the flesh of a baby, to increase the hatred and terror.”
“Citizens of Israel, a Jewish and democratic Israel, democratic and Jewish Israel, need a wake-up call today,” Rivlin said. “The Israel of the Declaration of Independence, the Israel of the vision of the Prophets, of compassion and mercy, today needs a wake-up call. We will not be zealots. We will not be bullies. We will not become a state of anarchy.”
Several thousand people attended the Jerusalem rally. Four Jewish youths were arrested at a police barricade nearby. One was arrested for breaching the barricade and charging toward the crowd. Two others were arrested for attacking police. The fourth youth was arrested for trying to free the others. One border policeman was hurt in the incident. Two additional Jewish youths were detained after screaming slogans against the rally near a police barricade.
Thousands attended the rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. Opposition leader and Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog said at the protest that “terror is terror, period. Terrorists are terrorists, period, whether Muslim or Jewish.” He called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to order the Shin Bet to “tackle Jewish terrorism like [it does] Islamist terror.”
Meretz leader Zehava Galon said “Jewish terror is ISIS terror, there is no other way to say it.” “I say to Netanyahu and to MKs from the right: We don’t want your condemnations and we don’t want your soul-searching,” she added. “There is a connection between the violence in Beit El, the incursion in Sa-Nur, the arson in Douma and the stabbings at the Pride Parade.”
Netanyahu, Galon said, has “made a career out of inciting against Arabs and leftists – from the balcony in Zion Square to campaign videos comparing Arabs to Hamas, to the ‘Arabs are voting in droves.'”
A rally in Tel Aviv’s Gan Meir, already planned to mark six years since two people were killed in a shooting at Barnoar, a Tel Aviv gay youth center, was turned into a protest against anti-LGBT violence following Thursday’s stabbing attack. In the attack, six people were wounded by Yishai Schlissel, an ultra-Orthodox man who stabbed three marchers at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade ten years ago. Two of the Thursday attack’s victims remain in serious condition, while the remaining four were lightly or moderately injured.
An estimated 10,000 people turned up for the event in Gan Meir, where the gay youth center is located. One protester was arrested at the rally for failing to heed police orders to stay away from the stage, and for attacking an officer.
The rally began at 8:30 P.M, with Mayor Ron Huldai as the first speaker. Huldai called on the prime minister and the Knesset to “immediately begin a legislative process that will make the members of the Israeli LGBT community equal citizens.”
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) was booed when he began his speech. “These [boos] are fine because I am not here to ask for your support,” he said, “I came here to voice my support for the community against those who incite and hurt it. Members of the LGBT community, we are here with you and we will protect your right to express yourselves freely and to march freely, including [the right of] those yelling against me here.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who was considering speaking at the rally in Gan Meir, cancelled his appearance after being asked to sign a petition promising to promote equality for the LGBT community. MK Yinon Magal (Habayit Hayehudi), who attended the rally, left after refusing to the sign the document as well.
Bennett’s bureau said that the rally’s organizers initially invited him to attend by then withdrew the invitation due to “fear of criticism.” The organizers also said that he will not be allowed to speak at the event unless he signs the petition. “Minister Bennett does not sign petitions as a matter of principle,” the bureau said. “He acts as mandated by his position.”
Former President Shimon Peres said he was proud to stand with the protesters in Gan Meir, but added that he was “ashamed we have reached such a dark abyss.”
“The masks should come off tonight,” he said. “Those who call the Pride Parade ‘the beast parade’ should not be surprised when a knife is wielded against a 17-year-old girl. Those who incite against Arab-Israeli citizens should not be surprised when fire is set to churches, mosques and eventually a baby is burnt alive.”
Meanwhile, a 42-year-old resident of the norther Israeli town of Nahariya was arrested for posting statements denigrating the LGBT community and the rally on social media.
A protest against the West Bank arson attack began at 8:00 P.M. in the northern city of Haifa. In the city’s German Colony, dozens of protesters carried signs in different languages reading slogans such as “It’s not a hate crime, it’s not price tag, it’s murder;” “Israeli rulers are child murderers” and “Violent men reap devastation.” Another protest in the southern city of Be’er Sheva began at 8:45 P.M.