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Middle East - report

Gaza peace campaigners protest as EU leaders dine with Olmert

by Tony Cross

Article published on the 2009-01-19 Latest update 2009-01-19 09:55 TU

Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators at the Peace Now rally.(Photo: RFI/Tony Cross)

Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators at the Peace Now rally.
(Photo: RFI/Tony Cross)

The leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, which currently holds the European Union presidency, dined with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Sunday. Earlier they had discussed the Gaza truce at a summit in Egypt. Olmert reportedly urged them to work to halt the flow of arms into Gaza. Outside, a small group of peace campaigners protested against the Israeli offensive.

Members of Peace Now chanted “war is not a game!” and “peace - yes! War - no!” in the direction of the Prime Minister’s residence, although a busy crossroads separated them from the dining dignitaries.

In the past peace campaigners have mobilised thousands to call for negotiations with the Palestinians and peace with Israel’s neighbours.

On Sunday, with a large majority of Israelis apparently supporting the offensive, they were fewer than 20.

“Maybe sometimes you have to use violence to defend your country," said one protester, Devora. “But when you have to use violence, you have to make it pointed… you have to use the minimum violence to the maximum effect, and I feel like we used the maximum violence to the minimum effect.”

Report: Peace Now demonstration

19/01/2009 by Tony Cross

Devora, who has sons in the army, says that she doubts the ceasefire will hold, much as she would like it to.

An even smaller counter-demonstration spoke for the absent majority. Three girls, armed with banners and the Israeli flag, accused the protesters of supporting “terrorists”, who kill Israeli women and children.

“We want all the Palestinians – no, not all the Palestinians, Hamas – will die!” said one of them, Amara, struggling with her English.

Some Peace Now and left-wing leaders initially supported the Gaza offensive, believing it to be a justified response to Palestinian rocket attacks.

But by the second week they had organised a 1,000-strong demonstration to call for a rapid end to the attack.

“It’s very hard,” said Yonatan, who admitted that he feels isolated from most Israelis at the moment.

“Once you say you’re against the offensive - you’re actually saying that - they take it as agreeing with Israel being bombed. And I don’t think Peace Now agrees with Israel being bombed and it doesn’t agree with Israel bombing,” he said.

In the chilly Jerusalem night, the protesters kept up their chants for an audience of police and passing cars, some of whose drivers tooted their horns in disapproval of their stance against the military’s action.