Leehee Rothschild, Mondoweiss, April 25, 2012
The first text message I received around 22:30 read “The cops have surrounded the building, It’s quite likely that everybody will be arrested once we try to get out of the door. Alert everybody.” The message was sent by a friend of mine, who along with 14 other activists came to the offices of Zochrot (remembering), an Israeli NGO that focuses on commemorating and raising awareness to the Palestinian Nakba, on the eve of the Israeli independence day. They were planning to go out to the street and remind the celebrators the horrible price that was paid and is still being paid by Palestinians for this so called independence.
The planned action was very simple. The activists carried small signs with names of Palestinian villages demolished during the Nakba, which they intended to take to Rabin Square, the main location of festivities in Tel Aviv. They planned to place those signs one by the other, on the floor, create a long line, and ask people to neither step on it, nor ignore it. As aforementioned, though, when they were about to leave the building, located in Ivn Gvirol st., in the centre of Tel Aviv, in order to preform this small protest action, they found themselves in an improvised iron-cage, made of the iron barriers prepared by the municipality to block the streets for the celebrations, surrounded by cops.
Meanwhile, more and more activists started arriving. They were called over by Facebook, Twitter, text messages and phone calls. Some of us tried to reach out for the signs held by the activists and hold them outside the iron cage, but the signs were immediately snatched by the cops. Others tried arguing with the cops. Many just stood there watching and documenting. When the lawyer Gabi Lasky arrived to the scene she tried unsuccessfully to decipher this legal limbo in which 15 activists were neither arrested, nor detained, but they were besieged inside the building.
After a long while one of the activists tried to break the siege, he was immediately grabbed and pinned to the ground by several cops. Another activist that was standing outside the blockade and tried to assist him, was violently arrested, as well. The commotion drew the attention of many passerbys, some of them asked questions, others expressed their support for the cops.
One of the activists that were called over brought a history book, out of which he started reading out loud the names of villages demolished by the Nakba, on which the city of Tel Aviv was built. Policemen warned him that if he keeps on reading he will be arrested. After a moment or two they fulfilled this threat. As he was dragged to the police van he kept on reading. “Shayka Muwannis, Abu Kabir, Salama….” The reading continued, though, from the cards held by those inside the blockade, one by one the names were read, repeated by everybody “Ijlil Shamalyyia, Sawalima, Yazur…” When a couple of dozens were reading out the names the cops stood helpless.
A couple of hours went by. Several activists were randomly allowed to leave the building, and joined those who were standing outside, the others were still blocked in. Eventually, a track of Tel Aviv municipality came by to collect the iron barriers, and to their great dismay the policemen had to release the activists locked inside the building.
As we were getting away, we were approached by several drunken Kahanists, who first swore, then started singing racist songs, and chanting “Death to Arabs, death to Arabs” , and concluded with threats such as “if there were no cops around I’d kill you”. The cops around, somehow failed to hear these threats, although at some point one of them had a friendly chat with one of those Kahanists, after which he returned to harass us. We walked away in big groups, with some of them following us for a while, but they fell back as we refused to oblige them in a shouting match.
The three people who were arrested are still held in custody, and will be brought in front of a judge this evening.
Before I conclude, I should note that last week dozens of international activists got arrested for saying the word Palestine in Israeli airport. This week 3 activists got arrested, and a dozen more spent several hours in an iron cage for daring to mention the Nakba. In both case the Israeli thought police deemed the arrestees provocateurs. Once again, it seems like the thing most threatening to the Israeli regime, are peaceful activists, using the words which it tries to erase. A regime based on lies, can’t help but being threatened by the those who dare speak out the truth.