The Israelis who are protesting for peace

A thousand people are not that many. But 1,000 people can have the moral influence of millions. We saw 1,000 Israelis protesting in Tel Aviv last Sunday, waving banners and placards calling for an end to the «savage war» that is raging in the Middle East and condemning Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as well as US President George W. Bush for their plans in the region. It does not take a great deal of imagination on the part of us «objective observers» to appreciate the asphyxiating political climate and emotionally charged atmosphere in which these 1,000 people chose to demonstrate. Their country is at war in yet another phase of an apparently never-ending conflict; some of these protesters’ relatives and friends may be flying fighter jets over Gaza or Beirut right now, other relatives or friends may be in imminent danger or may already have been hit by the rockets being launched by Hezbollah against Haifa. Faced with all this and determined to protest, this group of Israelis ventured out onto the streets of their capital with no weapons other than their voices and slogans. And they did this knowing full well that they would face severe condemnation from government figures, from those who shape public opinion in their country and from the leaders of extremist religious groups. It is hard to say exactly what inspired these Israelis to speak out for peace in a country that is at war, whether their stance arose from their ideology or from their emotions. Perhaps it was the sight of a child maimed by vengeful fire that spurred them into action, regardless of the child’s race.