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CONTACT: Naomi Paiss 202-513-7824
Washington DC and Jerusalem: Thousands of Israelis attended a rally this evening in Jerusalem’s Zion Square to protest the escalation of violence and revenge that has apparently resulted in the death of a Palestinian youth, following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers. The rally, sponsored by the Tag Meir forum, seed-funded and supported by the New Israel Fund, took as its motto “We Mourn, We Don’t Take Vengeance.”
Tag Meir is Hebrew for “Light Tag” and was named in response to the now-infamous Tag Mechir, or “price-tag,” attacks on Palestinians, progressive activists and the IDF by radical settlers. For more than two years, the Tag Meir group, headed by Dr. Gadi Givaryahu, has responded to price-tag attacks by visiting victimized communities and bringing a message of solidarity and tolerance. Dr. Givaryahu, who comes from the national religious community, has taken as his mission the rebuttal of any claim by ultranationalist leaders that Judaism espouses violence or revenge against adversaries.
“The Tag Meir movement has become the most powerful vehicle for progressive Israeli voices against racism and violence,” said Naomi Schacter, Associate Director of New Israel Fund’s SHATIL action arm, who attended the rally.
The leader of the Labor Party and Knesset opposition, Isaac Herzog, spoke at the rally and called Tag Meir a “dam against hatred.”
“We will not let the forces of darkness overtake our life,” he added.
Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, a teenaged Palestinian who lived in East Jerusalem, was kidnapped yesterday; his partially-burned body was identified by his grieving father today. Rabbi Benny Lau, a human rights activist, referred to him at the rally and said, “Now there is a Palestinian teenager that rose every morning to pray but now is no longer. We should say his name in our prayers.”
“Just as we condemned in the strongest terms the murder of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, so we condemn those who are responsible for the death of Muhammed,” said New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch. “We have warned against the rise of racism and ultranationalism in Israel for years, which is why we supported Tag Meir from its inception. The current turmoil in Jerusalem is rooted in years of polarization in which extreme voices on both sides carried too much authority, including some inside the Israeli government. Innocents are now paying the price.”
The demonstration comes a day after far-right Jewish activists marched through the capital calling for revenge, attacking Palestinians, and chanting anti-Arab slogans; more than 50 were arrested by Israeli police. Palestinian protesters in the Shuafat refugee camp and elsewhere have also resorted to violence, rioting and reportedly throwing pipe bombs at police in East Jerusalem. The escalation of violence has brought Israel closer to domestic unrest than at any time since the second Intifada.
“Too often we are told that to equate Palestinian losses with Israeli losses is a false equivalence, or vice versa,” said Sokatch. “There is so much pain and so much blame to go around, so many organizations and pundits telling us that one side is the true victim and the other the true perpetrator.”
“We’ve had enough of that this week. We’ve had enough of those who are exploiting these tragedies to perpetuate their own agendas and storylines. We know that a murdered child is a murdered child and no matter if he was wearing a kippah or a keffiyah, there are parents who will be grieving for the rest of their lives.”
“Tag Meir can be the focal point for Israelis, both Jewish and Arab, who say enough of violence, racism, dehumanization of the other and bloodshed. We will continue our support for this important movement, and look for every opportunity to support those whose vision of Israel is one of a shared society, and living in peace.”