Likud minister heckled at anti-violence rally in Tel Aviv

Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz from the Likud party was loudly heckled at a Tel Aviv rally Saturday night against violence and incitement.

Steinitz was one of numerous speakers addressing the crowd in Tel Aviv Saturday at a protest organized by Peace Now following two attacks in recent days — one at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade on Thursday, and the firebombing Friday of a Palestinian home which killed a Palestinian toddler.

The minister, a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was booed during his address and some protesters held out hands painted in red to symbolize blood, and yelled slogans such as “homophobia and racism come from the government.”

The hostility toward Steinitz was palpable, according to some attendees of the rally posting on social media.

The booing was loud and widespread as Steinitz attempted to express empathy with “members of the gay community” in the wake of the Jerusalem attack. He called them “our sons and daughters, our friends. We are all one. Those who raise a knife against you, raise a knife against all of us.”

Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal were barred from speaking at the event because they refused to sign a form drawn up by the organizers committing themselves to legislative activism. “I think they’re making a mistake,” said Magal. “I was asked to sign something. I’m not prepared to do so.”

Likud minister Yuval Steinitz pictured at an anti-violence and anti-homophobia ralliy, attended by thousands, in Tel Aviv, on August 01, 2015 (Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASh90)

Likud minister Yuval Steinitz pictured at an anti-violence and anti-homophobia ralliy, attended by thousands, in Tel Aviv, on August 01, 2015 (Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASh90)

Several politicians from the opposition openly blamed the Netanyahu government for what they called a general atmosphere of tolerance toward Jewish extremists. This attitude, they said, led to the stabbing attack at the parade in which six people were wounded, one critically, by an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and the firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma of the home of the Dawabsha family in which Ali Dawabsha, 18 months old, was burned to death. The suspected perpetrators are extremist Jewish settlers.

In a speech in Jerusalem Saturday, President Reuven Rivlin also questioned the role of the public atmosphere created by the government that led to the attacks, while former president Shimon Peres, speaking in Tel Aviv, was much more blunt in his accusation.

“Those who incite against Arab citizens of Israel should not be surprised when mosques and churches are set alight or even when a baby is burned alive in the night,” Peres said.

Peres warned that “dark, extremist forces” were threatening to destroy the state of Israel, and called on all Israelis to confront and rebuff them.

Netanyahu sent a pre-recorded clip to be aired at the Tel Aviv protest in which he mainly addressed the Jerusalem stabbings.

We reject this hatred outright,” Netanyahu said. “We will do whatever is necessary to draw the lessons from this [incident]. But the most important lesson is accepting the other even when they are not like you. And I strongly disagree that doing this goes against Judaism.”’

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Meretz head Zahava Gal-on also spoke at the Tel Aviv rally, reiterating comments they made earlier in the day on their Facebook pages.

“I came here with a heavy heart following the Jewish pogrom on Friday,” Herzog told the crowd. “Terrorists are terrorists whether they are Jewish or Muslim. The Jewish people are ashamed of the actions by some among us and we have come to ask forgiveness.”

Gal-on said the perpetrators were nothing short of a “Jewish Daesh,” an acronym used for the terror group the Islamic State which controls large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq.

“This is not how you fight Jewish terror,” she said, addressing Netanyahu and other right-wing politicians she blamed for creating an atmosphere of incitement against Arabs. “This is not how you fight a Jewish Daesh, with homophobia, with incitement, with racism. Facebook condemnations [of these actions] will not stop the violence.”

Nasser Dawabsha, uncle of slain baby Ali Dawabsha, speaks at a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday, August 1 2015. (Screen capture Ynet)

Nasser Dawabsha, uncle of slain baby Ali Dawabsha, speaks at a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday, August 1 2015. (Screen capture Ynet)

The uncle of the slain Palestinian toddler, Nasser Dawabsha, also spoke at the event, describing the harrowing moments when the family tried to escape their burning house. The uncle said the mother grabbed a blanket she believed contained her baby and only once she was outside did she realize he was not in it, but still inside.

“They burned a family that was sleeping quietly, a family that does not believe in violence. Netanyahu expressed his condolences but we ask for protection for Duma and for other Palestinian villages. Why was Ali killed? He was 18 months old, what did he do? What did he do to the settlers? We ask that this [incident] mark the end of the suffering of our people. Before this we had Muhammed Abu Khdeir [abducted and burned alive by Jewish extremists as a reprisal attack for the three murdered teens], now Ali, and we don’t know who will be next,” said Dawabsha.

Rallies were also held elsewhere in Israel, including in Haifa and Beersheba.