As rockets fly, J14 rallies struggle to put social issues first

Last night, the J14 movement had its biggest test yet: to continue demonstrations as usual when the spiral of violence is once again starting to get out of hand in the south.

The first mistake the J14 leaders did was even before the rallies started across the country. Although it was an excellent move not to cave in to the “national mourning” period that is mandatory after every terror attack and cancel the demos, they decided to hold “silent” rallies, in respect of those who died.

This was a bad move. You can respect the dead and mourn their loss, and you can still demonstrate for your country on different issues. That’s what would have taken place in a normal country. The murders in the south were disgusting, but if you want to show that protests must go on as usual – then go all the way with that. Hold a regular demo.

The vacuum that remained, the confusion that lingered left the rally wide open to be manipulated. Unfortunately, Hadash activists felt they had to get political no matter what and chanted their usual slogans – and suddenly out of nowhere the right wing racists showed up to confront them.

It got ugly, as you can see in the movie I filmed, and a “regular” demo would have probably prevented this.
Otherwise, the rally of 5,000 went on as planned from Habima square to the beach, where speeches were held, songs were sung and group discussions were held into the night.

At one point, the racists showed up again during a speech of an Arab speaker. After heckling the man for 10 minutes, the crowd finally rose from their seats on the grass and physically shoved the racists aside, all the while chanting “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies!” It was a very moving, powerful moment, but one that also made me realize that the racists might be right about one thing: this seemed like a very leftist demonstration.

But Israel isn’t normal, and J14 isn’t your typical movement. And right now it’s all we’ve got, and I’m damn proud of it. Last night’s march was the most important one yet. It was small in numbers, but the biggest effort yet to put social issues in front of security – the toughest task Israel has ever faced.

So, did J14 pass its first major test? Yes.

Not with flying colors, but yes.

Baby steps…