Despite calls to cancel rallies, J14 to hold “silent marches”

Despite calls  to cancel the weekly social justice rallies, the J14 protests will go on as planned – in the form of mass memorial processions for victims of today’s attacks. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel already responded to the attacks with a Rafah air raid that killed six.

The J14 movement for social justice will hold its weekly rally on Saturday evening despite today’s rapid escalation in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip. A series of attacks by paramilitaries and retaliatory raids by the IDF already claimed the lives of seven Israeli civilians and soldiers, seven paramilitaries and six Gazans since noon Thursday.

Saturday night’s main rally will take the the form of a quiet memorial march with torches and candles. It will leave from the Habima square at the top of the Rothschild protest camp at 8pm, and proceed towards the seaside park of Charles Chlore, where open discussion circles on violence, bereavement and conflict will be held. Quiet memorial marches and discussions will also take place in places slated for the usual social justice protests, such as Jerusalem, Hod Hasharon and other cities.

The decision comes after an earlier announcement by National Union of Students chief Itzik Shmuli that all protest events will be cancelled elicited a fierce backlash from rank-and-file protesters. The demand not to cancel the rallies was picked up by left-wing and right-wing Israelis alike; the former argued that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government should not be allowed to distract from the protests through an escalation on the Gaza front, while the latter were outraged by the notion of allowing a terrorist organisation to do away with a popular Israeli protest that didn’t yield to Israel’s own government.

Others pointed out the connection between the conflict and the dire situation of Israel’s welfare state, and some made a direct link between the attacks and the need to relocate more funds from the military budget to the welfare and healthcare services for bereaved families and thesurvivors of political violence. The Tent 1948 Palestinian-Jewish group on Rothschild issued a statement of its own “This is the time to show real strength”, the statement read.  “Stay on the streets, condemn the violence and refuse go either home or to the Army to take part in the revenge attack on Gaza.”

The discontent with cancelation of the rallies soon spilled from online arguments into protesters spontaneously organising rallies of their own. A few hours later, the national leadership of the J14 announced the new plan for Saturday night. It made no mention of Shmuli’s controversial statement.

Meanwhile,  Israel Air Force  jets bombed a building in Rafah and killed six, one allegedly a senior Popular Resistance Committees commander. Israel insisted on Thursday night the PRC was behind the attacks, although the organisation was yet to claim responsibility.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a press conference several hours later that “those who gave the order to carry out today’s attack are dead.” He went on to state he “decided on a principle” that Israel would retaliate swiftly and strongly against any attack, “and this is precisely what was implemented today.”

The prime minister’s emphatic use of past tense led mainstream commentators on the Israeli news channels to express hope Israel will not seek further escalation beyond the Rafah attack.

Read more about the multiple attacks today:

Dimi Reider – Rolling news coverage of the shooting and bombing

Yossi Gurvitz – Why Israel shouldn’t attack in Gaza