Jerusalem March: Unprecedented

About a year and a half ago, I suggested that the young activists organizing protest in Sheikh Jarrah (now calling themselves "Solidarity") had the potential to refashion the landscape of Israel's peace movement. Today's march in Jerusalem, organized by those same young leaders--the first protest in 44 years in which Israelis and East Jerusalem Arabs marched side-by-side to call for two states and a shared capital--is another turning point.

Do not be misled by the numbers. The protest in Sheikh Jarrah started with a few dozen. It grew into a weekly vigil of several hundred that is monitored around the world. Today's march, of perhaps 3000, is just the beginning, too. Once Jerusalem Arabs see they can march peacefully, that is, along with Israeli leaders who coordinate in advance with the courts and police, they will come out in ever greater numbers. And when they get mobilized, the much larger peace movement in Tel Aviv will get mobilized.

The leaders of Solidarity, Assaf Sharon, Avner Inbar, Sarah Benninga, and Hillel Ben-Sasson, just sent the following report around to their supporters. I urge you to go to their website and offer what help you can:

The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement's march for Palestinian independence earlier today was a tremendous success. More than 3,000 Israelis and Palestinians marched from Jaffa Gate to Sheikh Jarrah in a historic and inspiring cooperation between the Solidarity movement and the popular committees of East Jerusalem. We held signs quoting Nelson Mandela's saying that "only free people can negotiate" and drove home the message of the nonviolent struggle for freedom and equality.

Even before it set out the march stirred a debate long absent from the Israeli political and ideological conversation. This is a debate about generational transition, political vision and the nature of the struggle for the future and soul of our region...[T]his morning the Haaretz editorial endorsed the march.

The picture arising from this discussion is becoming quite clear – a fundamental change is taking place in the Israeli left. A new generation with a new political language is growing on the scorched earth of what used to be the Israeli peace camp. This new generation aspires not only to end the occupation but at the same time for civil equality to all inhabitants of the land. It grows from local grassroots organizing but keeps it eyes on the goal of a transformative change in the Israeli political culture...

[W]e encourage you to follow this discussion and add your voice to it. Israel's actions in the last weeks, from the reactions to the 'flytilla' to the boycott law, prove that these are no ordinary times. We cannot continue supporting a peace process that has long been dead. The voices of the thousands of Israelis and Palestinians who marched today in Jerusalem should lead the way towards politcal freedom and civil equality.