I have avoided going to demonstrations for a long time. Perhaps this is because of my experiences in the 1980s, or maybe I am no longer comfortable the formula, but I felt that I need to be at that particular one – a counter demonstration in support of Israel’s efforts to ensure the safety of its citizens against Arab attacks.
After the pitiful attempt (because it could hardly be called a real action) undertaken by the so-called right-wing circles, I was expecting a repeat failure from the left-wing faction.
I had anticipated a modernised version of “Aurora’s grandchildren, boys with potato faces, very ugly girls with red hands” from the poem by Zbigniew Herbert. And, of course, several Arabs. This is what I had expected to find at the demonstration.
There was a group of over 200 people at the Israeli embassy.
They were carrying flags of Hamas, Palestinian autonomy, and Syrian liberation army, as well as black and red banners. The overwhelming majority of attendees were Arabs. The “leftist circles” that had been announced were represented by an older grey-haired man bent under the weight of a red flag.
Standing opposite them were us – with the Polish and Israeli flags.
I have to admit that I was sincerely grateful to the police for having allowed us to stay in one group. I think it was the first time I have ever been so grateful to prevention officers for their swift and efficient action.
After that, there are only snapshots:
A gentleman wearing an Arab keffiyeh on his neck, waving a finger in the face of the commanding police officer; demanding that we should be ordered to leave because we were there illegally.
Screams in Arabic, which finally turned into chanting “Allahu Akbar”.
A young woman who prevented the burning of an Israeli flag. She grabbed it from the hands of one of the Arabs while calling him a Nazi.
Finally, moved by the police away from the chanting crowd, we all went towards Twarda Street. After all, it was Friday afternoon and for some of us Sabbath was about to begin.
Both us and them, we all have family or friends THERE – theirs are forced to serve as human shields for Hamas fighters, uncertain whether they will be killed by an Arab shooting them in the back of the head, or if they will die in one of the Israeli air strikes. We have relatives listening to the radio and sirens, downloading a smartphone app to send an immediate signal for help in case of kidnapping by Arab terrorists.
I am not going to dwell on the motives of Arab demonstrators – the gentleman with a goatee and a plaid scarf was certainly at work. As for the others, there were certainly both idealists and those who feared that they might be accusingly asked the question “Why were you not there? Your family should protest against the Zionist occupation!”
On our side, it was easier – we all shared concern, anxiety, and the need to protest against the wickedness of those who – for unclear reasons – have been labelled “fighters” by the media. The need to remind people that Israel has a right to exist and defend itself.
And in our time, with Arabic spoken on the streets of Paris, Berlin, Hague, or Oslo, we should consider more often that perhaps Israel might one day be a safer place for our children and grandchildren than the increasingly passive and weak Europe.