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TENS of thousands packed into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday in a joint Jewish-Arab rally against Israeli plans to annex whole swathes of the occupied West Bank.
Vermont senator and former Democratic Party presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders addressed the crowds via video link, stressing the importance of standing up for justice against authoritarian leaders.
“In these difficult days … it has never been more important to stand up for justice, and to fight for the future we all deserve,” he said.
“It’s up to all of us to stand up to authoritarian leaders and to build a peaceful future for every Palestinian and every Israeli … In the words of my friend Ayman Odeh: The only future is a shared future.”
Mr Odeh is the leader of the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties in the Israeli parliament whose supporters mobilised for the protest.
He told those gathered: “We are at a crossroads. One path leads to a joint society with a real democracy, civil and national equality for Arab citizens … The second path leads to hatred, violence, annexation and apartheid. We’re here in Rabin Square to pick the first path.”
Israeli authorities initially banned the demonstration, citing fears over the spread of Covid-19.
But the rally went ahead with a permit issued late on Friday night, as organisers appointed officials to ensure that safety measures would be adhered to.
Thousands attended the rally, with Israel planning to begin the process of annexing more land in the occupied West Bank, including the fertile Jordan Valley region, by July 1.
The plans, detailed in US President Donald Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” have been rejected by Palestinians, with President Mahmoud Abbas announcing the end of all agreements with the US and Israel last month.
Mr Odeh insisted that there could be no peaceful solution without an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
“There is no such thing as democracy for Jews alone. Just like Martin Luther King and his supporters in the United States, we must realise that without justice there can be no peace.
“And there will be no social justice if we do not end the occupation,” he said.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz branded the annexation plans “a war crime. A crime against peace, a crime against democracy, a crime that will cost us in blood.”
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