Anti-Israel groups hold protest in Mumbai during Benjamin Netanyahu's visit

Updated: Jan 19, 2018, 10:03 IST | Hemal Ashar

Anti-Israel groups hold protest in city during Israeli Prime Minister's visit, asking him to 'go back'

Protestors with banners of Ahed Tamimi at Azad Maidan yesterday. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Protestors with banners of Ahed Tamimi at Azad Maidan yesterday. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

The India-Palestine Solidarity Forum, the Communist Party of India-M (CPI-M) and a raft of other organizations, especially Islamic bodies and leftist outfits and individuals held a protest on Thursday at Azad Maidan with a message for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in the city: 'Go Back'. The red flags of the Communist party fluttered with sloganeering, drawing a curious audience at Azad Maidan, which is currently a hive of temporary construction activity for the Mumbai marathon that will take place on Sunday.

Tamimi, who?
There were several banners with pictures of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi. This teenager has been jailed by Israel for slapping an Israeli soldier. The slap, some reports say, was because Tamimi was riled that her cousin had been shot in the face by rubber pellets as he was protesting in Israel. While Tamimi's face was on several banners, not everybody quite knew what she stood for. One gentleman at the protest smiled sheepishly when asked if he knew who the young woman was on the banner he was carrying and said to his companion, "Hey, say who she is." There were a group of women in full veils with Tamimi's posters, who did not know about her. They said, "I do not know, we were told to come here by our 'sir'. He always brings us to protests, we want online admission for our children!"

Protestors with banners of Ahed Tamimi at Azad Maidan yesterday. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Protestors with banners of Ahed Tamimi at Azad Maidan yesterday. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Smita Salunkhe from the India-Palestine Solidarity Forum said that, "We need to stand together to free Ahed Tamimi. Israel is committing crimes against humanity. We are on the brink of World War III." When told that Israelis have accused Tamimi of being an actor, actually earning the label of 'Shirley Temper,' a play on the actor Shirley Temple, a popular American child star, Salunkhe smiled grimly and said, "We are going to stand with Palestine."

Don't support Bibi!
Obaid Ur Rehman, president of the Islamic Students Organization said, "No peace lover should support Benjamin Netanyahu. It is Israel that is responsible for the Gaza blockade." Many other activists invoked the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. "Gandhi always said India supported Palestine, so why are we veering away now?" they asked even as Communist 'comrades' hit a crescendo with their 'hai, hai,' 'go back' and shouted about Netanyahu being a terrorist. One man yelled, "Free Palestine, Free Mazdoors, Free Adivasis."

Akhtar Khan, from a student organization called 'I Support Akhilesh Yadav' said, "Israel is the birthplace of terror," while Farooq Mapkar of Bharat Bachao Andolan spoke about the apartheid wall in Israel and claimed, "Mossad may have been involved in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai." By now, the crowd had swelled substantially and US president Donald Trump had become the target of barbs. Trump earned ire for his moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, effectively recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

No renaming
Meanwhile, comrade Prakash Reddy said reacting to recent reports about a proposal to rename a square in the Kala Ghoda area after former Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres, "The BJP was supporting this proposal. There is no logic to naming a place after Peres; he has played no part in the history of the city. If such a move is made cunningly, we will go and burn down the board."

The proposal came about after the Federation of Indo-Israel Chamber of Commerce first suggested it. It was rejected in the meeting of the group leaders of various parties in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recently. Reddy added, "A lot of this so-called India-Israel closeness is done for defense deals, but in fact, Israel is not good at fighting terror. When the attacks happened here, Israel did not know what was going on at the Chabad House. They have also never fought ISIS." The protestors broke into song and speeches then about Palestine, and chants of "Modi, hai hai" went up as one left the maidan.

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