Hostage demonstrations blurring into dormant anti-Bibi protests

 

Three months after the start of the war, the lines are blurring between the movement to free Israeli hostages held by Hamas and an older, dormant one to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

 

In the last week, as we crossed the 100-day mark since the war started, calls for an immediate release of the 136 hostages intensified. On Friday, distraught families headed to Netanyahu’s residence in Caesarea. They pitched tents and stayed overnight. Then on Saturday, a massive rally ensued in “Hostages Square” as it has become known in Tel Aviv. The theme? “Time has run out”—the same line being used by Hamas in its psychological warfare videos they release of Israeli hostages. 

 

 

Families then camped out in the center of Jerusalem outside Netanyahu’s other house and plan to stay until a deal is reached for the immediate release of the hostages. 

 

 

Today (Wednesday) was declared a Day of Rage for the hostages with gatherings, marches, events and protests throughout the country with participants calling for the immediate release of all hostages. 

 

 

Protestors have been blocking roads, interrupting Knesset meetings and stepping up the pressure on the government to broker a deal to release the hostages as conditions in Gaza worsen. In the last week, Hamas released videos of two more Israeli hostages killed in Hamas captivity raising the urgency of families who feel time is waning. 

 

 

Up until Oct. 6, weekly protests against Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms drew more than 100,000. The population was polarized until Oct. 7 and then unified for weeks rallying to defend themselves and their nation.

 

 

But that is starting to wear off.

 

 

Not only are the lines starting to blur, but so is the blame. Families are turning on the Israeli government, just as much as Hamas, for the deaths of hostages. One sign reads, “Stop the execution,” assuming it is in Israel’s hands.

 

 

“How do you sleep at night while they’re held hostage in Gaza?” read one sign.

 

 

Another was even more ominous and reminiscent of the dormant “Crime Minister” movement. With a picture of Netanyahu, the sign read, “Face of evil.”

 

 

From the outset of the war, Netanyahu has declared the main goal of the Israeli military is to destroy and dismantle Hamas. The release of the hostages as a goal was only mentioned in his second speech and is always mentioned second to the destruction of Hamas. 

 

 

Perhaps this will come back to haunt him: These protests are happening parallel to a new advertising campaign calling for early elections. 

 

This comes as more and more hostage family members are using the word “abandoned” when referring to the government’s handling of the hostage crisis. 

 

“We were abandoned by State of Israel,” Hagar Brodutch, who was taken hostage with her three childcare and whose husband, Avihai, is still in Gaza, said at a rally last week. “There is no resurrection until all the hostages are back.”

 

 

Just to be clear, not all of the hostages’ families believe in release at all costs. And a separate protest took place today at the Gaza border where protestors tried to block humanitarian aid into the Strip and demanded that the war carry on.

 

 

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza are also demanding the release of Israeli hostages in a protest against Hamas today, according to media reports and a video that came out of Gaza. They figure that with the Israelis out of Gaza, the Israeli military will withdraw and they too may be able to survive.

 

Photos of rally in Tel Aviv, courtesy of Yael Gadot

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