Who are the Israeli protesters blocking aid to Gaza?
Friday will mark the third day running that hundreds of Israeli protesters have blocked vital humanitarian aid from passing through the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) border crossing into Gaza.
The protesters stood in front of trucks packed with aid chanting slogans against the delivery of any aid into the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Aside from denying aid to suffering Gazans, the protests have international ramifications, with the US demanding that aid is delivered via Karem Abu Salem "without interruption".
Across the media, the protesters were described as "the families of hostages" and "supporters". However, part of the Israeli justification for allowing aid into Gaza is that it will reach hostages held by Hamas in the strip.
The New Arab takes a closer look at who those protesters are, what they want and why some family members of hostages would block aid that could reach their loved ones.
Who are the protesters and what do they want?
It is true to say that a significant number of the protesters are comprised of family members of hostages being held in Gaza. However, leading the protests, is a group calling itself the Tzav 9 (Order 9) movement, which is a reference to the Order 8 emergency notice that army reservists received for mobilising on October 7.
Order 9 claim to represent a broad spectrum, including: "Dear people from the right and the left, the residents of the city, the kibbutz and the village, reservists who were released, evacuated citizens, and above all, the families of those who fell in the battles, and in contrast, the families of the hostages who will soon return."
Their demand is that no aid should enter Gaza until the hostages are released, with them claiming that the aid is going to Hamas and ordinary Gazans but not the hostages.
Numerous members of families of hostages have spoken as part of Order 9 protests. Danny Algert, whose brother Itzik is being held hostage in Gaza, spoke at the protest on Wednesday, saying: "As long as logistical aid enters here – the war will continue and the abductees will not return. We have become the logistical arm of Hamas."
Are the protesters far-right?
Order 9 claims to be non-partisan, but their rhetoric is almost identical to the views of the Israeli far-right when it comes to opposition to aid to Gaza. But the ties go deeper. Many of the families of hostages supporting and attending the Order 9 protests belong to a far-right influenced grouping of hostage families called the Tikva Forum.
The Tikva Forum was founded by Tzivka Mor, whose son Eitan is being held hostage in Gaza. Unlike most hostage families, the Tikva Forum oppose negotiations and hostage deals with Hamas. In effect, they oppose deals that could see their own loved ones released or, as Mor put it, "It’s not just about my personal suffering as Eitan’s father; it’s about the nation as a whole."
For the second day in a row, Israelis protest at Abu Salem border crossing to prevent humanitarian aid from entering Gaza.— Dr. Anastasia Maria Loupis (@DrLoupis) January 25, 2024
The terrorist state of Israel is deliberately starving the Palestinians. https://t.co/7oIGGEOwu0 pic.twitter.com/dmdp8LxmTj
This rhetoric is almost identical to that of the far-right Jewish Power party and its leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who opposed hostage negotiations on the grounds that it would empower Hamas. The implication of Ben-Gvir’s fascistic stance was that he was willing to let hostages be sacrificed for the "collective good of the nation".
There are also some direct ties between the Tikva Forum and Jewish Power, with one Israeli-American activist going so far as to say the former is a “front” for the latter.
Though this cannot be verified, one of the chief operators of the Tikva Forum is Amichai Eliyahu, who is a member of the Knesset for Jewish Power and Israel’s current Minister for Heritage. Eliyahu is best known for advocating the use of a nuclear weapon on Gaza.
What is the Israeli government doing about the protests?
So far, nothing.
Though the Israeli police could easily disperse the protesters and let the aid through, it was reported that a senior Israeli political officials said that the police have been letting the protesters block the trucks.
This, the official said, was a deliberate move by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to sabotage the Israeli cabinet’s decision to deliver the aid.
Despite US pressure, it could be that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fears that if he intervenes to stop Ben-Gvir, his far-right coalition government would collapse.