A protester at the October 4 rally on Bratislava's SNP square holds a picture of a dead Palestinian.
Following six days of running battles between Israeli troops and Palestinian militia in the Gaza strip, more than 70 people have been killed and a further 1,300 have been injured. The protesters in Bratislava said that they wanted to join international demonstrators in other European capitals to "convey our feelings" about the continuing violence in Palestine.
"What would you say, what would you say if someone told you that you had to leave your home and claimed it was his?" asked Ali, a student from Martin in northern Slovakia and a five-year resident of the country. "Israeli people are just looking for a reason to defy the political peace process," he said angrily, showing photos of Palestinians shot by Israeli soldiers.
The mood of anger and frustration among the demonstrators was in stark contrast to what many of them described was a good relationship between the Jews and Arabs in Slovakia. "I have Jewish friends and I meet with them to have a drink in the bars," said Hamdi, an Egyptian with dual Slovak citizenship. "We talk as human being to human being; they too do not understand why or what is going on in Palestine. It is just madness [there]," he added.
Ali said: "All I have experienced in my time in Slovakia is friendship, from all the locals. Just friendship. That is what we want in Palestine."
His colleague Ahmed added that the protest, while being concerned with a violent subject, was one suffused with a peaceful message. "What we want to say is nothing about violence. We are fighting for a principle but we are not fanatics." Explaining the logo being brandished on a placard between a Palestinian flag, Ahmed said that the words Jerusalem is the capital of all religions, was favoured above saying "of the Muslim religion" so as not to offend other religious groups.
Slovakia's only rabbi, American Baruch Myers, said that his experience with relations between the two communities was limited, but without any problems. "It's interesting, but there is little close official contact between the two communities. But I have to say that with the personal contacts I've had I have had no problems whatsoever. This is the case in Slovakia, there really are no problems at all," he said.
9. Oct 2000 at 0:00 | Ed Holt