Updated: October 22, 2004
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, major protest organizations have increasingly used antiwar demonstrations as vehicles for criticizing Israel’s policies. Although most marchers in the large rallies of 2003 were probably motivated by genuine opposition to war, the agenda of rally organizers included an anti-Israel component that has become far more pervasive in 2004. Criticism of Israel now saturates the language of the antiwar movement.
Protests have not become mere vehicles for Israel’s opponents, but there are pockets of Jew-bashing at many events, as well as broad anti-Israel invective.
ADL does not consider criticism of Israel to be innately anti-Semitic or illegitimate. But at some antiwar rallies, criticism takes the form of denying Israel’s right to exist and endorsing violent resistance and terrorism. At these events, protestors from groups that formally denounce anti-Semitism grotesquely invert history to suggest that Zionism is equivalent to Nazism. Conspiracy theories suggesting secret “Zionist” control of U.S. foreign policy have become common themes at protests as well.
ADL considers the presence of anti-Israel radicalism within the antiwar movement to be a significant issue. ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice, the two major organizers, have both made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the major focus of their activities in 2004. They have also capitalized on dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in Iraq and throughout the Middle East to integrate antiwar and anti-Israel sentiments.
Listed below are rallies – some antiwar, others specifically directed at Israel or related to events in the Middle East – that have provided an occasion for rhetoric that goes beyond non-bigoted criticism of Israel.
Saturday, November 13, 2004 - University of Missouri--Kansas City, Missouri
Regional Conference to “End the Occupation”
Sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to the End the Occupation and the International Solidarity Movement
Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, a regional anti-Israel group based at the University of Missouri—Kansas City, is bringing the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the International Solidarity Movement and other anti-Israel activists together for a regional conference devoted to changing U.S. policy toward Israel. The event will feature speakers who support divestment from Israel, the elimination of U.S. aid to Israel and contesting Israeli security measures. Notable speakers include Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, Huwaida Arraf of ISM and the U.S. Campaign’s Josh Ruebner.
October 15-17, 2004 - Duke University, Durham, North Carolina,
Anti-Israel student activists and speakers from around the United States and abroad converged on Duke University in North Carolina on October 15-17, 2004, for the fourth National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement. As feared, participants, some of whom represent groups that do not acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel, portrayed the Jewish state as “racist” and governed by apartheid. Attendees defeated proposals to moderate the PSM’s policy of refusing to condemn terrorism; several speakers expanded upon this position and also alleged Israeli control of U.S. media. A full report on the conference is available at http://www.adl.org/Israel/psm_duke.asp.
Fourth National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement
August 26 – September 2, 2004 — New York City
Anti-Israel Protests During the Republican National Convention
Most of the protests surrounding the RNC will focus on the war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies, but it is certain that anti-Israel groups will use the demonstrations as venues for furthering their own message. In addition, several anti-Israel protests have been planned for the RNC by groups such as ANSWER, Free Palestine Alliance, and NJ Solidarity.
August 26, 2004: International Action Center (IAC) and ANSWER have planned a faux Independent International Tribunal on Iraq to charge the Bush administration with war-crimes charges for the war and occupation of Iraq. Ramsey Clark, leader of the IAC and founder of ANSWER, will lead this protest, and attorney Lynne Stewart will participate. There is likely to be anti-Israel statements at the rallies.
August 28-29, 2004: The Free Palestine Alliance has publicized a hunger strike to protest the Israeli security fence on Aug. 28th and 29th in New York City. No details about locations have yet been made public.
August 29, 2004: United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) is organizing the major protest at the RNC and estimates 250,000 protestors will mass at this rally. Despite UFPJ’s more moderate stance on Israel than other protest groups, this large gathering will attract others who are of greater concern. The anti-Israel group NJ Solidarity has issued a call to organize a pro-Palestinian contingent at the 7th Ave and 21st St. Other groups that have endorsed this demonstration include: Not In Our Name, Refuse & Resist!, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, National 911Visibility, International Socialist Organization, and Anarchists in NY.
September 2, 2004: The ANSWER Coalition has distributed a call to demonstrate in solidarity with the Palestinian people at the Israeli Mission to the United Nations, at 43rd St and 2nd Avenue at 5:00PM. They plan to focus on the Bush administration's support for the Israeli security fence.
Anti-Israel protests and messages during the Republican National Convention were limited. The massive march organized by United for Peace and Justice on August 29 included some anti-Israel groups and signs that criticized the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but the message was drowned out by the marchers' broader anti-Bush sentiments. The rallies and events organized by ANSWER and the International Action Center did attract anti-Israel activists who called for a “Free Palestine,” but these groups focused their criticism on the United States and its international policies.
July 23rd – 29th, 2004 — Boston
Anti-Israel Protests at the Democratic National Convention
Various events sponsored by United for Peace and Justice, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and International ANSWER.
Energized by opposition to the Israeli separation fence in the International Court of Justice and the United Nations, anti-Israel protesters organized several actions before and during the Democratic National Convention, held in Boston from July 26-29, 2004.
United for Peace and Justice and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation held several panel discussions and lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Boston Social Forum, culminating in an early-evening rally against the fence on July 26 at the official DNC protest zone near the Fleet Center.
International ANSWER organized a separate rally protesting the Israeli fence on the Boston Common on July 25. The Free Palestine Alliance, an anti-Israel group associated with the International Action Center and a member of the ANSWER coalition, called for a “Solidarity Fast” in the two days leading up to the convention.
The Black Tea Society, a local anarchist cooperative, organized another antiwar rally for July 29 and other activities that gave the many anti-Israel activists already in Boston further opportunity to express their views.
Several anti-Israel activities were held during the Democratic National Convention in Boston. ANSWER’s July 25 march attracted about 1,000 demonstrators. Protestors carried anti-Israel signs (“U.S. is to Iraqis as Israel is to Palestinians as Nazi Germany was to Jews”), but refrained from explicit bigotry.
Protestors at United for Peace and Justice’s July 26 demonstration chanted “Free Palestine” at passing delegates. However, criticism of Israel was unusually muted, with some speakers expressing sympathy for Israeli victims of suicide terror. Most speakers focused on American funding of the Israeli military and advocated divestment and/or pressuring the U.S. government to secure Israeli withdrawal from the territories. A "die in" with Palestinian casualties was staged, and for the first time included Israeli victims of terrorism.
In addition to these demonstrations, anarchists constructed a version of the Israeli security fence on the Boston Common. Far-right extremists also showed up, including Fred Phelps’ anti-gay agitators (carrying signs that read, “9-11: Gift from God”). Two white supremacists were also seen distributing literature.
June 5 – 11, 2004
Palestine/Israel Just Peace Campaign
Sponsored by United for Peace and Justice, the U.S. Campaign Against the Occupation, and Al-Awda.
In commemoration of the June 1967 Six-Day war, United for Peace and Justice (UPJ) is organizing a week-long campaign – from June 5-11 – of educational events, demonstrations and petitions to protest Israel’s presence in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Although campaign organizers explicitly call for “the establishment of a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” several of the partnering groups listed on the UPJ Web site have supported Palestinian terror and called for the destruction of Israel. Radical groups may view the campaign as an opportunity to further infuse the antiwar movement with anti-Israel sentiments.
June 5, 2004 – Washington, D.C.
March on the Pentagon
Sponsored by International ANSWER
International ANSWER is organizing a major rally on June 5 – the anniversary of the Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war – to protest the war in Iraq, the “colonial occupation of Palestine” and to support the Palestinian right of return. At recent ANSWER demonstrations, protestors have chanted in support of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists, and have invoked Nazi imagery to delegitimize Israel. If this pattern continues, the June rally may be dominated by radical anti-Israel groups who support terrorism and the destruction of Israel.
The march will begin at noon at the White House and proceed to the Pentagon. Solidarity protests are also being organized in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The antiwar rallies sponsored by ANSWER on June 5th in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, drew significantly smaller crowds than expected, San Francisco hosting the largest. Moreover, extreme anti-Israel sentiment was less prevalent than at other recent ANSWER events.
Many pro-Palestinian activists attended the San Francisco rally, but criticism of Israel remained relatively mild. There were exceptions, including people holding placards that said: “I want YOU to die for Israel; Israel sings, Onward Christian Soldiers;” “Do Zionists cause anti-Semitism by defending the morally indefensible? Zionists Do;” and “Smash the Jewish State.” Protestors also flew an Israeli flag emblazoned with a swastika rather than the Star of David.
In Washington, D.C., demonstrators gathered at Lafayette Square, and a smaller number marched to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s home to protest the U.S. presence in Iraq. Anti-Israel protest was voiced on only a modest scale. In Los Angeles, many signs and speakers addressed the need for Palestinian liberation; criticism of Israel was generally benign.
April 18, 2004 – New York City
Emergency Protest Against the Killing of Abdel Aziz Rantisi and Al-Awda’s Annual Convention
Sponsored by: Al-Awda, Muslim American Federation, New Jersey Solidarity and the International Action Center
Several organizations, including Al-Awda, New Jersey Solidarity and the International Action Center held a rally in front of the Israeli consulate in New York City on April 18 to protest the killing of Abdel Aziz Rantisi, leader of Hamas. Protesters marched to the consulate from Hunter College, where Al-Awda had been holding its annual convention. Abbas Hamideh, a coordinator for Al-Awda, told a crowd of about a hundred that Rantisi “was a leader who defended and fought for Palestinian rights.” Signs waved by the crowd included “What’s next Sharon. Ovens!!,” “Globalize the Intifada” and “All of Israel is ‘occupied territory.’” The anti-Zionist Hasidic group, Neturei Karta, was also present. An Al-Awda representative, Rama Kased, later told the Workers World: “Abdel Aziz Rantisi was a son of Palestine, a refugee, and a symbol of resistance against a racist apartheid regime."
The Al-Awda convention preceding the protest had earlier proclaimed:
“Palestine is the last remaining obstacle to colonial and imperial hegemony in the Arab Homeland and the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq has become yet another stepping stone towards the imposition of imperial control and dominance…. Just as the agenda of the new imperial order, of which the Zionist state is an inextricable part, is global, resistance to it must be global and united so as to be sustainable and successful. In this context, the Palestinian and Iraqi struggles for full self-determination are the embodiment of the global resistance to settler and military occupation.”
Speakers at the convention included Charlotte Kates, head of the radical pro-Palestinian group New Jersey Solidarity.
March 23, 2004 – New York City
Emergency Protests Against the Killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Sponsored by International ANSWER
ANSWER, Al-Awda, New Jersey Solidarity, the World Workers Party and other pro-Palestinian groups held an emergency demonstration outside the Israeli consulate in New York on March 23, 2004, to protest the killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and to support the Intifada. Led by Larry Holmes of ANSWER, Charlotte Kates of NJS, and members of Al-Awda, about 50 people gathered across the street from the consulate.
Speakers called for the destruction of Israel, and memorialized Hamas and other terrorist groups. One speaker extolled Ali Mustapha (secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), Abu Jihad (the PLO military chief killed in 1988) and Sheikh Yassin, saying, “We are here with you standing hand in hand.” An Al-Awda member proposed that all the protest movements unite because together “we can smash Israel and get back the territories and the pre-48 borders.”
Larry Holmes blamed the United States for the assassination: “Sharon may be the one who pulled the trigger, but we know they don’t do anything without checking with the boss.”
The crowd chanted, variously, “Sharon and Hitler are the same, the only difference is the name,” “Hey hey, Ho ho, Hamas will never go,” “Long live Jihad,” “Victory to the Intifada,” and “Sheikh Yassin Rest in Peace, Israel will never sleep.” Signs held by protesters included “Nazi Israel Guilty Genocide” and “If you don’t like terrorism stop paying for Israeli death squads.”
March 20, 2004 -New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Elsewhere
Global Day of Action Against War and Occupation
Sponsored by International ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice
On March 20, 2004, the one-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, large rallies are planned in cities around the country (and world) to protest against the war. ADL is concerned that these rallies may provide a pretext for, or degenerate into, harshly anti-Israel or anti-Semitic attacks.
The two largest antiwar protest organizations in the U.S. are United for Peace and Justice (UPJ) and International ANSWER. In early February the groups announced - through the two larger coalitions they lead - that they will unify their efforts on March 20 in New York City to organize one large protest. The announcement is troubling because UPJ, while quite critical of Israel, has until now viewed protest against Israeli policies as detracting from antiwar events. To the more radical ANSWER activists, by contrast, opposing Israel is seen as essential in the fight for global justice. An alliance between the two groups signals that UPJ is prepared to integrate anti-Israelism into the heart of its message, thereby heightening the possibility that anti-Jewish rancor will be widespread and acute.
Anti-Israel statements pervaded demonstrations across the United States and the world against the war in Iraq on March 20. The major domestic rally organizers, ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice, both distributed signs that denounced Israel, and demonstrators generally appeared to take for granted protest targeting Israel. Encouragingly, there were few anti-Semitic messages and Holocaust imagery was infrequent. This may be the result of a strategy by radical organizers to make their anti-Israel message more palatable to moderate rallygoers.
While over 200 demonstrations took place nationwide, the largest demonstrations were held in New York City and San Francisco. In New York, there were an estimated 33,000 marchers, and the rally was notably peaceful, with only four arrests.
Nonetheless, there was some markedly hostile protest. Al-Awda, International Solidarity Movement, and other pro-Palestinian groups waved Palestinian flags, while some chanted “Intifada Intifada, Long Live the Intifada.”
The anti-Israel presence was even more dominant at the nearly 10,000-strong rally in San Francisco. Signs and messages included “No blood for Israel,” “I want you to die for Israel. Israel Sings: Onward Christian Soldiers,” “I Love NYC even more without the World Trade Center,” and a model Israeli tank with dollars dripping blood and the sign, “Paid for with US tax dollars.”
The conspicuous presence of conspiracy theorists in both New York City and San Francisco was worrisome. A group called the 9/11 Truth Alliance, which contends that the Bush administration staged the attacks, distributed signs saying “Stop the 9-11 Cover-Up” at both rallies. It also handed out “deception dollars,” large replicas of paper currency covered with links to conspiracy and also anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Web sites. While some conspiratorial groups were present at past rallies, their profile was much higher at the March 20th demonstrations.
The joint statement released by the groups' coalitions states:
On March 20th, the one year anniversary of the U.S. war against Iraq, a Global Day of Action will bring hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in cities around the world… We will march for an end to the occupation and corporate control of Iraq and to bring the troops home now. We will march for an end to the occupation of Palestine…
Although they have not described other rallies as cooperative, both groups have announced plans to demonstrate in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., as well. UPJ is also publicizing demonstrations in over 60 smaller cities.