Antiwar rallies since the invasion of Iraq have largely been venues for criticism of U.S. policy and pleas for peace. But recent demonstrations have also provided a forum for the sort of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protest that spread across U.S. cities and campuses last fall, diminishing over the winter as organizers worked to keep rallies focused on the Iraq crisis. While the revival of these sentiments has not yet reached 2002 levels, nor proved to be central to post-invasion protests, the same cluster of radical antiwar, anti-globalization and Muslim and Arab-American groups and supporters have coalesced again against Israel and American policies in the Middle East.
While ADL does not consider mere criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic or illegitimate, large rallies during the past year opposing the Jewish state - spurred by events in the Middle East - have repeatedly endorsed violence and terrorist organizations, and have been marred by anti-Semitic expression. In attempting to de-legitimize Israel and challenge its right to exist, members of organizations that publicly repudiate bigotry against Jews - as do most of those named below - tolerate or initiate at their events a grotesque inversion of history equating Zionism with Nazism: in speeches, placards and chants, Israel's actions to defend its citizens from terror have been regularly likened to the Nazis' systematic extermination of Jews. Unsurprisingly, these comparisons give way to calls for the destruction of Israel.
Most rallies protesting the war, and the vast majority of those who participate in them, hope to achieve just what they say - an end to war. But antiwar protest that specially targets Israel is an act of scapegoating, both of the Jewish state and of Jews. Listed below are rallies - some antiwar or antiglobalist, others specifically directed at Israel and events in the Middle East - that have provided an occasion for rhetoric that went beyond non-bigoted criticism of Israel.
November 9, 2003 –Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston and Elsewhere
International Day Against the Wall!
Sponsored by the Palestinian Environmental NGO Network (PENGON)
A coalition of pro-Palestinian organizations is planning to protest against Israel’s security fence in several U.S. cities and abroad on November 9, 2003, the anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The call to action was issued by the Palestinian Environmental NGO Network (PENGON), located in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem. Protesters are encouraged by PENGON to make replicas of the wall for the demonstrations.
PENGON describes itself as a “non-profit, non-governmental organization whose role is to serve the Palestinian environment by acting as a coordinating body for the Palestinian environmental organizations located in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” In PENGON’s view, the security fence “has become Israel’s new stranglehold of Palestine and the latest assault by the occupation.” PENGON established the “Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign” in October 2002.
Numerous demonstrations against Israel’s security fence took place in cities across the U.S. and abroad on November 9, 2003. The call to action for the November 9 events, the day the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, was issued by the Palestinian Environmental NGO Network (PENGON), located in Beit Hanina, Jerusalem.
PENGON established the “Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign” on October 2, 2002, at its General Assembly meeting. The campaign, described as a “national grassroots movement against the wall,” has a Web site that includes photos of November 9 events from around the world. According to PENGON, “sixty-five cities in some twenty-two countries from Asia, South and North America, South Africa, Europe, and the Middle East organized actions against the Apartheid Wall on or around November 9th.”
Many of the demonstrations in the U.S. included replicas of the security fence, dubbed the “apartheid wall” by many protesters, and were organized and endorsed by a number of pro-Palestinian groups that have engaged in various anti-Israel activities over the past few years.
For example, in New York City, the Palestinian Activists Forum (PAF), an “independent network of organizations and individuals in the New York City area committed to justice for the people of Palestine,” issued a press release reporting that approximately 150 people took part in the “anti-wall” demonstrations. Demonstrators carried three “sixty-yard mock ‘walls’ depicting the 25-ft.-high wall enclosing the Palestinian peoples in the West Bank.”
According to the PAF press release, protesters said that the building of the wall “mirrors Kristallnacht, ‘the night of broken glass,’ the pogrom in 1938 in which the Nazi Regime confiscated Jewish property, the anniversary of which also is November 9th.”
Similar “anti-wall” demonstrations took place in several other U.S. cities as well.
September 28, 2003 – New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston.
International Days of Action to End Occupation Everywhere
Sponsored by International ANSWER
June 1, 2003 - New York.
- The ANSWER Coalition organized rallies on September 28, 2003, in solidarity with Arab groups and the European peace movement to mark the third anniversary of the Palestinian Intifada. The major demonstrations in the United States took place in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.; attendance ranged from a few thousand in Los Angeles and San Francisco to only hundreds in New York and Washington, D.C. In addition, thousands of protesters called for the end to the occupation of Iraq in London, Athens, Paris and other cities around the world, chanting slogans against the United States and Britain. It appears that the rallies did not reach a large public .
Anti-Israel messages dominated the marches, with many signs calling for the Israel’s destruction. In San Francisco, demonstrators carried placards that read: “Globalize the Intifada: Palestine will be Free” and “No More Blood for Israel.” In New York, messages included “Free All Palestine,” “Palestine will be free from the Rivers to the Sea,” “WWP [World Workers Party] : Stop the Bush/Sharon War Against the Palestinians,” and “Want Peace? End Israel.”
Salute to Israel Protest
Protesters came from, among other groups the Palestine Activist Forum of New York.
- Unlike the other demonstrations on this calendar, this event involved activists at a pro-Israel event – New York’s annual Salute to Israel parade – rather than at an anti-Israel or antiwar rally.
- Over the course of three hours, from behind a ring of barricades, approximately 300 protestors chanted and held signs with messages like: “All of Israel is Occupied Territory” and “For a Workers Palestine from the River to the Sea,” and a mock advertisement that read: “Ariel Sharon’s ETHNIC CLEANSER eliminates Palestinians.”
Moreover, two protestors repeatedly made the Nazi salute and chanted “Seig Heil” at passing marchers carrying the Israeli flag.
The Palestine Activist Forum is a coalition of grassroots organizations including Al-Awda NY/NJ, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Direct Action Palestine, Jews Against the Occupation, Network of Arab-American Professionals NYC, NJ Solidarity and SUSTAIN NYC.
Activists from Neturei Karta and the far-left League for the Revolutionary Party also participated.
March 15, 2003 - Washington, DC, San Francisco, Portland and Los Angeles.
"No War on Iraq"
Sponsored by International ANSWER
- The March 15th protest led by ANSWER was planned as the last anti-war rally before a US invasion of Iraq.
- The main U.S. demonstrations, in Washington D.C., and San Francisco, each drew around 50,000 participants. Other somewhat smaller demonstrations took place in Portland and Los Angeles. The rallies are noteworthy because they marked the first prominent appearance of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel sentiments at a major anti-war rally since the April 2002 ANSWER demonstration in Washington. The anti-Israel messages at the March 15th rally remained mild by comparison, however, and are more significant for their resurgence at the beginning of the war in Iraq. Signs at the Washington, D.C., rally stated "Free Palestine: Stop US AID to Israeli Terror"; in Los Angeles, "Stop the Occupation"; and, in San Francisco, "No Blood for Oil or Israel."
In Washington, D.C., many speakers argued that the anti-war movement needed to be in solidarity with the Palestinian cause; their remarks focused on criticism of Israel or support for Palestinian independence rather than protest against the war. Hani Adwallah of the Arab American Civic Organization, for instance, urged the audience to "support the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people" and led protestors in chanting, "Long live Palestine."
February 15 - New York, NY
“Stop the War”
Sponsored by United for Peace & Justice
Led by United for Peace & Justice (UPC), anti-war activists are planning a series of peace "actions" on February 15 in New York City. UPC, a coalition of more than 70 groups, was formed last fall in Washington, D.C., to work against war in Iraq and against "new repressive measures at home." Its diverse roster of participating organizations include anarchist, environmental, gay rights, socialist, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and antiwar representatives. Scheduled speakers include Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rosie Perez, Danny Glover and Julian Bond.
The International ANSWER Coalition will also participate in the rally, supporting "the millions of Europeans that will rally against war in capitals all over Europe." Additionally, the Al-Awda-Right of Return Coalition has called for a "major show of pro-Palestinian support" during the protest, emphasizing the need to "bring back Palestine to the front page of the anti-war sentiment" (sic).
January 28 - New Brunswick, New Jersey
Day of Action for Divestment
Sponsored by New Jersey Solidarity. The event, which is scheduled to include a rally and press conference, will feature International Solidarity Movement co-founders, Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro.
The event is part of a campaign to pressure US universities to divest from Israel. The slogan on the protest flier is “Break the chains! Divest from Israel!” The graphic on the flier features hands shackled in US dollars; as the dollar shackles are smashed a hand is raised with the victory sign.
January 18 - Washington, DC & San Francisco, CA
National March to Demand: No War Against Iraq
Primarily organized by the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition, which was created by the New York-based International Action Center to protest the bombing of Afghanistan. ANSWER selected January 18 for its rally in order to symbolically "embrace the true legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King birthday."
Since September 2001, ANSWER has organized many antiwar protests around the country. The largest and most disturbing was on April 20, 2002 in Washington, D.C. Called the "National March for Palestine Against War and Racism," the massive rally was attended by approximately 200,000 people, including thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. The rally served as a forum for supporting violence and terror organizations, and for a proliferation of anti-Semitic expression. ANSWER has played a key role in bringing Arab and Muslim Groups into the anti-war and anti-racism movements, which has led to extreme invective against Israel during protests. Among the groups that have endorsed ANSWER events and participated in rallies are Al-Awda and the Islamic Association for Palestine - groups that have actively engaged in anti-Israel boycott campaigns.
Among the various groups that have endorsed the demonstrations are the Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University chapters of Free Palestine Now!, which issued a call to "all those concerned with the plight of the Palestinian people" to join ANSWER's rally. As they see it, "Any US led attack on Iraq will be used as an excuse for the Israeli government led by the war criminal Ariel Sharon to implement the policy of 'transfer' of the Palestinian inhabitants of the occupied territories."
A wide range of antiwar protestors attended ANSWER’s January 18 rallies in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, with crowds estimated by police to be about 100,000 at each event (police estimates ranged from 50,000 to 150,000 at the San Francisco rally). Participants included many pro-Palestinian supporters, anti-capitalist demonstrators and other special interest groups. Unlike at past ANSWER rallies, the anti-Israel presence was not large and speakers and participants focused on protesting the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.
In San Francisco, some protestors did wave placards with messages attacking Israel, such as “Stop funding the killing of innocent Palestinians” and “Israel is the axis of evil.” A few were anti-Semitic: “Get Israel out of US Congress” and “I want you to die for Israel. Israel sings: Onward Christian Soldiers...” However, these messages were infrequent and did not characterize the tone of the main rally. A breakaway protest of anti-capitalists and anarchists marched through San Francisco’s financial district, vandalizing storefronts to protest capitalism.
In Washington, D.C., references to the occupation of Palestine were occasionally disturbing, including a pamphlet distributed by the International Workers Party titled “Israel’s Genocidal Blitzkrieg.” But, as in San Francisco, the anti-Israel presence was small, and speakers and participants focused on preventing war in Iraq and protesting the Bush administration.
January 13 - Los Angeles, CA
Protest Against Henry Kissinger And Shimon Peres
Organized by the Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District and endorsed by the International ANSWER Coalition and a host of other anti-war, anti-globalization, and single issue groups. ANSWER's announcement, publicizing the event, declared that Henry Kissinger "is an unrepentant warmonger who bears responsibility for much bloodshed throughout the world, and Shimon Peres, who supports (and has always supported) Israel's brutal and illegal occupation of Palestinian land and suppression and murder of Palestinian people" is a war criminal as well.
Beginning January 4, Southern US
- According to the protestors, only 68 people showed up at the high point of the demonstration. Protesters held a poster depicting former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding a bloody butcher knife with the caption "THIS IS RELIGION?" Another banner read: "Occupation is Terrorism."
The Palestine Truth Tour 2003
Sponsored by the International Solidarity Movement and made up of speakers from various anti-Israel activist groups. The tour, which began on January 4 in Richmond, VA, is scheduled to run primarily in the South. The stated goal "is to counter media distortion with first-hand reports, and to connect activists and other concerned or interested people around the country with ways to get active and involved." In addition to first-hand reports from International Solidarity Movement activists, the tour features speakers from SUSTAIN (Stop US Tax Aid to Israel Now), Jews Against the Occupation, the student divestment movement, and "info" from Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right of Return Coalition.
Tour schedule: (Jan 4: Richmond, VA, Jan 5: Asheville, NC, Jan 6: Athens, GA, Jan 7: Atlanta, GA, Jan 8: Orlando, FL, Jan 9: Tampa, FL, Jan 10: Gainesville, FL, Jan 11: Northern Florida, Jan 12: Jackson, MS, Jan 13: New Orleans, LA, Jan 14: Houston, TX, Jan 15: Austin TX, Jan 16: Dallas, TX, Jan 18: Albuquerque, NM, Jan 19: Phoenix, AZ, Jan 23: San Francisco, CA)
- The tour's January 13 meeting was held at the Zeitgeist Multi-disciplinary Arts Center in New Orleans. George Qassis of the International Solidarity Movement was the main speaker. Qassis, who lives near Bethlehem, said, "The problem is not with the suicide bomber. The problem is with the 40 years of Israeli occupation." Five more tour dates remain.