Anti-Israel Protests -- 2005
Posted: May 13, 2005
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, major protest organizations have used antiwar demonstrations as a forum for criticizing Israel's policies. Although most protestors are motivated by genuine opposition to war, anti-Israel sentiment has become so pervasive among antiwar organizers that criticism of Israel now saturates the movement's language.
During much of 2004, however, criticism of Israel was blunted by the all-out effort to defeat President George W. Bush in his re-election bid. In addition, attacking Israel lost appeal because of the growing optimism that Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the death of longtime Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat provided a unique opportunity for achieving peace.
Consequently, events directly targeting Israeli policies and the possibility of a two-state solution are often taking place outside of antiwar protests – on university campuses, for instance.
Large protests will continue to provide opportunities for radical anti-Israel activists to spread their message, however. The U.S. presence in Iraq incites Israel's critics, as will any conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
ADL does not consider criticism of Israel to be innately anti-Semitic or illegitimate. But at some protests, criticism takes the form of denying Israel's right to exist and endorsing violent resistance and terrorism. Listed below are events – 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, September 24, 2005 – Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle
Sponsored by ANSWER
ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) is organizing rallies in several cities for Saturday, September 24, 2005, to oppose the occupation of Iraq. A national rally will be held in Washington, D.C.; regional rallies will be held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Support for the "Palestinian right of return" is a secondary theme of the rallies.
Several anti-Israel groups are on the ANSWER Steering Committee planning the rallies, including the Free Palestine Alliance, Muslim Students Association, Al-Awda Palestine Right of Return Coalition, New Jersey Solidarity, and the International Socialist Organization.
In the past few years, ANSWER has organized anti-war demonstrations that have attracted tens of thousands of protesters. Some of its rallies have featured potent anti-Israel messages and support for Palestinian terrorism, and have created environments that encouraged expressions of anti-Semitism. The largest and most disturbing of these was the April 20, 2002, Washington DC demonstration called the "National March for Palestine Against War and Racism."
Friday May 6, 2005—New York City
Al Nakba protest outside the Israeli mission to the United Nations
Sponsored by the Islamic Thinkers Society, Neturei Karta, New Jersey Solidarity, and the International Action Center. Over one hundred radical Islamists, joined by small numbers of Neturei Karta (a fringe, anti-Zionist Jewish group) and other anti-Israel activists, protested outside the Israeli mission to the United Nations on May 6 in commemoration of "Al Nakba" -- the "catastrophe" of Israeli independence.
About a dozen members of the Islamic Thinkers Society, an Islamist group, held placards equating Nazi and Israeli symbols; other signs were emblazoned with the symbol of the Hamas terrorist group, and proclaimed that "Palestine is Islamic Land." One of the slogans shouted by the crowd in Arabic was the anti-Jewish slogan: "Khaibar, Khaibar ya Yahud, jaysh Muhammad sawfa ya'ud!" evoking the Koran's account of a battle between the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the Jews of the town of Khaibar, which resulted in the subjugation of the Jews of Arabia.
A montage of posters displayed at the May 6 rally.|
The Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS) appears to be a pseudonym or an offshoot of the British-based Al Muhajiroun, a now-disbanded radical Islamic group that supported terrorism and the imposition of Islamic hegemony worldwide. It is noteworthy that the Islamic Thinkers Society collaborated with other Muslim organizations for this event, which attracted a much larger contingent of Islamists than previous demonstrations conducted by the group.
Only about 25 members of Neturei Karta were present, but their attendance gave the visual impression that religious Jews share the view that Israel's creation was a "catastrophe." In its pre-protest publicity, the Neturei Karta promoted the inflammatory Arab propaganda claim that right-wing Zionists intend to storm the Temple Mount and "attack" and "destroy" the Al-Aqsa mosque.
NJ Solidarity and the International Action Center called for leftist activists to attend the event, but few attended besides NJ Solidarity leader Charlotte Kates.
The explicitly Islamist character of the protest sets it apart from most other anti-Israel demonstrations, which usually stress Palestinian nationalism rather than religion. Though this religious focus may be partly explained by the event's theme of "defending" the Al Aqsa Mosque, future manifestations of Islamism in the anti-Israel protest movement would indicate a disturbing trend.
Thursday, January 20, 2005 – Washington, D.C.
Anti-Inauguration Antiwar Protests
Sponsored by ANSWER and the D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN)
Multiple antiwar rallies were organized to protest of President Bush's inauguration parade in Washington, D.C. ANSWER organized demonstrations in Washington as well as in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. The group is well known for its radical anti-Israel platform and criticized U.S. support for Israel in fliers for the rallies.
DAWN also held an antiwar rally and march in Washington; its event was endorsed by United for Peace and Justice and other local antiwar and progressive groups. While more moderate than ANSWER, DAWN is highly critical of Israel. On January 21, it protested think-tanks associated with neoconservative political ideas.
However, concerns that the protests would showcase anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messages were not realized. There were some anti-Israel messages and Nazi imagery, but the nearly exclusive target of the protests was the Bush Administration.
January 16, 2005 – Berkeley, California
Pro-Palestinian Counter-protest against Rally Against Global Terrorism
Sponsored by Justice in Palestine Coalition and the Middle East Children's Alliance
A rally against global terrorism sponsored by Berkeley's Israeli Action Center, a pro-Israel organization, elicited a counter-protest by pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel groups that featured explicit anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist messages.
The anti-terror rally was planned after U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D- CA ), whose district includes Berkeley, opposed a House resolution defending Israel's security fence. A crowd of more than 500 people gathered in Martin Luther King, Jr., park, where organizers had brought an Israeli bus blown up by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem last year, an attack that killed 11 people and injured 45.
Across the street, a sizeable minority of more than 200 counter-demonstrators held signs that accused Israel of genocide and – in a modern variation of the blood libel – of stealing Palestinian organs. Several held signs supporting Palestinian terrorism.
Counter-protestors also chanted anti-Semitic and pro-terror lyrics: "One, three, five, seven, all our martyrs go to heaven! Two, four, six, eight, we are martyrs, we can't wait!" "Don't believe the news, it's controlled by the Jews!" In addition, several demonstrators carrying Palestinian flags marched into the pro-Israel crowd and began fighting. Police quickly interceded.