As the war between Hamas terrorist forces in Gaza and the sovereign state of Israel escalated last week, the tensions of the Middle East conflict exploded in the streets of New York City on Thursday evening, November 15, as one group of demonstrators assembled to express their antipathy towards the Jewish state, while another voiced their support for Israel’s right to self- defense.
Chanting, “Netanyahu you will learn, refugees will return” and “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes,” about 600 people representing a panoply of pro-Hamas organizations including Adalah-NY, Al-Awda NY, American Muslims for Palestine, and Students for Justice in Palestine gathered outside the Israeli Consulate on New York’s East Side in a rancorous demonstration directed at Israel.
“The criminal and racist Zionist regime must stop their airstrikes on innocent Palestinian civilians,” said Hussein Yacub, a junior at Columbia University and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine. “I am here today, just like these hundreds of supporters of Palestine, to tell the world that the illegitimate Zionist occupying force is to blame for these hostilities. If the Zionist aggressors would lift the blockade from Gaza and allow basic essentials to be brought to the Palestinian residents of Gaza, we all wouldn’t be here today. They are intentionally starving our people, denying them basic healthcare, education and other services.”
Holding aloft signs saying, “Stop Israeli Genocide in Gaza” and “End All US Aid to the Racist State of Israel,” the demonstrators called for the United Nations Security Council to issue resolutions condemning Israel for launching air strikes in Gaza and the end of “the constant endorsements and support of the United States and its Western allies for Israeli war crimes and aggression.”
Referring to the Hamas military leader who was assassinated by Israel last week, Sarah Ibrahimi, a member of American Muslims for Palestine, stated, “Ahmed al-Jabari was a hero to the Palestinian people; a righteous fighter for justice and freedom, and his blood will be revenged.” Ibrahimi then led the group’s followers in the chant, “There is only one solution; Revolution, Revolution” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free.”
Several Jewish supporters of Hamas also joined the demonstration, including Maya Wind, an Israeli who refused to serve in the military and spent a few weeks in detention and forty days in military prison for her refusal. She held a sign saying, “Israelis Against the Gaza Massacre” and called for the Jewish character of the State of Israel to be replaced with a bi-national democracy in which “Palestinians have equal rights.” Joining her were members of the notoriously anti-Zionist Chareidi organization Neturei Karta, for whom the concept of a modern independent Jewish state is strictly prohibited by Torah law.
Across the street from the anti-Israel contingent, over 100 pro-Israel counter-protestors staged a passionate demonstration of support for “Israel’s right to defend herself.” Led by renowned Jewish activist Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, protestors displayed huge Israeli flags and carried posters saying, “Israel Wants Peace, Hamas Wants Terror” and “Am Yisroel Chai” (the people of Israel live). “The most fundamental obligation of any country is to protect its citizens and that’s exactly what Israel is doing,” declared Rabbi Weiss. He added that, “We, the Jewish people, do not celebrate when our enemies are defeated. The Israel Defense Forces are the most moral army in the world and we are exceptionally proud of each and every one of them.”
Hoping that a ceasefire agreement can be reached between Hamas and Israel, Rabbi Weiss said that he would not like to see an Israeli ground offensive because of “the heavy casualties that could be incurred.” Referencing his grandchildren who live in Israel, Rabbi Weiss said, “Each time I speak with them, I end the call by saying, “Hashem Yishmor” (G-d should guard you) and let me tell you, chevra, that it is only through the power of Hashem that we have survived the persecutions throughout the ages, and it will only be through Hashem that we will survive this onslaught of Hamas rockets as well.”
Dr. Marvin Belsky, a retired physician from the Upper West Side and spokesperson for the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (HRCARI) said, “America is being defended on the front line by Israel. When Israel defeats such pernicious organizations as Hamas who represent an existential threat not only to themselves but to America as well, then Israel is thusly defending the cherished American values of peace, liberty, justice, democracy and freedom, and should have unanimous international support.”
“Global Jihad must be defeated,” intoned Manhattan resident Linda Rivera, a non-Jewish supporter of Israel. “I am here as a defender of freedom and human rights and the State of Israel that champions these concepts,” she said. Speaking of a possible Israel ground assault in Gaza, Ms. Rivera said, “I wish that the Israeli army would just go into Gaza without any apologies and cut the electrical grid and water supply and clean out these terrorist miscreants once and for all. If the Israeli army shows weakness or any kind of hesitation at this juncture, then they are emboldening our enemies. They will come back again like a malignant cancer if we don’t cut them out permanently.”
Prior to the conclusion of the demonstration, the pro-Israel demonstrators sang songs of peace and were led in the recitation of Psalm 121 which speaks of King David’s complete faith and trust in the G-d of Israel. “I raise my eyes to the mountains, from whence will come my help? My help is from Hashem (G-d), Maker of heaven and earth.”