A little more than 1100 days after the end of Operation Cast Lead, Israel has again found it necessary to confront rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at its civilians. On November 14, Israel assassinated Hamas’s military leader and began targeted operations to destroy the ammunition and infrastructure of various Gaza-based terrorist organizations. Now, as was the case in 2008–9, anti-Israel groups across the United States have immediately sprung into action and have organized petitions and demonstrations to protest Israel’s military operations. More than 70 anti-Israel protests have already taken place across the country.
But while the current rallies and demonstrations have thus far contained similarly extreme messages to those held four years ago – including expressions of support for terrorism, accusations of Israeli “genocide” and copious comparisons of Israelis to Nazis – much has changed as well.
Increased Presence and Organizational Prowess of Jewish Anti-Zionists
Domestic Jewish anti-Zionist groups like Jewish Voice for Peace have become far more organized in the past two or three years and have mobilized in the last few days to respond to Israel’s operation, called Operation Pillar of Defense. While JVP played a marginal role at best during the 2008–9 war (there is evidence of their participation in a total of three anti-Israel protests), JVP has been one of the leading organizers of anti-Israel demonstrations against the current Israeli operations. The group has already helped organize protests in Olympia, Washington; Cincinnati, Ohio; Berkeley, California and Asheville, North Carolina.
The JVP chapter in Boston also planned to protest a pro-Israel rally that took place at a local synagogue on Monday, saying in a press release that the pro-Israel event “claims to be a gathering for peace and the safety of the people and children of Israel, but JVP calls out this event for what it truly is: a pro-war rally that falsely aims to represent the Jewish community.” The statement also included remarks by a leader of JVP in Boston who said, “We stand here because while we grieve the loss of Israeli life, our hearts are also with the people of Gaza… Not so long ago it was Jewish deaths that were discounted and ignored,” an implicit comparison between the current situation and the Nazi Holocaust.
A member of JVP’s Rabbinical Council, Brant Rosen, was one of the scheduled speakers at an anti-Israel protest on Monday in Chicago.
In addition to JVP, anti-Israel Jews have appeared at other rallies across the country, including at a protest in Boston where activists held a large banner that read “Jews For Intifada” and in New York where two individuals held signs that read, “Israelis Against the Gaza Massacre.”
Occupy Wall Street Gets Involved
The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement did not exist during the 2008–9 Gaza War. In the latest conflict, however, the social protest movement, with its built-in organizational structure and messaging capabilities, has proved to be extremely beneficial for the anti-Israel movement. Activists who identify with OWS have participated in several of the anti-Israel rallies that have been taking place, including two events in the Florida area. At one such protest in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, a member of Occupy Fort Lauderdale who attended the protest expressed implicit support for violent resistance against Israel, saying “The oppressed have the right to fight back by any means they have,” in an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Two days earlier, an anti-Israel rally in Boston was co-sponsored by Occupy Boston (which has previously organized anti-Israel events including a sit-in at the Israeli Consulate last November) and featured a sign that read, “Un-Occupy Palestine.”
A working group affiliated with OWS has also been using its Facebook page to disseminate information about protests taking place internationally and ways to “help” Gaza by joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. And the website for the New York continent of OWS has posted a list of all the protests taking place as well.
The involvement of local Occupy groups in anti-Israel activity does not appear to be an official position by the national Occupy Wall Street Movement, however, which has not issued any statement about the latest round of conflict on its Web site or social media pages.