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November 20, 2012 1

The Anti-Israel Movement Then and Now: What has Changed Since Operation Cast Lead?

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.

What’s Dif­fer­ent?

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.

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September 24, 2012 0

Anti-Israel Teach-in Held During Occupy Wall Street “Free University Week”

A work­ing group affil­i­ated with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) move­ment held a teach-in over the week­end on advo­cat­ing for and sup­port­ing Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel. The group, known as the “Global Jus­tice Work­ing Group,” used the ses­sion to demo­nize Israel and to demon­strate how the pro-BDS agenda goes hand-in-hand with the goals of OWS.

A sign at the Occupy BDS teach-in New York

The event was held on Sat­ur­day, Sep­tem­ber 22, as part of an OWS-organized week­long pro­gram in New York called “Free Uni­ver­sity Week.”

Speak­ers dur­ing the event con­demned Israel as a “Euro­pean set­tler move­ment” and Israeli pol­icy as extremely oppres­sive. Riham Bargh­outi, a found­ing mem­ber of the Pales­tin­ian Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (PACBI) and activist with Adalah-NY, a local pro-boycott group, described the sit­u­a­tion for Pales­tini­ans as a “strug­gle of indige­nous peo­ple against col­o­niz­ing set­tler tac­tics.” Another speaker accused Israel of hav­ing “vio­lated every arti­cle in the 4th Geneva Con­ven­tion.” The speak­ers rep­re­sented a vari­ety of domes­tic anti-Israel groups, includ­ing Adalah-NY, Punks against Apartheid, New York­ers against the Cornell-Technion Part­ner­ship and CODEPINK’s “Stolen Beauty” cam­paign, which calls for a boy­cott of AHAVA products.

The activists also repeat­edly sought to demon­strate that  the goals of OWS and the BDS move­ment are inter­con­nected. One OWS speaker, for exam­ple, warned the par­tic­i­pants that Israel trains Amer­i­can law enforce­ment and equips police with weaponry and riot con­trol tools. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Occupy Oak­land move­ment then delib­er­ately “con­nected the dots,” alleg­ing that the “same type of tear gas being used against them [Occupy Oak­land] is being used against the Palestinians.”

Saturday’s event rep­re­sents the lat­est effort by anti-Israel activists to inject their cause into the now year-old OWS social protest move­ment. Up until now, these efforts – which included wav­ing anti-Israel signs and chant­ing anti-Israel slo­gans at OWS demon­stra­tions – were not offi­cially sanc­tioned by OWS or any of its affil­i­ated groups. In what could be a pos­si­ble shift, the teach-in was spon­sored by a group for­mally tied to OWS and was pro­moted on the offi­cial New York Gen­eral Assem­bly web­site, which hosts con­tent from “dozens of groups work­ing together to orga­nize and set the vision for the #occu­py­wall­street move­ment.

While one might imag­ine that a group called “Global Jus­tice Work­ing Group” would focus on a vari­ety of issues of global injus­tice, the group seems to main­tain a sin­gu­lar focus on crit­i­ciz­ing Israel. Indeed, its Face­book page and web­site are reg­u­larly updated with anti-Israel con­tent, includ­ing claims that Israeli check­points are a “tool of sup­pres­sion” and calls for the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers to refuse to per­form in Israel. [The con­cert was held as planned on Sep­tem­ber 10.]

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March 29, 2012 0

Israeli Knesset Members Shouted Down by Brandeis Students

Anti-Israel activists, includ­ing mem­bers of Bran­deis University’s Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP), inter­rupted a pre­sen­ta­tion by five Israeli Knes­set mem­bers, includ­ing an Israeli-Arab MK, on Mon­day.
After the event began, the stu­dents stood up and revealed t-shirts with the word “apartheid” writ­ten in Hebrew and began shout­ing, “Israel is an apartheid state” and “The Knes­set is an apartheid par­lia­ment.” They were sub­se­quently removed from the event, which was tak­ing place at a local syn­a­gogue in New­ton, Massachusetts. 
The event, titled “A Dis­cus­sion on Israel and the Dias­pora,” was co-sponsored by Bran­deis Uni­ver­sity and the Rud­er­man Fam­ily Foun­da­tion in an effort to strengthen the rela­tion­ship between Israeli gov­ern­ment offi­cials and the Amer­i­can Jew­ish community. 

The dis­rup­tion is notable for two rea­sons. The first is that Bran­deis SJP described the action on its blog as a sig­nal that Israeli Knes­set mem­bers are “not wel­come by stu­dents at Bran­deis Uni­ver­sity.” It is, how­ever, fairly cer­tain that many Bran­deis stu­dents do wel­come Israeli politi­cians, and that only an infin­i­tes­i­mal per­cent­age of stu­dents engage in and sup­port these dis­rup­tive tac­tics. For some rea­son, it seems that the pro­test­ers believe their inter­ests (a minor­ity view) should trump those of the majority.
The sec­ond point to note is that the indi­vid­u­als involved pro­moted their dis­rup­tion as a “mic check” and labeled the action as “Occupy the Knes­set!” This lan­guage evokes (and refers to tac­tics used by) the Occupy Wall Street move­ment and other Occupy protests that took place around the U.S. last sum­mer. Anti-Israel groups have con­sis­tently tried to seize on the momen­tum of the pop­u­lar social protest move­ment and apply its tac­tics to anti-Israel efforts.

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