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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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