Anti-occupation activists protest a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Thursday 8 July, 2010. [Photo: Jared Malsin
– Some four hundred people held dueling protests for and against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he spoke the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Thursday.
Police hustled protesters behind two sets of wooden barricades, across Park Avenue from the Council, giving noticeably more hassle to the pro-Palestinian group.
On the pro-Palestinian side, a lively group marched up and down the sidewalk, chanting “Netanyahu, you can’t hide/your support for Apartheid,” and “Obama, it’s time/stop Israeli war crimes.” They held signs saying “End the siege on Gaza” and “End your silence.”
Bob Carpenter, an activist with the group Veterans for Peace told Palestine Note that he attended the demonstration because “I’m a Jew, and as a Jew, Israel embarrasses me.”
He pointed to Israel’s deadly assault May 31 on a convoy of ships carrying aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip. “The attack on the flotilla in international waters, that was something that can’t be accepted by humanity, and it was condemned by almost every country, except this one, the United States.”
“I’m not anti-Israel,” he said, “I believe that everyone can live together.” But he said American military aid to Israel “has to stop. There has to be a new vision.”
A protester named Fred Bergen, from the Bronx, said, “I’m outraged by the continuous siege of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.” He said he attended the protest to show his opposition to “US imperial support for Israel.”
The pro-Palestinian side was joined by a contingent of members of the anti-Zionist Hasidic sect Neturei Karta, dressed in traditional black ultra-Orthodox garb and chanting “Judaism yes, Zionism no, the state of Israel must go.”
Across 68th street, one of the pro-Israeli demonstrators puzzled at the Neturei Karta, saying, “the Palestinians will kill them faster than we will.”
Several members of the pro-Israeli crowd, which diminished after an hour, said Israel should be allowed to build settlements in the West Bank and defended the attack on the Gaza flotilla.
Dov Hikind, a member of the New York City Council said he faulted President Barack Obama, who met Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday, for placing “continuous pressure on Israel.” He said that while the tone of Tuesday’s meeting was warm, he was appalled at what he said was poor treatment when Netanyahu visited in March, with no photo-op and no press conference. “Dictators from third world countries would have treated [Netanyahu] better,” he said of Obama.
He said the flotilla raid was “unfortunate” but that the Gaza blockade is justified in order to “stop weapons from getting to Hamas.”
Asked what he would say to the pro-Palestinian demonstrators across the street, Hikind said he was not opposed to all of them but, “There are people on the other side of this issue who support terrorism and they can go to hell.”
One protester on the Pro-Israeli side held a sign saying “Israel is great” and a black tee shirt emblazoned with a picture of a pistol and and the words “Don’t mess with the Mossad,” referring to the Israeli spy agency. He told Palestine Note: “Israel is great for a number of reasons. First of all it provides protection to gays and bisexuals. Me, I’m bisexual. I’ve dated a few guys, and in Arab countries I’d be in jail for that.”