Pro, anti-Israel activists rally in NYC over raid

Hundreds gather in support of Israel over flotilla raid condemnation amid calls to boycott Israel by opposing demonstrations.

June 2, 2010 06:47
3 minute read.
Pro, anti-Israel activists rally in NYC over raid

pro israel rally new york 248 ap. (photo credit: AP)


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WASHINGTON – Hundreds of pro-Israel activists were expected to gather in New York on Tuesday night to voice their strong support for the Jewish state in the face of international condemnation over the deadly Gaza flotilla confrontation.

“We will gather to stand united with the State of Israel, and to let President Obama, and the world know that we will not sit silently as Israel is attacked by her enemies,” declared Rabbi Mordechai Tokarsky, chairman of the Russian American Jewish Experience, which is sponsoring the rally scheduled to take place across from the Turkish Consulate.

A protest against Israel is also planned for Tuesday night, this one near the Israeli Consulate, planned by the  grassroots coalition, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel.

The group held a similar event in Times Square on Monday. The organizers estimate that hundreds of demonstrators attended, carrying signs reading “End the siege on Gaza” and “Palestinians Hunger for Justice.”

“The story of hope has turned to tragedy and outrage,” said one organizer, Felice Gelman.

In addition to those heading to Tuesday’s pro-Israel gathering, many Jewish groups put out statements Monday and Tuesday backing Israel.

The responses exposed fault lines in Jewish community activism, with several of the large mainstream groups defending Israel while two major progressive organizations called for an investigation into the incident.

The American Jewish Committee, one of the first to respond, began its statement by squarely blaming those on the boats for the bloodshed. It condemned the “pro-Hamas ‘Free Gaza’ movement and its supporters for deliberately provoking a violent confrontation with the Israeli Navy in its attempt to sail a flotilla of ships to Gaza.”

B’nai B’rith International used similar language in its statement: “The provocation by a pro-Hamas group hiding behind a humanitarian mantle as its ships sailed toward Gaza on May 31 was tragic and avoidable. This latest attempt by pro-Palestinian terrorists to delegitimize Israel is an extreme example of the lengths anti-Israel groups will go to in order to destroy the Jewish state.”

And the Jewish Community Relations Council, in addition to distributing a fact sheet with information supportive of Israel’s version of events, stressed that “Israel has the right of any sovereign nation to protect its citizens, and preventing unsupervised shipments to Hamas-controlled Gaza is an essential part of that self-defense.”

In contrast, J Street and Americans for Peace Now focused on expressing their condolences for those killed and urging investigations of the event. Both groups called for Israel, rather than an international body, to conduct these investigations as well as reassess its policy of blockading the Gaza Strip.

“We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery,” J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami said Monday in a statement. “We hope that leaders on all sides will take immediate steps to ensure that this incident does not escalate into a broader round of violence – in Israel, in Gaza, or in the region.”

He added, “This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza.”

“Clearly, IDF soldiers have the right to defend themselves, but this mission was, from the outset, terribly flawed,” APN President Debra DeLee said in a statement. “The fact that Israel finds itself in this difficult situation today underscores the extent to which Israel’s continued policy of blockading Gaza in untenable and increasingly indefensible.”

The organization also “express[ed] outrage at the way Israel’s government is dealing with people who challenge its policies.”

E.B. Solomont contributed to this report.

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