An activist looks toward a guitar as she and others sing during a candle light vigil on the perimeters of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 26, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PHILADELPHIA – An Israeli flag in flames on the streets of Philadelphia took the Democratic Party by surprise on Tuesday night, prompting a strong response from senior advisers to Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, who called for his rival to denounce the vandalism.
Protesters shouted “Long live the intifada” as the flag burned – an explicit call to violence against Israelis, in direct contravention of the Democratic Party platform agreed upon here earlier this week.
Protests have shrunk substantially since the first night of the convention, when thousands of liberal activists crisscrossed the city to rally against their presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, and for a slate of decades-old, stubborn causes, from civil rights to climate change and, of course, the freedom of Palestinians.
That movement blended in with Black Lives Matter protests with the organizational aid of Code Pink, a blanket anti-war organization; the Arab American Institute; and the Philadelphia Arab American Host Committee, which organized several events throughout the Democratic National Convention this week.
At a block party in the heart of South Philly, live Arab music played as guests smoked hookahs and discussed their lack of progress: “It’s the Israeli lobby, man, it’s just too powerful,” said one guest, who asked not to be named.
Code Pink asked on Twitter: “Why are Democrats progressive except for Palestine,” before organizing a protest at city hall. Prof. Cornel West, a democratic socialist intellectual and an advocate for the cause, showed up at the rally in solidarity and acknowledged that his fight for new language in the party platform was lost this year.
Efforts to pacify these protesters organized by J Street, a Democrat-oriented group, have largely been rebuffed: Volunteers tried handing out T-shirts reading “Pro-Israel, pro-peace,” with little success.
“Unfortunately, anti-Israel activists have always been part of these sorts of protests,” said Aaron Keyak, a Jewish Democratic consultant attending the Democratic convention.
“And when these protests happen, I haven’t seen any more anti-Israel activity than I’ve seen in the past – there are simply more protests at both conventions this year.”
One of Trump’s top two Israel advisers, Jason Greenblatt, noted that Palestinian flags were flying inside the convention arena itself.
Clinton has “failed to condemn the desecration of the American and Israeli flags and the glorification of the Palestinian intifada mere feet away from their convention hall,” Greenblatt said in a statement on Wednesday. “Their silence is deafening.”
The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign were not immediately available for comment.
“Look, there’s always a segment of these protests that are vehemently anti-Israel and would burn a flag if they had one,” Keyak said. “These just went ahead and did it.”