On January 11, an estimated 10,000 people rallied in front of the Israeli consulate in midtown New York in support of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip. The rally, which was organized by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York in cooperation with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, featured speeches by New York’s most senior lawmakers. While the crowd was riled to righteous anger by speeches about Hamas evildoers, the event was a festive affair that began and ended with singing and joyous dancing.
Sen. Chuck Schumer highlighted Israel’s supposed humanitarian methods of warfare by pointing to its text messaging of certain Gaza Strip residents urging them to vacate their homes before Israeli forces bombed them. “What other country would do that?” Schumer shouted from the podium. Gov. David Paterson appeared on stage wearing one of the red hats distributed to demonstrators as symbols of the red alerts some residents of Israel endure when Palestinian groups fire rockets their way. Paterson cited the many Qasam rockets that have fallen on Israel as a justification for the country’s operations in Gaza, a military assault that has resulted in over 800 casualties and thousands of injuries.
Then Paterson highlighted the anti-Semitism that has followed in the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza, highlighting the beating of a teen-age girl in France. “This kind of anger and hatred spreads like a disease,” Paterson said, “and one thing I’ve always pointed out is there’s no place for hate in the Empire State.”
But hatred was plentiful at the rally Paterson addressed. Right in front of the stage, a man held a banner reading, “Islam Is A Death Cult.” Rally attendees described the people of Gaza to me as a “cancer,” called for Israel to “wipe them all out,” insisting, “They are forcing us to kill their children in order to defend our own children.” A young woman told me, “Those who die are suffering God’s wrath.” “They are not distinguishing between civilians and military, so why should we?” said a member of the group of messianic Orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch group that flocked to the rally.
No one I spoke to could seem to find any circumstance in which they would begin to question Israel’s war. No number of civilian deaths, no displays of human suffering — nothing could deter their enthusiasm for attacking one of the most vulnerable populations in the world with the world’s most advanced weaponry. There are no limits, no matter what Israel does, no matter how it does it.
The rally reminded me of a passage from “The Holocaust Is Over, We Must Rise From Its Ashes,” a powerful new book by former Israeli Knesset speaker and ex-Jewish National Fund chairman Avraham Burg:
“If you are a bad person, a whining enemy or a strong-arm occupier, you are not my brother, even if you are circumcised, observe the Sabbath, and do mitzvahs. If your scarf covers every hair on your head for modesty, you give alms and do charity, but what is under your scarf is dedicated to the sanctity of Jewish land, taking precedence over the sanctity of human life, whosever life that is, then your are not my sister. You might be my enemy. A good Arab or a righteous gentile will be a brother or sister to me. A wicked man, even of Jewish descent, is my adversary, and I would stand on the other side of the barricade and fight him to the end.”