For some Upper West Side residents, their usual stroll down Broadway this evening had a surprise: a group of 20 New York Jews denouncing Israel’s occupation of Palestine were standing with thought-provoking signs while a few passed out flyers.
Challenging the assumption that all Jews support Israel no matter what, the action, organized by Jews Say No, called on Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza and to end the longest running military occupation in recent history. The group was founded last year during Israel’s war on Gaza.
“Too often, Jews are seen as supporters of Israel. We’re here to say that not all Jews support what Israel is doing in the West Bank, in Gaza, and inside Israel,” said Hannah Mermelstein, an activist with Adalah NY who recently returned from Palestine.
Signs decrying the slur that Jews who speak out against Israel’s occupation are “self-hating” were prevalent, while the hundreds of flyers that were passed out gave information on the siege of Gaza, the illegal separation wall in the West Bank, Israel’s routine use of collective punishment on Palestinians, and how to get involved with anti-occupation activism.
“I’m here to tell not only Jews but the world that the oppression of Palestinians is akin to the oppression of us all,” said Nic Abramson, a participant in the recent Gaza Freedom March.
The demonstration was met with varied responses from passers-by in a city that includes nearly a million Jews. While there was hostility and anger directed at the protestors, Donna Nevel, an organizer with Jews Say No, said that many of the responses were positive. One Jewish father applauded the action, saying that “seeing you all here is the best lesson I could give my child,” who attends a Jewish day school.
Observers have taken notice at the seeming surge of Jewish anti-occupation activism since the brutal Israeli onslaught of Gaza, which killed nearly 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, and resulted in widespread destruction.
“I believe genocide is being committed on the people of Gaza, and I’m paying for it and it’s in my name,” said Fran Korotzer, a member of Jews Say No.
The United Nations’ Goldstone Commission report, authored by a respected South African jurist who is a Zionist Jew, concluded that “Operation Cast Lead” “was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”
“In the last year, there has been an opening,” said Nevel. “I think what’s different is that people are walking by and asking questions. Israel can’t hide anymore.”