Friday, November 19, 2004

Anti-Israel Crowd Gets Ugly at San Francisco Counter-Protest

Anti-Israel Crowd Gets Ugly at San Francisco Counter-Protest
Written by Cinnamon Stillwell

For over a year now, an ongoing battle between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups has taken place in the streets of San Francisco. Long used to running the show, the anti-Israel crowd is now routinely counter-protested by groups like San Francisco Voice for Israel and ProtestWarrior.com. And judging by the behavior at last weekend’s counter-protest, they’re not too happy about it. The following after-report from San Francisco Voice for Israel provides the details.

They say that when a caged rat is cornered, it lashes out. A perfect example of this was the Justice In Palestine rally on Saturday, November 13, at the 24th and Mission BART station plaza.

It had not been a good couple of weeks for the anti-Israel forces. Their preferred candidate for president of the United States, Ralph Nader, had gone down to humiliating defeat, achieving a mere 0.5% of the vote. Furthering their angst, master terrorist and father of the Palestinian people, Yassir Arafat, had died of a mysterious illness in a French hospital, and no western head of state came to his funeral. Additionally, newspapers were full of reports of Arafat's corruption and how he fleeced the Palestinian people of billions of dollars.

We knew the anti-Israel crowd was particularly on edge because the week before a Palestinian student group (GUPS) at San Francisco State University violently attacked members of a Republican student organization. Not just with words, but also by throwing food, attempting to destroy the table, and even physical attacks.

With this in mind, we were not surprised when the intimidation started almost immediately as we were setting up at the BART station plaza. We were instantly surrounded by Palestinian flags to the front, and the ''Jews for a Free Palestine'' sign to the back. Undeterred, we raised our Israeli and American flags, put out flyers, and even offered Israeli chocolates, cookies, and tea to anyone who wanted them, from whatever political perspective.

As we prepared to fire up some music, one of their people came over and boasted of the volume capabilities of their own sound system and if we even tried to play music, they would ''shut us down.'' We subsequently discovered that they had even taken the precaution of obtaining an exclusive sound permit to forbid any other type of amplified sound in the plaza!

There were about one hundred of them in total. They comprised the usual collection of Stalinists and other factions from the far left, along with their Arab supporters. Conspicuously absent were the anti-Semitic signs and statements we have come to expect at these events. We numbered roughly 25, with many teenagers, and a handful of Israelis.

Soon it was time for them to bring out their speakers. As this was the ''Targets of the Empire'' rally, they spoke on everything from the San Francisco Hotel Union strike, Cuba, Venezuela, and Haiti, but always tying it back to ''Palestine.'' Unintended irony appeared when a striking hotel worker spoke, but failed to mention that the American Israeli Policy Advisory Committee (AIPAC) had moved their banquet so as not to cross picket lines. A representative of Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT) tried to claim that it was the Israeli ''occupation of Palestine'' that caused the Palestinian Authority to oppress gays, and that once Israeli control ends, the P.A. will no longer harass, murder, and torture Palestinian gays.

The highlight of the lineup was Dick Becker, head of the local chapter of A.N.S.W.E.R. He railed against us for ''admiring'' Ariel Sharon, despite not a single pro-Sharon sign being present and not a single pro-Sharon statement having been issued. He then went on to praise the al-Qaeda led terrorists in Fallujah and compared them to the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising during the Holocaust.

Given the statements made by Becker and the other speakers, it was no surprise that the anti-Israel protestors did not want these speeches made public, and so went about attempting to block our filming of the speakers. They waved flags directly in front of the cameras and then when they finally realized the flags were translucent, held up signs. As they doggedly attempted to block filming of the talks, they displayed the very same fascist policies that, at least in principle, they claim to oppose!

The harassment did not stop there, however. As our cameraman attempted to film a polite exchange between an anti-Israel Israeli and a pro-Israel Palestinian, members of QUIT put a flag in front of the camera. They persisted even when the anti-Israel Israeli said she did not mind being filmed! As the cameraman attempted to push the fabric of the flag aside, the anti-Israel activists started shouting, ''You're provoking us! You're provoking us!'' repeatedly.

They were clearly itching for a fight, and when we would not take the bait, they tried to initiate violence themselves. Twice they tried to assault us, but the nearby San Francisco police were ready. They had heard about the SFSU attacks and swooped in as soon as the anti-Israel activists got violent.

The distinct ugliness of this rally – the harassment, the intimidation, and the thwarted attempts at physical violence – represents an acceleration of the continued moral decline of the anti-Israel activists. No longer content to merely lie about the situation and to glorify al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other terrorists, they are resorting to puffing up their chests and lashing out at us, while trying to suppress public dissemination of their ideas and their agenda.

They failed.

They failed to intimidate any of us. They failed to hurt any of us physically. They failed to suppress the truth.

They now know that we will not back down.

They know we are tracking them, and they are running scared. As a result, they lash out.

We know that with the truth, morality, and justice on our side, we will prevail.