BOSTON – In a corner of America’s oldest public common, some 200 anti-Israel demonstrators held a so-called “die-in” Saturday to protest Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
For the third time in eight days, Boston police were forced to intervene when a small group of student Israel supporters was swarmed by demonstrators screaming anti-Semitic epithets and initiating physical contact, said students involved in the incident.
The two-hour “die-in” on the Boston Common climaxed when protest leaders read the names of Palestinians killed in Gaza since the fighting started. Holding signs printed with each victim’s name and age, demonstrators fell to the concrete as each corresponding name was read.
On Friday, the day before the “die-in,” more than 1,000 Israel supporters gathered in the same spot of the Boston Common to support the Jewish state’s right to self-defense. Organized by the Israeli American Council, the Friday rally featured speeches from Jewish leaders and calls to defend Israel on social media.
Staged across from the gold-domed Massachusetts State House, Saturday’s “die-in” kicked off with an hour of anti-Israel speeches. Most speakers condemned the US government’s support of Israel and the Jewish state’s alleged “war crimes” against Palestinians.
Demonstrators’ signs and T-shirts pointed to participation from a slew of “peace action” committees, local unions, international socialist and women’s groups, and far-left activist group Jewish Voice for Peace. At various points during the gathering, activists called for boycotts of Israeli products and for the US government to “defund” Israel.
During the half-hour “die-in” segment of the rally, some of the sprawled out protesters were observed smoking cigarettes and using cellphones. Others took advantage of the lull to distribute fliers ranging from “The Socialist Alternative” to “Boston Remembers Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
For the third time since last week, a handful of Jewish students with Israeli flags was surrounded by demonstrators shouting anti-Semitic epithets and – according to two of the students – a tense minute of “pushing and shoving.”
Soon after the “die-in” ended, Brett Loewenstern — a Berklee College of Music student and pro-Israel activist – entered the fray with his boyfriend, Israeli-born Avi Levi.
According to Loewenstern, he and his boyfriend’s combining of an Israeli flag with a rainbow flag – the symbol for gay rights – set off a hailstorm of insults from demonstrators.
Among other things, the shouts included “Jews back to Birkenau” and “Drop dead, you Zionazi whores,” said Loewenstern and other witnesses.
“We started to get pushed and shoved by the Israel haters, and the police came in to extract us from them,” said Loewenstern, a former contestant on American Idol who sings Israel’s national anthem at communal events.
“The policewoman was very nice and said that we were allowed to make our point but we have to do it separately from the Israel haters,” Loewenstern told the Times of Israel.
Last night, Boston’s Fox affiliate aired a clip of Loewenstern talking about “13 years of rocket attacks on Israel” and the use of Gaza schools and hospitals by Hamas to hide terror weapons.
Another media-savvy activist is Chloe Valdary, the New Orleans-based student assaulted during a protest outside Boston’s Israeli consulate last Friday. Valdary pressed assault and battery charges against her assailant with the Boston Police Department, which sent a detective from its civil rights unit to her apartment.
“Because the Anti-Defamation League filed a report, the detective came and admitted to me that the police dropped the ball,” said Valdary. “[The detective] said that the protesters should not have been allowed to swarm us like that,” she said.
According to Valdary, even one or two vocal Israel supporters “really make a difference when they come to anti-Israel rallies,” she said.
“We really do manage to disrupt them and distract them when we show up,” Valdary said. “We show up and it’s in the media, so the public sees how hate-filled and incredibly deluded these Hamas supporters are,” she said.
Several large anti-Israel gatherings have been held in Boston since Valdary’s assault outside the Israeli consulate last week. During a gathering outside the Boston Public Library on Thursday evening, police had to protect Valdary and student activist Daniel Mael from what Valdary called “hundreds of people shouting ‘Allah is great.’”
On Tuesday evening, anti-Israel demonstrators will gather in Copley Square for a “mass march” against Israel’s “collective punishment of Palestinians,” according to fliers handed out on Saturday. Joining veteran groups opposed to “Israel’s impunity” will be several chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine.