SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) — A 22-year-old Jewish woman was assaulted at a pro-Palestinian rally in Oakland, Calif., last week after writing “Am Yisrael Chai” in chalk on the sidewalk.
The incident, which was captured on video, took place at a March 13 rally held at the Frank Ogawa Plaza to mark the fourth anniversary of the wounding of Tristan Anderson, an Oakland resident injured in the West Bank while protesting against the Israeli military.
In the video, Hannah Larson, a Seattle native who immigrated to Israel in 2010, can be seen seen writing on the ground in an area set aside for chalk-written slogans; the words “Freedom to Speak” appear on the ground nearby.
When Larson spelled out the Hebrew phrase that translates as “The Jewish people live” or “The nation of Israel lives,” a young woman later identified as Gabby Silverman of Oakland grabbed the chalk from Larson’s hand, cursing and repeatedly shoving Larson. Silverman also called Larson a “whore.”
Others quickly joined the fracas, and Larson was pushed to the street, away from the rally. Friends of Larson filmed the encounter.
On a Facebook page promoting the rally, Silverman wrote of the incident, “We created a space at the plaza to chalk the names of our dead friends and imprisoned comrades and these zionist pieces of shit chalk ‘am yisrael chai’ over it. This is exactly the settler colonialist mindset that we are fighting against, putting their right wing bullshit over the space for our dead friends. ‘Am yisrael chai’ means ‘the people of Israel live’, which seems mellow enough but its the main slogan of the right wing. My only regret is calling her a whore. That was inappropriate and I’m sorry. Solidarity with whores everywhere!”
Larson could not be reached for comment. Daniel Wencel, 63, who filmed the incident, said he does not believe Larson will press charges.
Michael Harris, a spokesman for the Bay Area chapter of the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, said this was not an isolated incident.
“This is not the first time that we’ve seen violent responses from members of anti-Israel groups,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that some of the same people who support Hamas violence against Israelis are getting violent toward Israel supporters here.”