Hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in New York on Monday to denounce Israel and demand that the United States stop its support for the Jewish state, two days after Hamas terrorists broke into Israeli communities and slaughtered hundreds.
With signs reading “Israel go to hell!” and “NYC stands with Gaza,” people of all ages stood in front of the Israeli consulate general waving Palestinian flags.
A heavy police presence and security barriers kept them apart from a pro-Israel group furious at the cross-border massacre in which Hamas terrorists killed over 900 people, including the elderly, women and children, and kidnapped over 150 kidnapped.
It was the second day in a row that the city had been the scene of tense counter-protests between pro-Palestinian residents and others defending Israel.
Young activists wearing Palestinian keffiyeh headscarves took turns at a megaphone to demand a “free Palestine” and “an end of the colonization and occupation of our Arab land,” adding that “Zionism is racism.”
They chanted “No justice, no peace,” and “No justice on stolen land,” while their banners compared the situation in Gaza to the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II.
Leena Abukuwaik, a 45-year-old Palestinian American, told AFP she had “a brother, two sisters and lots of cousins, my whole family,” in Gaza, of whom she had no news.
“I’m not sure if they are bombed or not, if they are alive, if they’re injured, if they are safe,” she said, holding back tears.
Also protesting was Ray Gordon, an 81-year-old American retiree who lives between Maryland and Florida, “That’s a thing that infuriates me: it’s my tax dollars that arms Israel,” he said.
“End all US aid to Israel,” he told AFP.
Asked about Hamas’s attack on Israel on Saturday and the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians, Gordon replied, “It’s a wonder that it hasn’t happened before… what goes around comes around, that’s what I would say to” the Israeli government.
Maryam Alaniz, a 27-year-old doctoral student, said she does not think that “civilian casualties are justified, but I’m also not a pacifist.”
“I also denounce the methods and tactics of Hamas. I think that the Palestinian struggle should be organized from below, by the Palestinian people, democratically,” she said.
Only a couple of miles away, across from Central Park, a much more somber and contemplative mood reigned at Temple Emanu-El synagogue, the city’s first Reform Jewish synagogue.
It welcomed hundreds of people outside, both Jews and followers of other religions, to recite the “kaddish,” the prayer for the dead in the Jewish liturgy.
People of all ages sang, prayed, held candles, waved flags in the colors of Israel and at times cried.
The synagogue’s Rabbi Joshua Davidson noted that “in this moment, we stand firmly with the people of Israel — our people.”
His colleague, Rabbi Melissa Buyer-Witman, told AFP that the “Jewish community and our extended community of friends that we saw here today… will be standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity for days and months to come.”
Although there is no official count of residents’ religions in the United States, the country of 335 million inhabitants is home to the world’s largest Jewish community outside of Israel.
In 2020, according to the Pew Research Center, there were 5.8 million Jewish adults, with an additional 2.8 million adults who claim a Jewish parent.
The country also has about 4.5 million Muslims, 600,000 to 750,000 of whom live in New York.