NYPD detains 20 activists as anti-Zionist group protests AIPAC, pro-Israel lawmakers

Brooklyn resident charged with resisting arrest, obstruction and disorderly conduct; 19 demonstrators given summons at protest outside Schumer’s offices

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters near Columbia University in Manhattan, February 2, 2024. (Luke Tress via JTA)
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters near Columbia University in Manhattan, February 2, 2024. (Luke Tress via JTA)

New York Jewish Week/JTA — Twenty pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters led by an anti-Zionist Jewish group were detained on Thursday during rallies against pro-Israel lawmakers and AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby.

The protesters from the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace wore black shirts that said “Not in our name” and prayer shawls outside the Midtown offices of Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader who is Jewish, and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand. The senators, both Democrats, are supportive of Israel and voted in favor of a $14.1 billion emergency aid package for the country earlier this month. The bill still needs to win approval in the House.

The protesters carried banners that said “Jews to Schumer: Stop funding genocide” as they linked arms outside Schumer’s office.

The NYPD told the New York Jewish Week that 20 people were taken into custody during the protests. A Brooklyn resident was charged with resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct, and 19 demonstrators were given summons for disorderly conduct.

Demonstrators also rallied at Midtown’s Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, near the offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and the United Nations, carrying a banner that said “AIPAC funds genocide,” holding signs that said “Dump AIPAC,” and beating drums while chanting “Free Palestine.”

JVP claimed that thousands attended the demonstration.

The International Court of Justice recently heard a case charging that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, a common accusation among pro-Palestinian protesters. Israel firmly rejects the charge, saying that the Israel Defense Forces are acting against Hamas in self-defense, following its October 7 massacre, and working to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas puts noncombatants in harm’s way.

JVP shared photos on social media of graffiti plastered across the side of a building on 3rd Avenue that condemned AIPAC for supporting genocide and said “All eyes on Rafah,” the southern Gaza city that Israel has threatened to invade in its battle to defeat Hamas across the coastal enclave.

The United States and other allies have called on Israel not to press ahead with its offensive on the city until it makes a plan for protecting the more than one million civilians who have taken shelter there.

“We demand our government listen to the will of the people and reject AIPAC as the extremist warmongers they’ve always been,” JVP said in a statement.

A small group of pro-Israel counter-protesters also gathered at the scene holding Israeli and American flags. A survey last month by Siena College found that most Jews in New York support continued aid to Israel, while New Yorkers overall are split on the issue.

The protest was one of a string of anti-Israel demonstrations that have taken place on a near-daily basis on New York City streets since Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, in which 1,200 people were slaughtered, mostly civilians, and 253 hostages were abducted to Gaza, launching the war. Pressure has ramped up amid Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza, which has killed over 29,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. That figure cannot be independently verified and does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel has said it has killed 12,000 Hamas fighters.

Most of the street protests are led by the hardline pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel group Within Our Lifetime, which endorsed the October 7 attack and whose leadership has backed Hamas. Within Our Lifetime on Thursday held a protest at the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village opposing an event hosting Israeli soldiers.

The protests have snarled traffic and disrupted public events, drawing increased pushback from the police and city lawmakers.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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