US pro-Palestinian groups applaud Hamas terror onslaught, plan support rallies

Student groups backed by New York chapter of socialist party organize demonstrations in approval of attack, as authorities step up protection of Jewish sites in New York and Europe

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

Anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists burn an Israeli flag in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel/File)
Anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists burn an Israeli flag in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel/File)

NEW YORK — Pro-Palestinian, student and Muslim activist groups in the US backed Hamas’s terror offensive against Israel and condemned the Jewish state on Saturday, after terrorists from Gaza murdered hundreds of Israelis, sowing havoc across much of the country and prompting retaliatory IDF strikes.

A number of the groups also announced rallies in support of the Hamas attack, which saw terrorists infiltrate Israel in a surprise assault, slaughter civilians and soldiers, abduct captives and rain rockets on Israeli cities.

The US Council of Muslim Organizations, an umbrella group, said, “The recent unprovoked and continuous attacks by Israel on Palestinian towns, cities, and refugee camps have resulted in tragic loss of Palestinian lives.”

“We condemn Israel’s targeted and indiscriminate killing of civilians, including innocent children, women, and the elderly,” the council said, blaming Israel and the US for the violence, and tying the attacks to the Al Aqsa Mosque, a common terrorist pretext for attacks on Israel. The statement did not mention Hamas or any of its atrocities.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading Muslim civil rights group, expressed its “support for the Palestinian people’s right to freedom.”

The group blamed Israeli and US policies for the violence, also without mentioning Hamas or terror, and shared the Council of Muslim Organizations statement.

An array of pro-Palestinian and student groups celebrated the attacks and planned protests.

The national chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, the leading pro-Palestinian college group, said, “Callous oppressors only know the language of destruction.”

“Palestine will not be liberated overnight. Liberation is a long-term process,” the group said on Instagram, falsely referring to Sderot and Netivot, targeted Israeli cities near the border with Gaza, as settlements. “We stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed, colonized and fighting for liberation.”

Illustrative: Anti-Israel protesters call for an intifada at a protest in New York City, September 17, 2021. (Luke Tress/Flash90)

Students for Justice in Palestine chapters across the US, including at American University, Rutgers, UC San Diego, the University of Minnesota and San Jose State University, all celebrated “the resistance.”

In New York, the pro-Palestinian groups Within Our Lifetime, Samidoun, Decolonize This Place, Al-Awda and others announced rallies on Sunday in Times Square and on Monday at the Israeli consulate “to defend the heroic Palestinian resistance.”

The groups regularly call for the destruction of Israel and the ostracization of “Zionists” at street rallies in the city that have featured violence against Jews resulting in hate crimes convictions.

Advertisements for this week’s rallies encouraged attendees to wear masks. Federal prosecutors investigating hate crimes at the group’s rallies last year uncovered texts between members planning attacks on Jews and encouraging each other to wear masks to avoid prosecution.

“Supporting Palestinian liberation is supporting whatever means necessary it takes to get there. Freedom has only ever been achieved through resistance,” Within Our Lifetime said.

The group is affiliated with student activists from the City University of New York (CUNY), the city’s massive public university system, which Jewish groups accuse of allowing widespread antisemitism on its campuses. Leaders of Within Our Lifetime delivered commencement speeches widely seen as antisemitic at CUNY’s law school the past two years, setting off an uproar that reached the national level, and led a rally last year where group activists beat a Jewish man on a city street.

Activists endorsing the group’s message included groups from CUNY’s Brooklyn College, Hunter College, and CUNY Law.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the planned rally “abhorrent and morally repugnant.”

Pro-Palestinian activists protest against Israel in New York City, September 17, 2021. (Luke Tress/Flash90)

The leader of the white supremacist National Justice political organization applauded the Palestinians for “taking bold and courageous action,” and the leader of the antisemitic Goyim Defense League said, “Palestinians are killing the synagogue of Satan. God bless these brave men of Palestine.”

Antisemitic rhetoric and conspiracy theories have also spiked online and on messaging apps, the Anti-Defamation League said.

Anti-Israel rallies were announced in close to 20 other cities in the US, Canada and Europe, including at Israeli consulates and embassies in San Francisco, Atlanta and London.

A group of protesters marched through New York City’s Grand Central Station on Saturday carrying signs that read, “Resistance is justified.” Demonstrators in Toronto celebrated the attacks with chants of “Free Palestine.”

The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America political party backed Sunday’s Times Square rally, expressing “solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to resist.”

The international Palestinian Youth Movement celebrated the attacks in a series of posts, saying, “We continue to stand alongside our people in Gaza and across occupied Palestine in their legitimate resistance.”

The far-left Jewish Voice for Peace said, “Israeli apartheid and occupation — and United States complicity in that oppression — are the source of all this violence.”

“Inevitably, oppressed people everywhere will seek — and gain — their freedom,” the group said, without mentioning Hamas or terror.

Jewish groups including Club Z and Yad Yamin announced a pro-Israel rally outside UN Headquarters in New York City on Sunday afternoon, and events in the Bay Area, Charlotte and Los Angeles.

Pro-Israel demonstrators in New York, March 30, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Israeli activists in the US against the judicial overhaul in Israel launched a crowdfunding campaign to assist residents of southern Israel, leveraging a network of thousands they have built up during protest organizing. All protest activities were suspended.

The funds will go to medical, psychological and physical support for the victims, the campaign said.

“We join hands to support the needs of Israelis under attack. This is what we can do from here now,” organizers said.

With some flights to Israel canceled, the activists were also organizing local hosts who can house Israelis who are unable to return home. Organizers from the UnXeptable protest group urged Israelis who are in the US and need assistance to contact them.

An open support meeting took place at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan and an impromptu vigil was held during an event meant to celebrate the Simhat Torah holiday in Brooklyn on Saturday.

Amid the tensions, New York State and New York City police stepped up their protection of Jewish communities and synagogues, Hochul said.

Police stationed outside a synagogue after threats to the Jewish community, in New York City, November 4, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

There were no known threats to New York Jews, Hochul said, adding that local authorities were in touch with the FBI and other federal partners after the terror onslaught in Gaza. Jews are targeted in hate crimes in New York City far more than any other group.

New York lit up landmarks across the state in blue and white to express solidarity for Israel. Leaders including Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, members of Congress and city political figures condemned the attacks and vowed support for Israel and the Jewish community.

The Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish communities in North America, urged vigilance but said there were no known threats to US Jews related to the terror in Israel.

The group said it was coordinating security measures with law enforcement and other partners.

“SCN recommends Jewish facilities review and enforce security protocols, and maintain coordination with law enforcement,” the group said.

Germany and France also reinforced security around Jewish sites. Some supporters of the Palestinians took to the streets of Berlin to celebrate the attack.

The Metropolitan Police in London reported “a number of incidents” related to the violence in Israel and increased patrols across the city.

Most Popular
read more: