Hating Israel in Trafalgar Square

I attended the hate-Israel rally held in London's Trafalgar Square on Saturday, January 3. Some may say I am nuts; I like to think I am showing a little of the same courage that Israeli soldiers are now displaying as they go into the hell of Gaza. My late mother was a WAC in World War II, as was my aunt, who served with the army of occupation in Japan. My sister is a tough cookie and we even have a female cousin who, family lore has it, fought for Trotsky and was shot by a firing squad. My late father marched on Harrisburg when blacks were not allowed into a civil engineering organization.

So, DNA pumping away, in I marched. I witnessed crowds of very angry white, middle-class, respectable Britons wearing keffiyahs and piling onto the Tube from the very start of the Northern Line in faraway Barnet. As my train approached Charing Cross station I realized that if I had identified myself as sympathetic to Israel's plight I might have been attacked. In Trafalgar Square itself thousands of even angrier people milled about; young men in keffiyahs chanted epithets against Zionists, their fury accompanied by placards with Stars of David superimposed on swastikas and slogans denouncing genocidal, war criminal Israel.

There were Jews for Justice for Palestinians and hundreds of communists, socialists, and revolutionaries who in their youth had all lived on kibbutzim but who now hate the "imperialist Jewish state." One priceless poster said "Let Iran Have Nuclear Weapons." I challenged the owner that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament opposed all nuclear weapons and he bellowed down at me -- he a big fella, me a tiny Ashkenazi blob -- that the region had to protect itself against Israel. Another choice piece of posterdom bore a pronouncement about the Arabs being starved because of Israeli produce being farmed. I reminded its perpetrator that there are over a million Arabs living inside Greater Israel and that the reason why they don't all run to escape to the West Bank and Gaza is that they have a pleasant life with a wage, a mosque, freedom of the press, and the right to conduct business. One non-Muslim stall holder who was banging on at me about the oppression inside Israel was lost for words when I explained that in Haifa and Jaffa I have seen Jewish and Arab retirees playing cards in Arab-run cafes. A British gentleman selling soaps from Nablus tried to explain oppression with a poster of "disappearing Palestine" and that "these are from the West Bank"; I reminded him that Rabin had given back Nablus and Bethlehem and that Begin had given back the Sinai.

Of the scores of leaflets and books being sold in the Square one stood out: entitled "The Nakba (Catastrophe)" and written by Anne Alexander and John Rose, it tells us that "the ethnic cleansing of Palestine" involved the founding fathers of Zionism exporting European fascism and creating a colonial hub in Palestine. With the little matter of the Holocaust being far less important than "Zionist land grabbing," this screed informs us that the Zionists of 1947 were planning a "ruthless assault" on the Arab population of the region. What is interesting is that this narrative reiterates the issue that dominates the current discourse in Britain: why is it that so many Arabs always die and so few Jews? This was asked of me in the Square. I replied: "Okay, if you are unhappy that so few Jews are dying right now, start by killing me." Monographs like this spend page after page asserting that the creation of Israel was the worst catastrophe inflicted on the world in modern times. Imagine the uproar if someone produced a work about the "catastrophe" of the creation of the Islamic state of Pakistan during partition in the same year that Israel was created, when a million Indian Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim souls died in brutal violence.

The atmosphere at the January 3 rally, at which visceral speeches about the evil, murderous, criminal, genocidal Zionist entity were delivered hour after hour by what seemed to be endless streams of angry British protesters -- former Mayor Ken "I would never have created an Israel" Livingstone and Jewish comedian Alexei "I am ashamed" Sayle among them -- became incendiary when a speaker invited the crowd to march to the Israeli embassy in Kensington. Next to me several young Muslims in green Hamas scarves wielding large sticks were booked by the police. Later a large crowd of some 5,000 infuriated protesters descended on the Israeli consulate, burned Israeli flags, and hurled missiles whilst another crowd threw hundreds of shoes at Downing Street.