Do rallies matter anymore? Do they “count”? Are internet-era leaders influenced by the assembly of peaceful but passionate citizens who have taken to the streets to air their grievances? Rallies are featured in so many movies that I wonder whether our leaders believe that the real thing is real and not part of a Hollywood movie.
Manhattan. A driving rain and raw weather did not stop three thousand people from turning out on Sunday to stand for Israel’s right to exist and to determine its own fate. In these times, and on such a day, that is a significant number. These people did not come together to scream in hate; they did not vow to kill anyone as so many pro-Hamas, pro-Palestinian, pro-“peace” demonstrators routinely do. They came to express their love for Israel and their dismay and anger about America’s recent mistreatment of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The rally, which was called for 1pm, lasted until 4pm. Thus, people stood, shoulder to shoulder, for more than three hours in weather that kept most of us indoors. Mostly tax-paying, middle-aged people, some of whom traveled a great distance to be here on Sunday; they came from as far away as Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, as well as from the five boroughs and Long Island.
In many voices, they said: Israel is not a vassal state of the United States. Israel is America’s friend and ally. Our fate as Americans is tied to Israel’s fate and to Israel’s continued existence.
They held signs which read: “God Bless Our Ally Israel. Tea Party for Israel”; “Obama Listen Up! The American People Stand with Israel”; “You May Bow to Mitzraim (Egypt) But Keep Off Yerushalayim”; “Conference of Presidents: World Jewish Congress, American Jewish Congress, UJA. Betrayal. You Failed Us In 1939 and You’ve Failed Us Again”; “President Obama: Your Recklessness is Endangering America, Israel, and World Freedom.”
In retrospect, given the focus, the rally should have taken place at the American Mission to the United Nations, not at the Israeli Mission. However, I understand that initially the desire was to support Israel, but as world events unfolded, an equal desire to protest American policies gathered force.
Bless these hardy souls for turning out and bless political organizer Beth Gilinsky, who worked tirelessly to bring this about. Gilinsky spoke, (“Obama has no right to dictate to Israel. He should focus on the danger of a nuclear Iran and pressure the Palestinians for peace”); as did the author Joan Peters, (Of Time Immemorial); New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind; ZOA President Morton Klein; Dr. Hebert London of the Hudson Institute; Narain Katarian of Hindu Human Rights Watch; Dr. Joseph Frager, Dr. Michael Ledeen; State Senator Ruben Diaz; Bhupinder Bhurji of the Naamdari Sikh Foundation; and Lori Lowenthal Marcus of Z Street.
Speakers also included Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel; Hillary Markowitz; radio host and founder of the Guardian Angels, Curtis Sliwa; James Lafferty, Laurie Cardozo-Moore; Mallory Danahan, of the David Horowitz Freedom Center; Tamar Edelstein of Crown Heights Women; Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs; Rabbi David Algazy of the World Committee for the Land of Israel; Joy Brighton, of Stop Shariah Now, Reverend Michael Faulkner of the New Horizon Church; Faith McDonnell of the Institute for Religion and Democracy, Susan Cohen of the Republican Jewish Coalition; and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis. (Forgive me if I have failed to note a speaker. Just email me the information).
Members of my group — the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam — were there too: Marvin Belsky, our agile facilitator; Francis Bok; Satya Dosapati; and Arish Sahani. Satya told me: “This rally is timely. We need more rallies like it. We need to show Obama that he is headed in the wrong direction.” Based on Satya’s experience of India and Pakistan, he has concluded that “you cannot appease Muslim people. Obama does not understand this. Gandhi did the same thing. But the more you appease a monster the more vicious he gets. Even when separate land for Muslims was offered, still one million people were killed, and women raped. We must address the root of the problem which is radical Islam.”
Then, Fern Sidman, my intrepid journalist-on-the-ground, put me on the phone with a Christian Zionist, Jackie Donney, who had traveled all the way from Newtown, Pennsylvania — on her own and by herself. (Her husband is recovering from back surgery). She said: “I am here because I can’t believe what this administration is doing to our only ally in the Middle East.” Jonney contacts her senators and congressmen all the time. (Sidman’s piece has just been posted here.
Although there were many Christians (perhaps 50) and some Hindus and Sikhs (perhaps 10), this was mainly a rally by Jews for a Jewish Israel. But many Jews were not there.
According to Sidman, Jewish students, including yeshiva students, were missing in action. Perhaps the organizers failed to rally these troops; perhaps the large Jewish organizations, fearing a possible failed rally, did not put out the word. I don’t know what went wrong here. I do know that a distinguished member of the Yeshiva University faculty told me that he knew nothing about this rally — nor did his colleagues.
I was told that a number of religious Conservative Jews (liberals) had expressed alarm that this rally might “go against” Obama for whom they had all voted and in whom they still believe. An acquaintance told me that I shouldn’t go because this rally “concerned only the settlements.”
As they say: three Jews, four opinions.
Democratic congressional representatives and senators (Republicans too) are angry with Obama about the way he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have publicly shamed and mistreated Israel. Many happen to be Jewish. Chuck Schumer is quoted as saying:
“I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk. Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel, they, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there. If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands, the Palestinians say, ‘Why should we negotiate?’”
Other Jewish leaders are privately insisting, rightly or wrongly, that Obama has realized he’s made a mistake and that, while he has not publicly apologized for humiliating Prime Minister Netanyahu, he has stopped doing so.
I am on old organizer, a considerable rabble-rouser in my day. And so, I still believe that efforts behind closed doors will never succeed if people don’t also take to the streets and to the ballot box.
However, I believe that the time for gathering Jews-only or Jews-mainly in support of Israel is long over. We must now have a new kind of ingathering, one in which Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, atheists, and of course, Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents must also start standing for Israel. Doing so is a way of standing for human rights, democracy, freedom, Enlightenment values and against barbarism and against apartheid, which radical political Islam, not Israel, practices both globally and locally.
I hesitate to say it, I hate to say it, but I must agree with my colleague Roger Simon: There should have been 300,000 Jews and our supporters here, not only 3,000, not even if they were extraordinary people, and if only the large Jewish and Christian organizations can turn such numbers out, then that is who must do this work. That they are not doing so is to their eternal shame. Every Jewish and Christian school and Yeshiva should send each and every student and their entire faculties. These rallies require huge outreach and many ads, all well in advance and continuously.
But they did not do this work. Therefore, my congratulations still go to the organizers, the speakers, and to all those who came to stand in the driving rain for Israel.