Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, visited the San Francisco Bay Area during the first week of March, 2012. Among his stops was a visit on March 6 to Temple Emanu-El, the largest synagogue in San Francisco.
Occupy Oakland decided to greet Peres with a protest outside the synagogue:
Occupy’s protest listing uses phrases like “Israeli apartheid regime” and “racist and colonialist legislation,” to give you an idea of where they’re coming from. Here’s a snippet:
Shimon Peres serves the wealthy colonial elite and the settler state of Israel. Peres tours the world speaking on behalf of Jewish people, co-opting the history of the Holocaust. At the same time, he has on his conscience a massive arms trade and racist laws which advance the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinian peoples. His very presence at a synagogue in San Francisco normalizes settler colonialism here and in Israel, connecting two settler states in the name of Judaism and an imperial and colonial “vision of tomorrow.”
Wait — what’s this got to do with “the 99%” and bank bailouts and tax rates and “economic inequality”? Nothing. This protest is just more evidence (along with other Occupy-sponsored anti-Israel events) of the Occupy movement going off the rails and more overtly embracing the pan-leftist narrative, no longer even pretending to limit itself to fiscal policy.
Only about 100 people showed up for the protest and counter-protest, three of whom (myself, Chicken Kiev, and SFPatriot) contributed photos and videos to this report. (We were vastly outnumbered by the 2,000 Peres fans with tickets to see him give his speech.)
The SF police successfully outmaneuvered the protesters, who were not expecting the kind of high-level security accorded to a head of state like Peres. The entire neighborhood around the synagogue (the domed building visible in the background here) was blocked off, and no one was being let in from the main intersection of California and Arguello. Instead, all legitimate ticket-holders were given directions to the only entry point, quite a distance away at Clay and Cherry. This threw a monkey wrench into the protesters’ plans.
When I first got to the checkpoint, there were no protesters at all, just a bunch of police and no-nonsense Israeli security guys verifying photo IDs against the official list of ticketed attendees.
Eventually some of the anti-Israel protesters decided to just congregate at the entry point, rather than at the synagogue itself. These are the first arrivals.
As you can see already, the anti-Israel contingent was a mix of kaffiyeh- and hijab-wearing Muslims joining forces with American leftists.
But they were not to go unchallenged. Shortly afterward, pro-Israel counter-protesters began showing up as well.
The two groups quickly set up opposing protest camps on either side of the checkpoint. Game on.
Unfortunately, the anti-Israel crew had reserved the corner through which most of the arriving ticket-holders had to pass, so they decided to take advantage of their prime location by setting up a sort of ideological tunnel. Any synagogue members or pro-Peres Jews who wanted to attend the event had to pass through a gauntlet of Palestinian flags held by hostile protesters.
So, as the mostly well-to-do ticket-holders streamed up the street on foot to the checkpoint…
…they were greeted upon arrival by a confrontational scene, which made some people very nervous.
Nothing untoward happened, though, as the protesters mostly followed the strict policies set forth by the organizers to avoid “any oppressive language or behavior at the demonstration, which includes anti-Jewish racism.” Calm heads prevailed.
Well, mostly, at least. At one point, about a block away from the checkpoint, a San Francisco motorcycle cop somehow managed to get into a political discussion with some of the anti-Israel protesters. Voices were raised.
My interest was piqued when I heard the cop, who was African-American, astutely rebutting one of their points by noting that it was Muslims, and not Christians, who had started the African slave trade. Taken aback by his depth of knowledge, one of the protesters, who was a Muslim from Dagestan in southern Russia, acknowledged this historical detail, but continued the argument on a side track.
By the time I started taking a video of the incident, they were on to a different topic — only to be be interrupted by Russian-speaking Jews who happened to pass by at the exact moment that the Dagestani said he was from Russia. Here’s what happened (transcription below the video):
Dagestani Muslim: All historians, they all say that these corrupt leaders, these corrupt imams, and even a sect of Islam called Wahhabism, was created by the American and British empire, back in the 1700s.
Anti-Israel protester: Bin Laden, that’s what bin Laden do, all these guys that bomb people.
Policeman: I understand all that, but why is this still going on, if you guys have so much knowledge about each other?
Dagestani Muslim: Because you guys have a lot of money.
Anti-Israel protester: They kill us too.
Dagestani Muslim: They would kill us. In my country I would be killed just for….
Kaffiyeh-wearing protester: Everything is oil and money, that’s why.
Anti-Israel protester: They kill us too.
Policeman: [Where are you from?]
Dagestani Muslim: I’m from Russia. But I’m from the south.
[Someone says something inaudible off-camera]
Policeman: Hey hey, relax. Hey, relax! Hey hey hey, hey hey relax.
Dagestani Muslim: Lady, you wanna talk to me?
Russian-accented passerby woman: Don’t lie!
Dagestani Muslim: It’s not lie, I’m from Dagestan!
Russian Jew: [Something in Russian.]
Kaffiyeh-wearing protester: [Something in Arabic.]
Dagestani Muslim: He said bad words. [Yelling:] Hey man! [Waves hand dismissively.]
Policeman: What are you waving at? You’re not going to argue with him.
Kaffieyh-wearing protester: [Something in Arabic.]
Dagestani Muslim: [Yelling:] [Something in Russian.]
Policeman: Hey, wait a minute! Don’t do that!
(Anyone who can understand what the foreign-language words are in this video, please leave the translation in the comments section below.)
Meanwhile, back up at the protest, the San Francisco Bomb Squad stopped in front of the pro-Palestinian protesters, but then drove on after a while.
The American leftists uncorked their best arguments. (Presumably, he is condemning Israel for saber-rattling with Iran. No mention is made of Iran’s unceasing threats to “wipe Israel off the map,” language which violates the UN charter far more than Israel’s “threats.”)
I never even knew we went to war with “IRAO”!
At first there was a sort of “demilitarized zone” in between the two camps.
But soon enough the anti-Israel side spilled out into the street and the two sides began to bump into each other. With so many San Francisco police and Mossad agents standing just steps away, however, everything stayed peaceful. (Temple Emanu-El is visible in the background.)
Some anti-Zionist Jews crossed the street at one point and set up their banner facing the other protesters.
As the evening wore on, the number of Muslim protesters increased. One kid’s sign had a catchy pun: “Shimon (Shame on) you, Peres.”
Nearby, one of the Bay Area’s professional Israel-haters, who for some reason became absolutely fixated on Israel and shows up at every imaginable protest, displayed her feelings.
A woman in a hijab accused Peres of being a war criminal, and had seemed to have secret knowledge (that contradicts every poll ever taken) about what Americans and Jews think of Israel.
The counter-protesters were smaller in number, but no less enthusiastic in their beliefs. Here, a guy on the pro-Israel side blew loudly on a seashell-shofar, to drown out the anti-Israel chants.
Despite all this, things progressed pretty much without a hitch at the checkpoint; the only way you could get inside was to be on the official list of invitees, and to have photo ID, and consent to a possible search.
After a while, things became messy, as the border between the two groups disintegrated.
To calm things down again before tempers flared, the police rearranged the barricades to more crisply separate the two sides. Now the gauntlet was anti-Israel in one side, pro-Israel on the other — an improvement.
YouTube user “holseyd” showed up a bit later after nightfall and recorded this video of the anti-Israel protesters chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is an overt call for the elimination of Israel as a state (the area between “the river” [the River Jordan] and “the sea” [the Mediterranean Sea] encompasses all of modern-day Israel; the chant envisions a Palestinian state where Israel now exists). UPDATE:
One of the pro-Israel counter-protesters named “Daniel” was in the thick of things all afternoon and evening and posted this five-minute video of what the action looked like from within the protest itself, including several arguments and near-scuffles with anti-Israel protesters. Pay particular attention to 4:47 – 5:01 in the video, which shows some of the anti-Israel protesters chant “Kaybar Kaybar ya Yahud…” which was used by Islamic militants during the Mavi Marmara ship-boarding incident; the chant recalls how Mohammed exterminated the Jews of Kaybar in the 7th century. In other words, it’s a coded threat of genocide.
As for other media coverage: KTVU produced a short TV report about the event, but it didn’t reveal much about the protest.
Temple Emanue-El has released a streamed video of Peres’ appearance and speech to the 2,000 congregants, for those who are interested.
And in conclusion, here’s a futuristic trance/techno music video that Peres uploaded to advertise his new Facebook page (seriously), released shortly before his appearance in San Francisco: