‘Down with (some of) the Oppressors!’
The anti-Israel protestors who marched in Washington DC on Sunday were probably hoping for a better turnout than the roughly 2,500 people that appeared on the mall, but the event’s organizers will surely pronounce the march a success after exaggerating the attendance ten-fold to the gullible press.
The rally was similar to the anti-war protests from earlier this year, except that every organization present at the previous rallies apparently sent just a single representative to this one. I saw one Code Pink member, one 9/11 Truther, one guy with a “Free Mumia” sign, and a forlorn-looking anarchist carrying a lonely black flag.
The communists, however, were out in force. Upon arriving at the rally site next to the Capitol building, I was handed copies of Socialist Worker, the Sparticist League’s Workers Vanguard, Buffalo Forum (“local publication of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization”), and Proletarian Revolution, billed as “a publication of the League for the Revolutionary Party (Communist Organization for the Fourth International).”
I introduced myself as a reporter and struck up a conversation with the Sparticist League’s distinguished representative. A pleasant-looking, bespectacled woman in her fifties, she explained to me that her organization supports Cuba, North Korea, China, and Vietnam, after which she denounced all the other communist organizations at the rally as surreptitious capitalists because they support Democratic politicians like Dennis Kucinich. I tried to sound sympathetic in order to coax more details about her alternative worldview, but she grew suspicious about the direction of my questioning.
“What paper did you say you’re with?” she asked.
“Is that a radical leftwing paper?”
A tricky question, requiring a delicate answer.
“Well, I think you’d find it to be radical.”
She didn’t buy it, and the interview ended there.
Making my way through the crowd of protestors, I saw that most of them had the same pre-manufactured signs with generic “End the Occupation”-type slogans. The homemade signs tended to be a little more creative. Several of them referenced the USS Liberty incident, an accidental bombing of a U.S. naval ship in 1967 by Israeli fighter jets that is the only attack on U.S. forces in history that seems to outrage the radicals. There were also a few “Zionism is racism” signs, several posters proclaiming all of Israel to be “occupied territory,” and one charming sign reading “Eat the flesh of your usurper.”
In fairness to the protestors, however, it should be noted that not a single authorized speaker endorsed cannibalism from the stage. The speeches themselves were pretty boilerplate, hitting all the necessary “Free, Free Palestine” chants and denunciations of Israeli “apartheid.” The event bordered on interesting when speakers read out letters of support from famous leftwing activists like Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader, but the intellectual atmosphere was significantly diminished when organizers played a taped message from Roseanne Barr. Furthermore, several speakers started up chants by telling the crowd to yell loud enough for the Congressional representatives to hear. Apparently, they were unaware that Congress is not in session on Sundays.
The rally ended with a performance by “The Arab Summit,” a political, pro-Palestinian hip hop band. The baby boomers in the crowd waved their signs and tried to dance to the beat, but their awkward, jerky movements revealed that this anti-music was a far cry from the Joan Baez albums that clutter their entertainment centers back home.
The festivities ended with a march to the Washington Monument. This was pretty uneventful, save for some spirited exchanges with several dozen counter-protestors carrying signs like “Stop using children as human shields” and “Free America from Jihad.”
What was missing from the rally was any reference whatsoever to the biggest threats to Palestinians’ lives today. The protestors demanded “justice” and “peace” for the Palestinians, but I did not hear a single word of sympathy for the over fifty Palestinians killed or the hundreds wounded since May in internecine Palestinian fighting. This provoked a doctors’ strike in the Gaza strip last week when, according to the AP, “Dr. Fayez al-Barrawi, a known Hamas supporter, was blindfolded, handcuffed and shot six times in the legs, including a kneecap, and then tossed on the street.” The AP further revealed that “It is the first time a doctor was seized. However, militants often fire on paramedics and ambulances during gun battles.” In apparent retaliation, Hamas terrorists threw 25-year-old Palestinian security officer Mohammed Sweirki from the roof of a 15-story building.
One can only imagine the protestors’ indignant reaction if Israeli troops had kneecapped a Palestinian physician, fired on paramedics, or threw a young security officer from a building. Yet I heard no speaker mention these events or invoke the fate of any other victim of the Palestinian infighting. Likewise, I did not hear a single denunciation of the Lebanese Army for its current wholesale shelling of Palestinian refugee camps in its battle against al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam. When I asked a volunteer at the Socialist Workers’ booth what she thought about the attacks in Lebanon, she told me they were a testament to U.S. interference in the Middle East, because the U.S. allegedly convinced its puppet government in Lebanon to allow Fatah al-Islam members into the country as a counterweight to Hezbollah.
What became clear to me is that the international pro-Palestinian movement is not so much pro-Palestinian as it is anti-Israel and anti-America. Palestinians who are killed by other Arabs simply don’t fit into the movement’s meta-narrative of Israeli occupation and American complicity, so they’re simply ignored or, when pressed, their deaths are tied to America through bizarre conspiracy theories.
For a movement based on an all-encompassing claim of victimization, it’s stunning to see its adherents erase scores of real Palestinian victims from history. But in Washington DC on Sunday, these victims clearly served no useful political purpose. The movement only has room for two villains, and Israel and America fill that role to the exclusion of all others. Arabs, it seems, have been given a green light to massacre Palestinians without a word of condemnation by the Palestinians’ own supposed champions.