Thursday, July 31, 2014

In memoriam: the terrorist bombing at Hebrew University twelve years ago today

A photograph of Benjamin Blutstein, studying in the library at Pardes in Jerusalem.
Today is the 12th anniversary of the terrorist bombing at the Hebrew University's Frank Sinatra Cafeteria, on Mt. Scopus. I knew one of the victims, Benjamin Blutstein, who was the son of friends in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The bombing happened at the height of the Second Intifada. The murderers were part of a Hamas cell in East Jerusalem. According to an article published on August 1, 2002:
Hamas, which has carried out the largest number of Palestinian bombings, claimed responsibility for the bombing during a rally in Gaza City that drew some 10,000 supporters into the streets following evening prayers in the mosques.

"This operation today is a part of a series of operations we will launch from everywhere in Palestine," said a masked Hamas militant, dressed in a green military uniform.

At the request of the masked Hamas speaker, the entire crowd knelt to pray that future Hamas attacks "would succeed against the enemy of God."
Another article reported:
In claiming responsibility for the bombing, the Islamic militant group Hamas said it was revenge for the Israeli air raid last week in Gaza that killed the organization's military chief, Salah Shehadeh, and 14 civilians, including nine children.
Hamas celebrated after the attack:
"If they are going to attack our children, then they will have to expect to drink from the same poison," Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday in Gaza City, where hundreds of Hamas supporters poured into the streets late in the day to celebrate the university bombing and vow more attacks. 
Ben's parents, Dr. Richard Blutstein and Dr. Katherine Baker, are among the plaintiffs in a suit against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, "whom, the families say, financed and orchestrated the Hamas terrorist attack at Hebrew University." The suit was filed in 2004 and will be heard later this year.

Names of the victims (copied from the memorial page at the Hebrew University website).

Marla Bennett, 24, from San Diego, CA, was an M.A. student in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School's Division of Graduate Studies, and was jointly enrolled in the Pardes Educators Program at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. She received a B.A. in political science from the University of Berkeley at California in 2000. In 1998 she spent her junior year attending the Rothberg International School's One Year Program.

Benjamin Blutstein, 25, from Harrisburg, PA, was an M.A. student in Jewish Education at the Rothberg International School's Division of Graduate Studies, and was jointly enrolled in the Pardes Educators Program at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies. He earned a B.A. in religion and Judaic studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, in 2000. He was the president of Hillel at Dickinson College in 1998-1999. During the past year, Blutstein spent evenings playing in clubs as a disk jockey under the alias "Benny the B."

Dina Carter, 38, was employed at the Jewish National and University Library (JNUL) on the Edmond J. Safra Campus at Givat Ram as a librarian and archivist in the manuscripts department and archives. Born in North Carolina, she earned a BA from Duke University and an MSW degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dina immigrated to Israel in 1990.

Janis Ruth Coulter, 37, a native of Boston, MA, graduated in history and Judaic studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1991. In 1996, she converted to Judaism. As a master's candidate in Judaic studies at the University of Denver, she was a visiting graduate student at the Hebrew University in 1996-1997, during which time she also worked at the University's School of Education. In 1999 she moved to New York and began working for the Rothberg International School's Office of Academic Affairs. As assistant director, she was responsible for all Rothberg International School graduate programs and scholarships, liaising with American institutions of education and actively recruiting students. As a student, she received numerous scholarships, including a travel grant from the Dorot Foundation. She had arrived in Israel the day before the attack, after escorting a group of U.S. students to Jerusalem to begin their studies at the Hebrew University.

David Gritz, 24, from Paris, France, who had dual U.S.-French citizenship, was about to begin the Summer Ulpan at the Rothberg International School. He received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Paris IV in July 2000 and had just completed his first year of studies for his master's degree in philosophy, at the University of Paris X, where he had received recognition as an outstanding student. He spent summers at his parent's house in Peru, MA, in the Berkshires.

David (Diego) Ladowski, 29, was born in Argentina and immigrated to Israel in 1992. He studied in the Prepartory Program-Mechina at the Rothberg School and completed his undergraduate studies in communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1996. He served as an academic officer in the Israel Defense Forces. Following his discharge from the army in 1999, he held administrative positions at the Hebrew University and the Ministry of Communications. Ladowski joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001 and was shortly due to assume his first diplomatic assignment at the Embassy of Israel in Lima, Peru.

Levina Shapira was the head of the student services department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Born in Jerusalem in 1949, she was a long-time employee of the university. After completing her army service she studied sociology and political science at the Hebrew University, earning her BA in 1972. She began working for the university as a student and became a member of staff after graduation. Her appointments included academic secretary at the Faculty of Science and associate dean of the Faculty of Humanities. During her tenure as head of the student services department, Levina introduced and upgraded a wide range of on-line and computerized services, the most advanced in Israel today, for students. Recently, she was involved in planning the new student information center at the Mount Scopus campus.

Dafna Spruch was born in Tel Aviv and, following her military service, enrolled at the Hebrew University where she completed a BA in psychology and sociology. After her studies, she worked as a systems analyst at the Ministry of Education's data processing unit and, then, as a senior analyst at the National Library. Some two years later she consented to a request from the Student Administration to join its staff, and remained there for most of her professional life. It is from there that she set out 26 years later for a lunch from which she was never to return. Dafna soon became the backbone of the department, acting as both deputy director and the historical memory of an indispensable rationale; yet she always shunned pivotal positions and refused all offers to head the system.

Her exceptional performance over the years not only singled her out but also earned her the commendation of superiors and colleagues alike. Praise ranged from the professional to the personal: "excellent worker," "talented and highly competent," "outstanding," "excellent and very intelligent" and - "a good friend." Colleagues say that there was always room in her heart; she always had a shoulder to offer, time to listen and offer sound advice.

Dafna reached high - new and innovative ideas, whether her own or others', always fell on receptive ears. At the same time, her feet were firmly planted on the ground, her common sense able to anchor the imaginative and translate it into practice. She could separate the wheat from the chaff and understood the intricacies involved in the Administration's large systems, finding simple solutions to make them work. Among other things, she and her staff initiated the full computerization of a variety of forms, including student schedules, grades and courses, as well as follow-up on teaching loads, and the implementation of ideas adopted by the system as a whole.

Dafna was a warm, loving and devoted wife and mother, who always put her family first.

Revital Barashi was the youngest of thirteen children in a Jerusalem family. She lived downtown, and about six months ago celebrated her 30th birthday. For the past seven years she worked with and trained young staff at the Hebrew University's Law Faculty.

Her conscientiousness and the responsibility she showed in the performance of her duties won her the university's Outstanding Employee award in 2000.

According to the commendation cited at the awards ceremony: "Revital excels in all she does. She may always have her hands full but she is nevertheless attentive to and patient with all who turn to her, her natural courtesy unimpaired by her diligence. She is intelligent and will try to execute every task as quickly as possible, drawing on all the help she is able to muster."

Colleagues describe her as "pretty, talented, warm and always ready to help. Revital did her work efficiently and meticulously and, at all times, with a smile."

May their memory be blessed

Is Israel committing genocide in Gaza?

I'm hearing the accusation that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. I think that Maajid Nawaz, chair of the Quilliam Foundation in Britain, gives a good response to this accusation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Anti-Israel demonstration in Chicago, July 26, 2014 - many anti-Jewish posters

There was an anti-Israel demonstration in Chicago on Saturday, July 26, documented by @Jonathan Hoenig. In one of his tweets he estimates about 2,000 were there; since I wasn't there I can't make a crowd estimate. I've looked at a couple of other photo sets of the demonstration, and none of them show the antisemitic posters here.

For a different account of the same demonstration, by Chuck Jines, see this posting: Chicago protest against Israeli massacre in Gaza. He writes: "I can’t tell you the overwhelming feeling of oneness that overtook me as I watched thousands of people take to the streets of Chicago today, in support of the Palestinian people. Emotion swelled from deep within my soul as I stood looking down from a fourth floor parking garage, listening to thousands of voices chanting as one: Gaza! Gaza! Gaza!." Somehow, the antisemitic posters didn't seem to disturb his feeling of oneness.

Notice the frequent comparisons of Israel with Nazi Germany, and the claim that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

This is the same Zeon poster as the one used at the Stuttgart protest.

Thoughts on Jerusalem

In early July, just after the funerals of Gil-Ad, Eyal, and Naftali on Tuesday, July 1, and the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, I started writing a letter to friends about the situation in Jerusalem and my reactions to it. I never sent it, because events overcame me. I've now posted the letter as one of my pages - Jerusalem on July 2, 2014.

Report on the Hamas tunnels into Israel

Good Jodi Rudoren article in the New York Times about the tunnels in Gaza: Tunnels Lead Right to the Heart of Israeli Fear.
Tunnels have lurked in the dark spaces of Israeli imagination at least since 2006, when Hamas, the militant Islamic movement that dominates Gaza, used one to abduct an Israeli soldier. 
Far more than the rocket barrages that have sent Israelis scrambling for shelter throughout the bloody 21-day battle, the tunnel attacks — Monday’s was the sixth of the current conflict — have shaken the collective psyche and stiffened resolve to continue or even expand the fight. 
In cafes and playgrounds, on social-media sites and in the privacy of pillow talk, Israelis exchange nightmare scenarios that are the stuff of action movies: armed enemies popping up under a day care center or dining room, spraying a crowd with a machine gun fire or maybe some chemical, exploding a suicide belt or snatching captives and ducking back into the dirt. 
“It takes us a little bit to our childhood fairy tales of demons,” said Eyal Brandeis, 50, a political scientist who lives on Kibbutz Sufa, a mile from where 13 militants emerged from a tunnel at dawn July 17. “It’s a very pastoral environment I live in, the quiet, the green grass, the trees. It’s not a pleasant thought that you sit one day on the patio drinking coffee with your wife and a bunch of terrorists will rise from the ground.” 
An Israeli military spokesman said that in the tunnels uncovered so far, soldiers have found more than 70 side shafts. Inside the Ein Hashlosha tunnel, they picked up potato-chip bags dated as late as February. Elsewhere, there were dates, water and crackers; rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles; small rooms for sleeping or hiding; a kidnapping kit of tranquilizers and plastic handcuffs; Israeli Army uniforms; and a Bosch drill used for digging the tunnels that Colonel Azulai described as “a very good one.”

Anti-semitism at "pro-Gaza" rallies in Europe: Stuttgart, July 25, 2014

More antisemitism at rallies against the Gaza war. This photo is from a rally in Stuttart, Germany, on July 25, 2014.

Source: The poster in the center has an image on it by the French artist Zeon.

Here are a couple more photos of the same demonstration:

Translation: "Where are CNN, BBC, ZDF, Bild, Spiegel, and Co.? They are financed by Jewish capital, therefore they do not report about the terror of the Jewish State."

Both of these posters are from Zeon, who seems to specialize in antisemitic and anti-Israel images. See here for a close-up of the image on the right-hand poster.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

7,000 protest against the war in Gaza in Tel Aviv on evening of July 26

Notice the photographs in the foreground. One of them is of Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
I think this is probably the only anti-war demonstration I would have been willing to attend, since it seems that it was genuinely anti-war and pro-peace, unlike many of those around the world. This is the report published in Haaretz: In Tel Aviv, thousands protest against the Gaza operation.

About 7,000 people attended the demonstration in Rabin Square this night. It was organized by Hadash, Combatants for Peace, and the Forum of Bereaved Parents - Israeli-Palestinian.

The sign with white writing on a red background reads: "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies," which is a Hadash slogan. The slogan on the piece of cardboard in the middle reads "A demonstration of hope." Another sign reads, "Enough of the siege!"
Protesters at the event called for an immediate end to hostilities and for the prompt resumption of peace talks. In one of the plaza's corners memorial candles were lit among pictures of fallen the fallen - both IDF soldiers and residents of Gaza. Two Philippine women who attended the protest laid a bouquet of flowers with a note that explained that the flowers were in memory of the IDF casualties. "We aren't a part of the demonstration," one of them explained. "We came to show our gratitude to Israel for its help with the casualties of the typhoon in the Philippines last year."

Among the people to give speeches at the event were Capt. Assaf Ya'akobovich (Res.) and Salim Tabib of Ramallah. The two are active in an organization devoted to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They called for both sides to immediately put down their arms.

Especially moving was the speech given by Ben Kfir, a resident of Ashkelon, whose daughter Yael Kfir was murdered by a member of Hamas in 2003. "In Gaza they are digging concrete tunnels and we are erecting a separation fence," Kfir said. "How sad it is that we can't channel these efforts for peace." He also said "The infrastructure of terrorism is ignorance, poverty and despair. It is with these we must deal."

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), another of the speakers, called on the Israeli government to support a Palestinian unity government headed by Mahmoud Abbas. "So many heartbreaking moments happened this month," Khenin said. "A son crying over his father's grave, a mother weeping for her son, and many pictures of the wounded and dead. Behind each picture is a name, there's a family. We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this blood shed really helped to bring us to a better place?"

Prof. Eva Illouz also gave a speech at the demonstration. She commented on the right-wing incitement. "The left has 150 years of experience dealing with this incitement and it know how to combat it," she said.
The article also reports on a smaller right-wing demonstration that was protesting the anti-war demonstrators, with people shouting things like "death to leftists" (מוות לשמאלנים) and wishing that rockets from Gaza would kill them. In addition they sang a gruesome song: "Why is there no school in Gaza? Because there aren't any more children." (It rhymes in Hebrew).

The Hebrew article continued: "What was obvious this time was the organization of the leftist demonstrators in protective groups. They followed the right-wing activists who infiltrated the demonstration, pushed them out or hurried to call the police. Nonetheless, the threatening presence of violent groups in the area caused the police to request the organizers of the demonstration to shorten it in order to prevent confrontations - according to the organizers. In this case, the police said that the demonstration was ended because of the renewed rocket fire on Israel. At the end, the demonstrators left without any exceptional occurrences."

There's also a report in the Times of Israel about the demonstration: Protesters in Tel Aviv call for "end to war".

Another couple of photos from the demonstration, this time from

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More updates from Jerusalem via Twitter

From Anshel Pfeffer:
From Tali Shapiro:
Report from Haaretz:
Two Palestinians were killed Thursday night in clashes between thousands of demonstrators and police in East Jerusalem. 
Dozens were reported wounded, seven of them seriously. 
The east side of the capital was in turmoil Thursday, as thousands of police officers and border police deployed across the city in preparations for expected disturbances through the end of Friday prayers. 
Two policemen were slightly injured by stone throwers on Temple Mount. In the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz, all approaches to the fire station were blocked, and a spokesman for the firefighting services announced that the station would not be in operation. 
There were also disturbances in near the Old City's Flower Gate, the alleyways of the Old City, Ras al-Amud and Silwan. Palestinians report clashes around the Qalandiya checkpoint, and that the police and the army have closed all major arteries leading to the area. Palestinian ambulances evacuated seven injured demonstrators from the Qalandiya checkpoint to Ramallah. 
Thursday night is Laylat al-Qadr according to Muslim tradition, the most important night in the month of Ramadan. Police and security officials are concerned that the combination of the holiday and the fighting in Gaza will lead to widespread disturbances in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 
Thousands of Palestinians marched from Ramallah toward Jerusalem. Ambulances have been moving back and forth, ferrying the injured from the Qalandia checkpoint and keeping close to the demonstrators, which include men and women of all ages. 
The thousands of marchers who approached the Qalandia checkpoint were stopped by the Qalandia refugee camp, about 300 before the checkpoint because of rising clouds of teargas and the sounds of exploding stun grenades and gunfire. 
Confrontations between youths and soldiers at the checkpoint are nearly a daily phenomenon, but a demonstration of this proportion has not been seen for years. It was organized over the past week in an attempt to change Palestinian policy and to express support for the residents of Gaza and in Hamas's "way of resistance." 
Palestinian police, which a week ago blocked demonstrators on their way to the settlement of Beit El, this time directed traffic at the beginning of the march. 
Since the murder of teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, there have been demonstrations almost every day in most East Jerusalem neighborhoods. Last week, the police for the first time used a so-called skunk vehicle, which disperse demonstrators by spraying a foul smell into the air. 
Police are expecting heavy traffic around the Old City and in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and are asking drivers to avoid the area. 
Jerusalem Police Chief Yossi Pariente decided Thursday to restrict the age of adults praying on Temple Mount to 50 or above. The riots Thursday evening broke out around the checkpoints that prevented youths from ascending to Temple Mount. 
Police used crowd dispersal methods and arrested 12 youths.
From Anshel Pfeffer:

Massive protests in West Bank: thousands of Palestinians in Kalandia, marching for Gaza

Right now, in Kalandia, just north of Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians have marched from Ramallah to protest Israeli actions in Gaza.
Translation: Kalandia - as it has not appeared since the days of the intifada: thousands of Palestinians marched there this evening for Gaza. Report: One Palestinian killed, and almost a hundred injured. Model of a rocket. (Photos below from Gal Berger).

From Anshel Pfeffer - apparently two Palestinians have been killed.

According to Just Jerusalem:

According to Gal Berger:
Translation: Already before the events in Kalandia, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority called to the Palestinian public to participate tomorrow in marches for Gaza all over the West Bank, after the afternoon prayers in the mosques. 
Question: is this the beginning of the third intifada, which many people have been fearing?

Some reports - between 30,000 and 50,000 people in Kalandia now.

More from Just Jerusalem:
From Shibley Telhami:
Miriam Shaviv, being wise:
From Hatzolah Israel:

From Noga Tarnopolsky:

From Sheera Frenkel:
From Benjamin Silverstein:
Also Sheera Frenkel:

July 22, 2014 anti-Israel demonstration in Boston

On Tuesday, July 22, 2014, there was an anti-Israel demonstration in Boston, co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, among other groups. Some of the signs that were displayed cause me to question why JVP would participate in a demonstration with the people carrying them.

Several of the photos below are screen caps of parts of photographs taken by Chris Faraone, a writer for the Boston Phoenix.  For the originals, go to

Why would the progressive rabbis who form JVP's "rabbinic cabinet" want to be associated with the Neturei Karta "rabbis" and supporters pictured below? Neturei Karta is a fundamentalist Jewish sect that is opposed to the existence of Israel. has an interesting article about them and why they should not be regarded as valuable allies for the Palestinian cause.

This lovely poster below equates Zionism with Nazism. Notice the cute touch - in the middle of the 6-pointed star on the Israeli flag is a swastika.

This was the big banner carried by the protestors.

The sign below is the only one I saw that explicitly referenced JVP (among the photos taken by Chris Faraone).

An interesting collection of slogans. "Stop the genocide!" I've seen this one in a number of places. Israel is not committing genocide in Gaza. Then "From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free." This slogan denies that Jews have any right to a state in mandatory Palestine, and demands that the state of Israel be replaced by the state of Palestine. One wonders what the person holding the sign thinks should happen to the Jews who now live in Israel. Then "Jews say no bombing in our name." Which Jews? Isn't it presumptuous to speak for all Jews? And then, "Boston stands with Palestine." What about all the people in Boston who don't care about either Palestine or Israel?

The demonstrator below seems kind of displaced. He supports Bashar Assad's campaign of mass murder of the citizens of Syria. I had thought this was supposed to be an anti-war demonstration. I guess it's really an "against some wars" demonstration.
From -
I would love to read something written by a spokesperson for JVP which would explain why they feel comfortable demonstrating with the people who hold these signs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Middle East....

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Middle East, the Islamic State (formerly know as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS) is on its way to try to conquer Baghdad: Islamic State crushes and coerces on march towards Baghdad. When I first came to Israel in June, this is what I really feared - that very soon ISIS was about to conquer all of Iraq, including Baghdad. Then their advance seemed to stop short of Baghdad, but it seems that they are still driving towards the city.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Antisemitism in anti-Israel rally in Sydney, Australia

Another ostensibly anti-Israel demonstration is blatantly antisemitic: Antisemitism flies high again at Sydney rally.

One poster:

Wave of anti-Semitic rallies hits cities across Germany

More bad news: Wave of anti-Semitic rallies hits cities across Germany.

People who are supposedly protesting the war in Gaza, but who are actually vile antisemites.

Anti-Israel demonstrations in Boston, July, 2014

Another anti-Israel demonstration in Boston, on July 17, 2014.

From Notice the sign that reads: "From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free," with a picture of all of Palestine in the colors of the Palestinian flag. This slogan intends the destruction of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state instead of Israel.

July 11, 2014 demonstration

Another from July 11, 2014 demonstration in Copley Square, Boston

Again, with this slogan, those who support these demonstrations show that they are not for peace or coexistence, but for the destruction of Israel.

Another demonstration is planned for tomorrow night in Copley Square, sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace and a host of other anti-Israel organizations: Students for Justice in Palestine at BU, Northeastern, and BC, Boston BDS, United for Justice with Peace, International Socialist Organization, etc.

If you want to know what Jewish Voice for Peace really believes, see this statement on their Facebook page. They support ending all American aid to Israel, as well as fully supporting the BDS call. They pretend to be agnostic on the question of whether there should be one-state or a two-state solution, but when you read documents like this, which they endorse, it's clear that they don't think Israel should continue to exist. The BDS movement, as I have discussed elsewhere on this blog, calls not only for equality between Jews and Arabs within Israel (which I also support), and for a withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 lines (which I also support, with some border changes), but also for the complete right of return of Palestinians to Israel, which would destroy the state of Israel.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, Switzerland, July 18, 2014

"Perverse politicians: when will these dictators answer for their murder of innocent people?" From the left: Benjamin Netanyahu, with a Hitler mustache; Kim Jong-Un, of North Korea; is the third one Vladimir Putin?; and then Bashar Assad of Syria
Last night I found myself at an anti-Israel rally on the Rathausbrücke in the old town of Zurich. Anti-Israel is the accurate name, not pro-Palestinian.

When I first got to the square, there were only a few people there, starting to put up signs. I went up to the women holding the sign above (after photographing it) to ask them about it, and they were quite hostile, asking me if I was photographing the sign "for Israel." I told them I was an American tourist, not an Israeli. I encountered this hostile reaction two or three times from people in the crowd. Another woman that I spoke with also asked why I was photographing the signs, why was I interested. Again, I told her that I was a tourist, and she said that if that was true, why wasn't I just relaxing and not watching the demonstration?

About a minute of the demonstration, with chanting.
A short video from a news website, in which you can hear the slogan "Allahu Akbar":
During the last couple of wars between Israel and Hamas (2008-09 - Cast Lead, and 2012 - Pillar of Cloud) I have read about anti-Israel demonstrations in various parts of Europe and the US, but I've never actually attended one, because we don't have demonstrations like this in Ithaca. There are a lot of leftwing people in Ithaca, New York (my home town), some of them pretty anti-Israel, but the demonstrations they hold about Israel tend to be very mild, probably because most of those attending them come from the local Catholic Worker and pacifist communities.

Not so at this demonstration. There were calls to "Free, free Palestine," and "From the river [Jordan] to the sea [Mediterranean], Palestine will be free." In addition, because there was a large Islamist presence at this demonstration, there were repeated chants of "Allahu Akbar" (God is the greater), alternating with "Free, free Palestine." The aim of this demonstration was not to advocate for a two-state solution, or reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. The goal was the elimination of the state of Israel. A chant like "From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free" is not asking to share the land between Jews and Arabs - it is demanding that there should only be a Palestinian state.

On the right: "Freedom for Palestine"
The anti-Israel demonstration was organized by various groups, including the Switzerland-Palestine Society (this links to an article with an announcement of tonight's rally, along with a very one-sided analysis of the current Israel-Hamas war), the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland, an Islamist organization (source: Swiss info, and see also the ICCS announcement of the demonstration), and BDS Switzerland. Members of another Islamist organization, "Islamic Brotherhood Worldwide" also attended.

"Freedom for the Palestinian People" - BDS Zurich
From Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, July 18, 2014
Another sign from the BDS group. Partial translation: "As long as we want ... the Palestinians, 
we support the nonviolent BDS fight, boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions, against Israel"
"Injustice ... high finance." Note that "high finance" is often a code word for "Jews," since all Jews are supposed to be rich, according to anti-semitic conspiracy theories
From Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, July 18, 2014
The flags in Arabic have the Muslim statement of faith (the shahada) written on them: 
"There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet."
From Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, July 18, 2014

Deceptive series of four maps claiming to show the Arab loss of Palestine.
From Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, July 18, 2014

Members of the Islamist organization, "Islamic Brotherhood Worldwide."
From Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, July 18, 2014

In addition to several hundred demonstrators (one report I read today said there were about a thousand, but I think that may be too large), there were lots of police. At one point about ten police vans drove into the square. The police wore body armor, carried batons, and had pistols in holsters. At one point when I was feeling scared I walked to the back of the square and stood next to three very tall, unsmiling women officers who were keeping an eye on the crowd.

Before the square filled up, I went up to another police officer and asked him about the demonstration. He told me that there were at least two groups of people involved, who didn't necessarily like each other - the Islamists and the more left-wing groups. I asked him if there was a threat of violence, and he said that the police were prepared to deal with anything - they used tear gas and rubber bullets. 

During the time that I was at the demonstration, there was no violence, but at times I found the chanting quite intimidating. First one group would begin chanting "Free, free Palestine," and then another group would start chanting "Allahu Akbar" - followed by clapping after the chants had stopped.

"Israel has bombs, WE have Allah!" 
The sign comes from the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland. 

Woman marching with the Palestinian flag.

As the square was filling up with people, I saw more and more flags - both Palestinian flags and the Shahada flags.
From Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, July 18, 2014

From Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, July 18, 2014

From Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich, July 18, 2014

I had conversations with a couple of women. One was a Swiss Christian woman who had been arguing with one of the demonstrators. I went up to her afterwards and asked her what she thought. She was very much against the demonstration (that made me feel better, because I felt quite alone there). She told me that in the past few days, there had been postings on Facebook pages about the demonstration that were quite antisemitic. She said that the organizers of the demonstration had wanted another venue - in a Jewish area of Zurich, but the police refused to let them do that.

Her comments seem to be corroborated by this news report:
Before the demonstration, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Switzerland expressed concern about the demonstration and a number of anti-Semitic messages on social media platforms. The Zurich police are reportedly investigating these messages.

The federation’s secretary-general, Jonathan Kreutner, said he was shocked by the “hatred and threats against Jewish people”. He called for the application of anti-racism law against authors of anti-Semitic statements. Several inter-religious organisations called for calm and religious freedom. 
Zurich police allowed the demonstration to take place near the Zurich city town hall, but stipulated that the participants would not be allowed to leave the agreed site.
Another news article also reported about antisemitism on social media: Antisemitism rising in Switzerland
THURSDAY, 17 JULY 2014 08:52 
On Friday evening, a rally for Palestine takes place in Zurich. It was called by various organizations, including the radical Islamic Center of Switzerland, for the "mobilization of Gaza". On several Facebook promoting the demo, comments by Palestine sympathizers were anti-Semitic such as: "Only a dead Jew is a good Jew," "Adolf Hitler was the only medicine against Jews," "we must exterminate the Jews", "gas". 
The Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) is alarmed. "The hatred has reached a dimension that I have never experienced before," says Secretary-General Jonathan Kreutner...
A local blogger, originally from Denver, wrote about the Swiss Jewish response before the demonstration occurred:
This is how Jews live in Switzerland.
On Thursday, the community I belong to sent an email to all its members warning them to stay away from a pro-Palestinian (or in reality, anti-Israel) demonstration on Friday. They also assured members that the normal security at the synagogue and community center would be bolstered by the presence of city police. (And it’s not like the regular security staff are amateurs; in fact they’re so rigorous they often receive complaints from members who feel they’re being interrogated.) But the largely ex-IDF team is not enough in the face of the hatred that abounds in Europe during a period of IDF activity in the West Bank or Gaza. 
Last Sunday in Paris, hundreds of Jews were barricaded in a synagogue – where they had gathered to honor Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali – as pro-Palestinian protesters hurled stones and chairs at the police protecting the shul. There’s a story in this week’s IJN about a similar ‘demonstration’ in Antwerp, where “slaughter the Jews” was repeated as a refrain. 
In Switzerland, the social media surrounding plans for tonight’s demonstration have been filled with hatred, including calls to take the action into the Jewish neighborhoods and attacks the synagogues and Jewish citizens there. “Let’s smash their faces in” was written one of the choice comments. The comments were so vitriolic they sparked a story in the one of the national papers and on the evening news. 
So can you blame the community? 
When I first received the email I was frustrated; why stay away? Why the fear? Let’s face these people, and be proud of who were are, was my initial reaction. 
The Swiss Jewish community has maintained a near radio silence on events in Israel: no solidarity rallies as in Denver, no communal gatherings. The other day, several lay people, including many members of Keren Hayessod, organized a demonstration in one of Zurich’s downtown plazas, Paradeplatz. A member of Keren Hayessod made sure to emphasize to my colleague that he was there in a private capacity and that this rally was not an official Keren Hayessod effort. Why not? Keren Hayessod did, like JEWISHcolorado, open a fund to support Israelis in Israel affected by Operation Protective Edge, but when it comes to being vocal in the Diaspora, the fear sets in. 
Apparently this is what centuries of anti-Semitism, whether latent or active, does to a Jewish community. It’s that mentality of keep your head down, don’t draw attention, then maybe everything will be fine, a myth shattered by the Holocaust. But the survival instinct is still there, and many people continue to hope, if we keep our heads down… 
And I really don’t know if I can fault the Jewish community for its reticence....
I can testify that there were no counter-demonstrators (as there have been in the United States, for example), and I don't think it would have been particularly safe for them to be there. The startling hostility that I received, as a tourist, for merely being curious about the demonstration, was a sign to me that if anyone had spoken up for Israel they would have been risking their safety. I was glad that there were so many police there, and when I felt the hostile feelings of the crowd were rising, I went and stood by them for my own protection.

All in all, this was a most unnerving experience. When I decided to visit Switzerland after being in Israel for five weeks, I thought I would have an nice, relaxing, unpolitical time - I didn't realize that in this globalized world, there's no such thing as avoiding the deadly politics of the rest of the world.

If you would like to see more of the photos I took of the demonstration, click on Anti-Israel demonstration in Zurich.

Update, July 21 - a report (in German) of the same demonstration - Impressions of the pro-Gaza demonstration in Zurich.

A couple of photos of the demonstration from this website:

Notice that this photo shows a poster equating the star of David with the swastika,
which is antisemitic.
Update, July 22 - I've seen reports in a number of online sources that there were 3,000 people at the Zurich demonstration. This is incorrect - there were nowhere near that many people at the demonstration. The same sources assert that the demonstrators shouted that Jews should be thrown "into the sea." I don't know if that's true. If the shouting was in German, I wouldn't have understood it, but the English and Arabic chants did not say that. (One source:

A report from a Swiss news site (in German) that comes to the conclusion that, "Anti-Semitic statements or actions? Non-existent.Whether this has to do with the large police presence, which had stationed around the vegetables bridge or with the fact that it is easier to anonymously rushing on Facebook against Jews as a public space, is debatable." I don't agree with this assessment. If there were anti-semitic slogans in German, I didn't understand them, but the slogan of "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" is inherently antisemitic, because it calls for the replacement of the state of Israel with a Palestinian state.

I just found the source for the assertion that there were 3,000 people at the demonstration - from this article on the Maariv website: The article was written by Noam Amir, but it is based entirely on the testimony of one Israeli woman who happened upon the demonstration, and who estimated that there were 3,000 people there. I don't consider this to be a serious article, since it based on a second-hand account by only one person. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

A day in Zurich

I arrived in Zurich last night from Israel, prepared for a brief vacation in a peaceful land after too much strife, sadness, hatred, and war. This afternoon, I took a boat trip on Lake Zurich. It was very beautiful, with light sparkling on the water, and the high snow-topped mountains in the distance. 

When the boat came back, I started to wander around the old town, including going into the "woman church," the Fraumünster, which has beautiful stained glass panels by Chagall in the chapel. The church was first built in the 9th century.

The photo on the right is from the "Jacob" window, and shows Jacob wrestling with the angel.

Unfortunately, that was not all I encountered in my wanderings around the old town. After visiting the Fraumünster, I went to a cafe called Storchen Zurich and had some dinner. When I had finished, I got up to leave and continue my walk through the town.

As I was about to cross back over the river, I encountered an anti-Israel demonstration. My next post is about the demonstration.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Racist demonstration in Jerusalem on July 14

On Monday night, July 14, I met a friend in downtown Jerusalem for dinner, near Kikar Zion. That same night a mysterious right-wing group had announced that they were going to have a demonstration there, and then march to Damascus Gate in the Old City, under the slogan "We're the bosses here" (כאן אנחנו בעלי הבית). After finishing dinner with her, I walked over to Kikar Zion to observe the demonstration.

The first thing I noticed was the large police presence, mostly from the Border Police - men in blue-grey uniforms carrying batons (in addition to pistols). Across the street there were mounted police. There seemed to be more police than demonstrators.

From Jerusalem summer 2014

Then I realized that there was a smaller counter-demonstration on the steps at Kikar Zion, separated from the right-wing demonstration by a line of police

From Jerusalem summer 2014

Here's one of the posters held up by a member of the left-wing demonstration.

The poster reads: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor!"
From Jerusalem summer 2014

After watching the right-wing demonstration for a while, and listening to their slogans (and curses), it became clear that it was organized by Kahanists - followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who led the explicitly racist and anti-Arab movement Kach.

From Jerusalem summer 2014

From Jerusalem summer 2014

Notice the man in the center of the photo. His white t-shirt shows the face of Meir Kahane.
From Jerusalem summer 2014
The man on the right has a circular sticker on the his shirt - with the words "Kahane was right."
From Jerusalem summer 2014
Two more of the leaders of the demonstration. The one on the right is wearing the "Kahane was right" sticker, the one on the left is holding a Kahanist banner (I can't quite figure out the words).
From Jerusalem summer 2014
The man in the center of the photo with a blue shirt - it reads "Im Tirtzu." This is a right-wing organization that has fascist tendencies. (The Kahanists are a clearly fascist, racist organization).

From Jerusalem summer 2014
A few people gathering at the beginning of the demonstration, carrying Israeli flags.

This is a short video of the demonstrations.
From Jerusalem summer 2014
From Jerusalem summer 2014