Not All Jews are Zionists
By Abraham Weizfeld *
The effect of 30 protestors from a Jewish counter-demonstration to the annual Zionist Israel Independence Day celebration cannot measured on a super market scale. Even while there were some 2-5 thousand Zionists present in Phillips Square and Dominion Square (with La Presse news journal reporting it as 15,000) for the Israel Day 55th anniversary, nonetheless the thirty dissidents present calling for an end to the occupation evoked the hatred of a couple of hundred Zionists who came to confront the counter-demonstration. Recent turn of events have recalibrated the scales of opinion since the President of the World Jewish Congress, Bronfman, came to dissociate the Jewish People from the government of Israel calling on General Sharon to implement the Quartet "Road Map" as demanded now by even the Bush administration. International public opinion is currently behind the negotiation plan and the Palestinian Authority has endorsed it as well. Only the Sharon government is playing for time and demanding pre-conditions to the negotiation proposals such as a Palestinian renunciation of the Right to Return before negotiations are even scheduled to take up the issue in 2005.
Previously the sponsors of the action, the Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation and the Jewish People's Liberation Organization (JPLO) were considered, or were denounced as marginals in the Jewish community. Nowadays such feigned insults are forgotten in the face of the serious criticism that the Israeli government is unable to deflect.
Since it is evident to all now that it is only Sharon who refuses to accept the "Quartet" negotiated proposal our presence had a pertinent character. The same held true for the presentation to the rally made by the former Prime Minister of Québec Lucien Bouchard who appealed
for a solution which permits the Palestinians to have their own State while recognising the legitimacy of the State of Israel and its right to exist in peace. His speech was warmly applauded by the listeners composed principally of students holding little Israeli flags. ... he affirmed that the time has come to put an end to all violence in the Middle-East . Only peace may put an end to the sufferance (Le Journal de Montréal / Jeudi 8 mai 2003, p. E1 ) . The English-language Montréal Gazette reported that he continued, "The time has come to end all acts of violence in the two territories ... and launch an open minded peace process." He also stressed that the United Nations resolution that created Israel 55 years ago also called for recognition of a Palestinian state. (Gazette, 8/05/2003, p. A2)
This led to a rather resigned attitude to our presence by the majority of the Israel Day rally participants who passed close to us on their way home, but some two hundred remained to confront us but without a direct physical threat. Chants were shouted at each other with Neturei Karta chanting Judaism Yes, Zionism No, as well as Israel No, Palestine Yes. The Neturei Karta spokesperson spoke over a megaphone to the
Zionist supporters telling them to speak with their grandfathers who would remember that Zionism was not considered Jewish by the religious authorities of their day.
When the confrontation began though soon after the police were replaced by the riot squad which ran in between us with their helmets and shields, stopped and turned towards us. Everyone expected that they would turn outwards to protect us but they turned towards us, and then surrounded us. The militant Zionists there liked this and increased their shouting and also began to surround our counter-demonstration. The officer in charge then decided to order our removal from the park onto the next street even though we could have continued there in the park. Instead we were pushed rapidly into the back of the park under "protective custody" where we were arrested but not charged and led down into an underground parking garage to escape the attention of the rioting Zionists outside. When we were initially surrounded and moved it was done with the force of the shields which were shoved into us. I was hit in the cheek, hand, and thigh with enough force to cause pain and leg inflammation. I remember the officer who did it too, #947 Montréal Riot Squad.
When we were led into the underground parking the Zionists were all around above us and spat down on us or our placards. Mine said NOT IN OUR NAME and Zie Nichst kun Fanatik ( Don't be a Fanatic, in Yiddish ).. how ironic. I was representing the Jewish People's Liberation Organization (the JPLO, or Jewish PLO). Usually their intensity of the Zionist reaction is not as severe but with the presence of the Hasidim in the Neturei Karta the normal dismissal of our opposition as either self-hatred, naivety, communism, Marxism or treason did not seem credible to the others. So they got angry with the Orthodox and shouted shame at them instead. In their sackcloth they were harassed as much as if there were some racist gang attacking.
The major and only English daily paper actually provided respectful coverage to the Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation interviewing Gabrial Levine who helped carry its banner and who defended the right to upset the "untroubled celebration" of Israel's 55th anniversary of statehood. "Every nation should have the right to celebrate its establishment but you can't celebrate 55 years of democracy while in the process of denying democracy to other people, namely the Palestinians.
Usually when debating with Zionists the accusatory question is presented, Have you ever been to Israel ? But since I never had the desire nor opportunity to go I preferred to boycott. However this month there is a conference of the Jewish Arab Centre for Peace at Givat Haviva in Nazareth, Israel where I will present a paper on The Abrahamic Tradition. The Québécois Lucien Bouchard who spoke to the rally also exhorted the Jewish audience to let the other be heard which would brake the unending circle of violence and in this way bring about the reconciliation of the children of Abraham.
This will also be an opportunity to go to Palestine and learn the conditions there in their actuality. À Bientôt.
* Abraham Weizfeld has deposited his doctoral Thesis on the subject Nation, Society and the State: the reconciliation of the Palestinian and Jewish Nations in the Faculté de Science Politique et dd lois à l'Université du Québec à Montréal