I went to a rally in Blue Ash yesterday sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
One report estimated 1000 people were there, which sounds right. I’d say half were Jews, 25% were non-jewish supporters of Israel, and the other 25% were the counter protesters. This last group was almost universally pro Palestine, with plenty of Palestinian flags to be seen. There were about 3 young white kids wearing white-supremacist stuff standing near (but not with) the pro-Palestine group.
Slogans on the pro-Israel side ranged from “Israel must defend herself” to “Hezbollah out of Lebanon and Israel” to “stop terrorism everywhere.” I didn’t see much openly confrontational stuff, if any, although a few people seemed to be taunting the counter protestors and waving flags at them.
The counter-protestors were just there to distract and demoralize. Nearly every sign I saw was negative and offensive. There were plenty of pictures of mutilated bodies. The worst was orange posterboard held by a high school aged girl with [star of david] = [swastika] on it. How out of touch is that? I saw maybe a couple pro-peace signs on that side.
I don’t think they did themselves any favors by being there with no other agenda than to disrupt. I hoped to see some Lebanese presence to stand in solidarity against the hezbollah terrorism. There were a few, but not many. It’s unfortunate that the loud and hateful are the ones who always get the press.
The rally consisted of a opening remarks and several speakers. Congress members Jean Schmidt and Steve Chabot were there. Chabot was pretty intelligent, but Schmidt mostly just said whatever would get cheers. Several members of the Jewish community spoke, and a Hindu priest spoke briefly. There were a few first-hand stories about anti-jewish terrorism in Israel.
I was most impressed by Arna Poupko Fisher, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council, who spoke last. She was the only one to acknowledge the counter-protestors. She said “shame on you for heckling during the national anthem,” which was exactly how I felt. She went on to challenge them to give up the hatred, say enough is enough and stand with the jews against terrorism. Whatever Lebanon has against Israel, harboring Hezbollah isn’t helping.
Personally it was a new experience. I’ve been to DC during the first gulf war, so I’ve seen protests, but this was different. I got a bit of the sense of what it means to be jewish in America. There were police with machine guns and grenade launchers (probably tear gas). There were guys on roofs with camoflage and sniper rifles. Things were under control, but there was a sense that things could go very bad very quickly.
I understand terrorism has been committed by Israelis against Palestinians. I don’t think that’s a reason to justify what’s happening now. Israel is in a bad situation, surrounded by enemies. They want to live in peace, but they have neighbors who want to see them all dead. I’d love to see anyone who stands for hatred brought to justice, Jewish or Palestinian. It was good to be able to stand with Israel and support their right to have a place to live in peace without fear.