Gilad Atzmon

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Better not Protest Israel’s birthday in America

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By Eve Mykytyn

One more proof, if one were needed, that protesting Israel in the United States can be a perilous activity. Last Friday, Zionists groups organized a rave in Washington Square Park in NYC to celebrate  Israel’s 70th Anniversary. (the rave post dated Israel’s independence day due to permit issues)

Protestors gathered nearby with the goal of reminding Zionists that their  rave celebrated “the racism and the apartheid that is Zionism,” as NYU student Sheelan Mirza said.

“The ideology of Zionism is antithetical to Palestinian liberation,”  remarked SJP President Khalid Abu Dawa. The protestors chanted, “Displacing lives is ’48, there’s nothing here to celebrate,”  referencing the Nakba, the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their land.

A member of Students for Justice in Palestine was arrested after burning an Israeli flag, and another student was arrested when he crossed into the rave as the rave was ending, grabbed the microphone and yelled, “Free Palestine.”  

These arrests were met with an unusually harsh response for student protestors, both students were held at a local precinct until 10:30 pm and then jailed overnight in Manhattan criminal court.

The next morning at their arraignments, the students were charged with a variety of harsh and seemingly inapplicable charges. The student arrested for burning the flag was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment (creating a substantial risk of physical injury to another) and resisting arrest. Each charge carries a substantial potential fine and the possibility of a year in jail. 

The student who grabbed the microphone was charged with disorderly conduct, robbery in the second degree (a felony with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison) assault in the third degree and criminal mischief in the third degree. SEE for definitions and penalties.

The following video shows the protestor grabbing the microphone and his arrest. While the protestor might have disturbed the rave, this hardly looks like the commission of a serious felony. No one was hurt. Despite their relatively mild actions, both students have court dates in June for very serious charges that can follow them for life.

The Israel celebrants were more sanguine and apparently felt free to instruct the protestors. NYU sophomore and Realize Israel board member Bryan Buch said his organization is open to discussion, but the rave is not the place for it. Buch commented, “When you have a birthday, you don’t go out and you say, ‘Oh, you remember when you did that? You just say congratulations.”  Of course, if you are mourning the Nakba, congratulations may not be the correct term for noting successful ethnic cleansing. In fact, Israel’s birthday party seems a uniquely appropriate place to remind Israel’s supporters of the human costs of their celebration.

Realize Israel president Adela Cojab compared the Israeli anniversary to the Fourth of July. “Every single country has their (sic) own nuances, …. but let’s say a Fourth of July barbecue isn’t the place to discuss it.” Just a reminder to Ms Cojab, Israel’s nuances are not yet America’s, nor is its independence day July 4th and even during America’s fourth of July celebrations one is still entitled to criticize America and even burn its flag.

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