Al Quds Day is commemorated annually with mass rallies and speeches on the last Friday of Ramadan. It has traditionally been marked by hostile rhetoric towards the state of Israel, including blatant anti-Semitism.
This year, for example, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described Israel as an “insult to all of humankind” and called for Israel’s destruction. Secretary-General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah similarly threatened that Hezbollah has the power to “transform the lives of millions of Zionists in Israel to a real hell.”
While the largest Al Quds Day events generally take place in the Middle East, protests are also held in cities across the United States. The protests, which took place last Friday in a dozen U.S. cities, were rife with extreme language, including signs that compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Holocaust.
In New York, L.A. and Houston, large banners reading “Stop Palestinian Genocide” were on display, as well as other signs that read, “Israel is a Cancer,” "Down with Zionism," Holocaust in Palestine” and “Gaza=Auschwitz.” A woman in New York held a sign that said, “Free Palestine! End ZioNazi Apartheid! No $$ to ‘Israel!’ Boycott ‘Israel’.”
Speakers at several rallies also used fanatical rhetoric to denounce Israel. Rabbi Dovid Feldman of Neturei Karta called for the “dismantlement of the entire State of Israel” during an address at the Los Angeles protest. Another Neturei Karta speaker, this one at the New York rally held in Times Square, led the audience in chants of “Judaism, Yes, Zionism, No, the State of Israel must go” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” In a media interview, an organizer of the Houston protest pledged to continue to "commemorate" Al Quds Day, saying, "This demand for justice will take place every year until Palestine will be free from Zionist hands!"
A second speaker at the event in New York, ANSWER activist Sara Flounders, expressed implicit support for Hezbollah when she addressed the crowd, saying “We stand with the resistance in Lebanon today.” Flounders, who also declared solidarity with the regimes in Iran and Syria, has previously participated in conferences in Beirut attended by representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah. At one such conference in January 2009, Flounders said, “We need to militantly support Hamas…We need to make it clear that we support the right to resist, the right to fire rockets.”
Many of the protests also featured imagery and messaging designed to further fan the flames of the conflict and paint Israel as a violent oppressor. At the rally in Los Angeles, for example, several children held signs that read, “Israel is killing children like me.”
The Iranian-owned television station Press TV reported on the Al Quds Day protest that took place in Washington, D.C. and interviewed one of the speakers at the event. The speaker, Imam Abdul Alim Musa (an anti-Semitic extremist who founded the Sabiqun movement) called for Israel’s defeat and described Gaza as the “biggest open-air prison.”
Al Quds Day, which refers to the Arabic term for Jerusalem, was initiated in 1979 in Iran by Ayatollah Khomeini.