Throughout the weekend of April 14th, 2023, multiple rallies across the U.S. celebrated the annual Quds Day, or “Jerusalem Day,” a display of anti-Israel activism originally conceived by the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Many of the events descended into antisemitism and support for violence/terror against Israel. In several instances, rally-goers and speakers called for Israel’s dissolution, venerated members of terror groups and the Iranian regime, and vilified Zionism as irredeemably evil. Demonizing Zionism and opposing the right of Jewish people to maintain a democratic state in their ancestral homeland (the land of Israel), is antisemitic.
As has been the case for several years, event attendance ranged from approximately a dozen to 100 people, including cities such as New York City, Detroit, Seattle, Houston and Sacramento. Troubling developments included:
Comparisons of Israel to Satan and cancer, anti-Jewish chants
- Members of the fringe, anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect known as Neturei Karta were in attendance around the country. A Neturei Karta representative in Seattle called Zionism “heresy” and referred to “this shaitan, of the Satan, of the Satan called Zionism.”
- In Detroit, a large sign played into historic antisemitic themes, declaring Israel “power hungry” and “conniving.” It also called Israel “Satanic” and a “cancer,” a common refrain by leaders of the Iranian regime.
At least two protestors in Houston held signs reading, “Israel should never forget Khaybar.” Khaybar is a reference to 7th century battles between the Prophet Muhammad and local Jews in an area of present-day Saudi Arabia which resulted in the subjugation, mass expulsion, and slaughter of the area’s Jews. Invoking this at a demonstration erroneously turns the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious battle, and it could be considered a threat of armed violence against or forcible expulsion of Jews today.
- In NYC, a speaker who identified himself as a retired Amtrak worker claimed that “the Zionist regime is a police force then Wall Street and big oil uses to preserve its Empire, adding “Palestine will wipe the Zionist State off the map.”
Vilification of Zionism and Zionists
- In Tucson, Arizona, signs were seen reading “F*ck Zionism, F*ck em” and “F*ck Zionist whores.” over the course of the protest.
- Signs at the Fremont Quds Day protest called for an end to Zionism and claimed that if Zionism were to cease existing there would be peace, no racism, an “end to terrorism” and an “end to takfirism” (broadly understood to refer to a small minority of extremists in the Muslim world who consider other Muslims apostates who should be killed).
- In Houston, a speaker claimed, “Zionists today, they are the Pharaohs of this time. They're thinking they're superior and again they are spreading this virus of superiority in the world.” He continues, "they're claiming 'we are the chosen one’. That's not the case, that's not the case. That's the sign of the Pharaoh."
Support for Terrorism and Violence
- Imad Mughniyeh, former Hezbollah Chief of Staff, was featured on a young protestor’s t-shirt in Chicago, Illinois. Mughniyeh helped plan the April 18, 1983, bombing of the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed 63 people including 17 Americans and was formally charged in 1994 with participating in the March 17, 1992, bombings of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people in the AMIA cultural building.
- Protestors in Sacramento carried signs reading, “From Sacramento to Gaza, Globalize the intifada,” recalling the First and Second Palestinian Intifadas. The Second Intifada was one of the most violent and deadly eras of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during which scores of Israeli civilians were targeted and killed by terror groups. One speaker said, "Short of another intifada, Palestinians will continue to face discrimination in their homeland, and the possibility of a just peace will continue to elude us.”
- Speakers in NYC stated, "we must perpetuate an intifada” and led chants of “there is only one solution, intifada, revolution.” Within Our Lifetime’s Nerdeen Kiswani stated that Israel “has no right to exist. And yes, it is our mission to ensure it no longer exists because as long as Israel exists it is a threat to world peace.”
- A sign in NYC venerated Ibraham al Nabulsi, a senior commander in the U.S.-designated terror group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, who was allegedly involved in several shootings in the West Bank. He died in 2022 during a firefight with the Israeli military.
- In Houston a speaker declared “we will continue to resist until the Zionist cancer is uprooted from the face of the earth. We would rather die like these Palestinians have been dying the last 75 years and die with pride and honor.” Additionally, student activist Anna Rajagopal approvingly quoted PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled justifying all armed responses to Israel’s actions. Rajagopal concluded by declaring, "resistance by any means necessary!”