August 14, 2020
Anti-Israel organizations held demonstrations in at least eight cities across the country, August 7 through 9, 2020. Protests were organized following the call of transnational anti-Israel group Samidoun for Days of Resistance, designated as a time to engage in demonstrations and related activity as a follow-up to July’s Day of Rage anti-Israel protests that were more focused on Israel’s potential annexation of parts of the West Bank.
While most of the rhetoric at Days of Resistance demonstrations fell within the bounds of legitimate, if coarse, anti-Israel critique, a notable segment crossed the line into extremism and antisemitic tropes, including expressions of support for terrorist groups or allegations that Zionists control the Middle East or U.S. law enforcement. Most rallies also repeatedly called Zionism inherently racist. Such rhetoric has the effect of upsetting and antagonizing American Jews, as polls reveal that a majority of this community considers a connection to Israel a part of their cultural, social or religious identities.
Some of the most extreme sentiments expressed at Days of Resistance rallies included the following incidents:
- At the rally in Las Vegas, anti-Israel activist Annalise Friedman stated that “Zionism is a settler colonial machine designed to use the Jewish people as an instrument for Western domination of the Middle East…As a project, Zionism sought to rip asunder Judaism from the Jews…To my fellow Jews that cower in the face of Zionism and refuse to fight for Palestinian liberation: you need to stand up and rise in solidarity.” She was met with enthusiastic applause when she concluded her speech by remarking: “We must fight tirelessly side by side with all marginalized peoples until Israel is eliminated from the river to the sea.”
- One speaker at the demonstration in Dearborn, Michigan, claimed that “all police in the U.S. are part of the Zionists’ military entity.” Another speaker, Jah-T from Detroit Will Breathe, remarked that Zionism “privileges white-skin Ashkenazi Jews at the expense of dark-skinned African Jews. Sephardi, Mizrahi Jews. So when we say that Zionism is white supremacy, Zionism is racism, we aren’t saying they’re like each other, they are the same thing."
- At the rally in New York City, a few protesters prominently displayed flags of the terrorist groups Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Among the chants were “Hey-hey ho-ho, Zionists have got to go” and, in Arabic, “From the river to the sea, Palestine is Arab.” One speaker spoke glowingly of the “growing militant struggle of Palestinians to avenge their homeland” and of Palestinians and others around the globe “taking up the armed struggle of revolution because they have no other choice, they have no other way to fight for their struggles.” The event’s MC, Nerdeen Kiswani of the anti-Israel group Within Our Lifetime-United for Palestine, referred to Jewish people who immigrated to Palestine and later Israel in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as exclusively European, despite the large percentage of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews who came to Israel, often in response to persecution, from the Middle East and North Africa, and currently make up the majority of the Israeli Jewish population.
Numerous anti-Israel groups organized Days of Resistance rallies, including Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. Other groups included the Palestinian Youth Movement, Al-Awda, American Muslims for Palestine and the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance. Radical anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jewish group Neturei Karta had a visible presence at the New York City rally, where its leader, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, spoke to the crowd, remarking, “Judaism is subservience to God. Zionism and the state of Israel is a direct rebellion against God and his Torah.” Although this may be true in the theology of his own small sect, it is not true for large numbers of American Jews.
Similar to Day of Rage protests, anti-racism was a prevalent theme at many of the demonstrations. Some speakers attempted to delineate connections between the struggle for Black liberation and the Palestinian cause. No official Black Lives Matter groups or anyone claiming to be a part of the Black Lives Matter movement participated in Days of Resistance rallies.