11 January 2009

All we are saying

I just got back from a peace protest / rally on 2nd Avenue at 42nd Street. This was an event organized as a distinct contrast to the pro-Israel rally taking place on 42nd Street, and to the pro-Palestinian rally taking place at Times Square. For a brief summary of the three events, see the Muslim-Jewish Journal.

Rallies are rallies, so I won't rehash the details of standing around in the cold holding a sign because I've now done it... Nor will I reiterate my views on the current Middle East Madness, which are clear enough here and here.

Instead what I will say as a takeaway from today's event(s) is: there is a lot of hate in the world, and it's rather sad. In some cases, just downright pathetic.

In the two hours I was out there today, many people walking by - on their way to the "main" rally - shouted nasty things at our group. Some stopped to "argue," otherwise known as shout. One guy made the effort to walk around us a few times shouting "Kill them all!" as he headed to the pro-Israel rally. Well, gosh: "Kill them all" is really the right message isn't it? I mean, that doesn't make the (Jewish, wearing a yarmulke) guy sound like a genocidal nutbag, does it? Other people tossed out ridiculous arguments about how Hamas "started it," which is about at the intellectual level of a kid in elementary school.

On the eastern side of 2nd Avenue was another protest, this one by a small group of Satmars waving a Palestinian flag and holding signs against both Israel and the murder of Palestinians. So a small group of Modern Orthodox men took it upon themselves to come to the rally seemingly only with the intent of harassing the Satmars. They had signs - pre-printed - about how the Satmars are not authentic Jews (hunh?) and with absurd slogans like "Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism!" (If you want my take on that nonsense, read this piece about Stanley Fish, from 2007.) It says something sad about the insecurity of those young men that the best they could come up with is a way to harass a bunch of Satmars. I spoke with one of the Satmar gentlemen, and he said "They hate us more than they hate the Arabs."

The best thing to come out of this for me? The response from the cabbies and bus drivers along 2nd Avenue, many of whom gave me a thumbs-up sign, and one of them even pulled over briefly to ask some questions and offer support.

Will any of this make a difference? I don't kid myself. Hateful ideologies are difficult to dislodge, even (especially!) if you're Jewish and a Zionist and too clueless to realize you're full of hate. But it says a lot about the tremendous insecurity of American Jews that two small groups of protesters can arouse such intense hatred and expressions of anger. To me, this suggests that many of these people are not as confident in their views as they would like others to believe.

Anyone for a little "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues"?

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