Zionist surrounded at Mideast ‘peace’ rally

By WND Staff

On Friday, Aug. 27, I read in the paper that a group called the “Middle East Peace Coalition” would hold a rally the next day between 3 and 6 p.m. in New York City’s Union Square Park. It was one of many street events of all political stripes timed to the Republican National Convention, set to begin today.

I want peace in the Middle East. So I decided to attend the demonstration. I had never heard of the “Middle East Peace Coalition,” but I figured it would be nice for me, a Zionist Jew, to stand in solidarity with a coalition of folks wanting peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors. I scrawled a handwritten sign stating, simply, “Zionists for Peace,” and drew an Israeli flag with 1960s era peace signs.

I attended the rally with a friend, Polina Valis. She is a survivor of the Dolphinarium Disco suicide bombing in Tel Aviv of June 1, 2001, in which five of her friends were among the 21 teenagers killed, Jewish and Christian. She herself spent two months in the hospital, underwent five operations (and needs another), carries nails and metal fragments from the bomb in her legs, back and arm, and is permanently missing several chunks of her body. She is also a Zionist, and she is also for peace.

As Polina and I waded into the crowd to draw nearer the speaker, I realized that the peace rally might be not as advertised when I spotted a man whom I once saw selling insignia pins of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The P.F.L.P. is a Marxist-Leninist gang specializing in the wholesale murder of civilians. The U.S. Department of State properly classifies it as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

The speaker at the rally held forth on the Zionist cabal controlling America. “Who is running American foreign policy in the Middle East? Who is in charge? Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Feith, Perle, Abrams: right-wing Jews who work for the Israelis.” Calling Rumsfeld a Jew was a minor flub compared to his later peroration on “Zionist death camps.”

Polina and I had scant time to listen. My fellow demonstrators accosted me when they read my innocuous sign. Zionists hate peace, they insisted. Someone called me a Nazi. Plucky Polina stood by me, trying to make sense of these bellicose peaceniks.

Hovering journalists, sensing story potential, scribbled down bits of conversation and snapped photos as the Middle East Peace Coalition formed a circle around Polina and me.

A woman demanded that I put down my “Zionists for Peace” sign. “This is a peace demonstration,” I objected. “Who told you it was a peace demonstration, huh?” she said. She really said it. Go to www.alerted.org and watch on video as the conversation unfolds.

Alarmingly, she then yelled, “No justice, no peace!” Hoping not to be on the receiving end of “no peace,” I pathetically stuttered: “Middle East Peace Coalition. It [the paper] says a ‘peace demonstration.’ It says ‘peace’ on my sign.”

A dialogue of the deaf ensued. I asked why Jews can’t have a state like every other nation, just like the Palestinians want. Or why Zionism is racism if fully 20 percent of Israel’s population is Palestinian, while Arabs insist that all Jews leave the West Bank and Gaza so that they can have a state without Jews.

Someone demanded to know why I cite the status of the West Bank and Gaza as the sticking points rather than “the whole occupation.” Then a guy wrapped in a Palestinian flag asserted that since all Israel is occupied territory and Israel’s existence is therefore a crime against peace, a Zionist like me is, by definition, an intruder at a peace rally. Someone added that the overwhelming majority of U.N.-accredited non-governmental organizations at the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, declared Zionism to be a racist, outlaw movement. I agreed that the United Nations, in the main, and the Middle East Peace Coalition hold the same view of Israel.

Sensing checkmate, the man who seemed to be in charge of the event shouted, “go back to your country!” I guess he meant Israel, though I was born and raised in America. But how could Israel ever be my country if, according to them, Israel should not be?

Eventually, they called the cops on me. A very nice policeman named Robert Chico asked me to leave. Although I did not want to give Officer Chico a hard time, I pleaded my case: a Zionist for peace is a legitimate part of a Middle East peace coalition; this is billed as a rally for Middle East peace; New York City granted the group a permit to demonstrate based on this premise; either their permit should be revoked for its filing under false pretenses (I suggested in frustration that it should have been filed for the “Middle East Genocide Coalition”) or I should be allowed to stay and these agitators against peace should be made to leave.

Observing the taunts and epithets hurled at me as I conversed with him, Officer Chico said he understood my position but had to remove me for my protection.

Polina Valis, with me throughout the peace rally, is an intrepid soul. In July, she consented to a proposal by filmmaker Pierre Rehov to meet the father of the Dolphinarium suicide bomber. (The father refused to meet her, and Jordan, where he lives, refused to grant her a visa.) A double major in Political Science and History at the City University of New York, she has debated Muslim classmates here who advocate suicide bombings against Israeli Jews and never revealed that she, herself, is a victim of such atrocity. After Officer Chico removed us from the peace rally, brave Polina said she thought nothing could frighten her anymore, but that the Middle East Peace Coalition did.

Robert Jancu is the managing attorney of the American Legal Response Team for Democracy, an organization that advocates in the courts for victims of terror and political repression.