Anti-Israel protesters attack pro-Israel counter-protesters in Raleigh, North Carolina, May 13, 2023. Photo: courtesy
By Amy Rosenthal
(JNS) — What does Jew-hatred feel like? A punch in the gut. Literally. Let me explain.
On May 13, a “Nakba Day” rally was held in Raleigh, N.C. It was only one of many such rallies held throughout the United States, including in Washington and New York. These events are notorious for promoting Jew-hatred and genocide, so much so that Berlin banned “Nakba Day” demonstrations this year.
Nakba is Arabic for “catastrophe.” The word reflects Arab anguish over the establishment of the State of Israel and the Arabs’ failure to slaughter the Jews of Palestine in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.
However, the “Nakba Day” rallies do not express mourning, but rather anger and hatred towards Jews. Participants shout lies about Jews and deny Jewish ties to the Land of Israel, the Jews’ right to self-determination and Israel’s right to exist. The intent of these rallies is to reduce American support for Israel, which the haters hope will ultimately lead to Israel’s destruction.
The North Carolina Coalition for Israel thought it was important to counter these lies and Jew-hatred. We reached out to local Jewish organizations, seeking their support and assistance. We received none.
Jewish leaders should have been aware of the rally in advance, alerted and educated their members, and mobilized the community against it. Unfortunately, there was no indication that any Jewish organization was aware of the event or concerned enough to act.
We contacted the CEO of the Jewish Federation in Raleigh asking if the organization had any plans to address the issue. We received no response. The Raleigh JCRC was aware of the rally but did nothing. We reached out to the liaison at Jewish for Good — formerly the Durham/Chapel Hill Jewish Federation — and were told that they don’t participate in political protests and instead focus on positive Israel education. As for the local synagogues and rabbis, none mentioned the event in advance.
Our state also has a North Carolina Jewish Clergy Association, established in April 2022. Surely, this group, led by Rabbis Eric Solomon and Judith Schindler, would protect the Jewish community.
No. Last month they held an event to celebrate themselves, hosting speakers from the Democratic Party honoring their first-year anniversary. Then, as almost 2,000 rockets were fired at Israel, they were silent. Not a word about the Raleigh rally either.
We asked for support from fellow Jews. Some said they would not attend because the event was on Shabbat. It’s typical for antisemitic anti-Israel events to be scheduled on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, as the organizers know it will limit pro-Israel attendees. Others advised us to stay away, saying that paying attention to the perpetrators would only strengthen them.
At the 11th hour, we reached out to the Jewish Leadership Project. They came to the rescue by providing a truck that displayed messages countering the usual nakba lies. These messages included: “Nakba: the failed genocide of Jews by Arabs in 1948,” “The real Nakba: The expulsion of one million Jews from Arab countries” and “Nakba, when the Arab leaders disappointed Hitler.”
Despite the indifference of Jewish institutions and the community, we managed to pull together a small group of Jews who cared enough to show up and counter the lies. We arrived during the “teach-in” that took place prior to a march by the participants. At the “teach-in,” lies were spewed about Israeli “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing,” as well as the libel that Israel is an “apartheid state.” There were explicit calls for violence against Israelis.
We heard the usual chants, such as “from the river to the sea,” a call for the elimination of Jews from our ancestral land. The participants avoided using the word “Jews,” covering up their hate with words like “Zionist.” The crowd listened to the lies without question and periodically clapped and chanted.
When we arrived, many of us wearing “End Jew Hatred” T-shirts, we stood in the back of the crowd. We held up signs that said, “End Jew Hatred,” “Anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism,” “Nakba? America won’t mourn your 1948 failure to massacre Jews,” “The true Nakba: Arab refusal to recognize Israel,” “The true 1948 Nakba, Arabs persecute, attack and expel 850,000 Jews.”
That was enough to trigger some behavior that may be acceptable in Gaza but should not be imported to America. One very tall man got right in front of me and held up a “free Palestine” sign, telling me to move back. One person told a woman holding an “End Jew Hatred” sign that she was a “f***ing Zionist.” Two people told a member of our group that “Jews kill babies.” He was shoved hard but did not fall.
A man came over to me and punched me in the abdomen, then tried to grab my sign. As our little group was looking for help from the police, who had been ignoring the threats and violence we faced, another man wearing an “End Jew Hatred” T-shirt was surrounded by haters, shouting at him inches from his face while he tried to stay quiet.
The next thing I saw, the man was being flung to the ground. When he got up to subdue his attacker, only then did the police intervene. They ordered our group to leave the public park and stand on the other side of the road. We complied.
While our politicians and Jewish leaders prefer to focus on right-wing antisemitism, radical Islamists and their leftist allies have acquired positions of power in our government, the Democratic Party and academia. Our leaders need to understand this growing threat and take it seriously.
The status quo of Jewish leadership isn’t working. Jewish leaders need to shift the spotlight to our new reality, sound the alarm and take action to protect the Jewish community. Anything less endangers our survival, both in America and in the historic Jewish homeland of Israel.
Amy Rosenthal lived in Israel as a child and is co-founder of the North Carolina Coalition for Israel.