Watching Israel being celebrated in the Celebrate Israel Parade in NYC felt, in some ways, like a surreal experience — but, tragically, it was very real. People were chanting and screaming in support of Israel. American and Israeli flags were intertwined. Israeli settlements were celebrated. Some yarmulkes bore Donald Trump’s name.
Juxtapose Israel being hugely celebrated with what is happening in Palestine and Israel on a daily basis. While Israel continues to rob Palestinians of their land, demolish their homes, and deny them basic civil and human rights, people are having no problem celebrating. The Celebrate Israel parade has taken place since 1964 and this is not the first year by any means that Israel has been a brutal occupier, but seeing it (on the screen) this year on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 occupation and after 69 years of the Nakba was sickening.
Fortunately, concerned Jews and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) were determined to confront and disrupt it.
Protests took many forms. As part of a new JVP campaign, “Deadly Exchange,” that calls for an end to U.S.-Israel police exchange programs, one group blocked NYC Mayor de Blasio’s contingent to protest the New York Police Department’s collaboration with Israeli security forces. The NYPD has had a long-time relationship with Israeli security, and there are also police exchange programs run by Jewish organizations, including, but not limited to, the Anti-Defamation League. Law enforcement officials travel to Israel for an exchange of strategies around racial profiling, mass surveillance, how to suppress dissent, and police shootings.
The protesters, who locked themselves together across Fifth Avenue and prevented the Mayor from marching for some minutes, carried signs that said, among others, “NYPD & IDF Collaborate to Kill” and “End Israeli Apartheid.” Others protesting included a group of queer Jews who staged a sit-in with signs like “No Pride in Apartheid” and stilt walkers carrying “Celebrate Ending Israeli Apartheid” and “Stop the Deadly Exchange” banners.
(Editor’s Note: According to the NYPD Office of the Deputy Commissioner, “There were 8 arrests made during the parade. One person was arrested for Obstructing Governmental Administration. The remaining persons were charged with trespass and disorderly conduct,” the Office wrote in an email to the Forward.)
Those protesting the parade, together with so many others across the country and globe, will continue to challenge Israeli injustice at every turn as part of a deep commitment to the Palestinian-led movement for justice.