WASHINGTON — Over 1,000 people joined the July 11 “No Fear: A Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People” here. The protest was called following a spate of anti-Jewish assaults in May.
There were more than 1,200 incidents of antisemitic acts in the U.S. in 2020, a 10% increase over the year before, the Anti-Defamation League reports, with an even sharper spike following two weeks of military conflict in May after Hamas began raining thousands of rockets from Gaza at civilian targets in Israel. These acts of Jew-hatred ranged from attacks on synagogues and cemeteries to threats and physical assaults.
Several attacks followed rallies held in New York, Los Angeles and other cities under the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” echoing Hamas’ call for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of Jews who live there.
Speakers at the rally near the Capitol included several of those who had been attacked. One was high school student Talia Raab. After she began organizing a May 23 “Walk for Israel” in Naperville, Illinois, Raab got over 1,300 antisemitic responses online. “I refuse to be silent,” she said.
Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, an African American minister from the Presbyterian Church, USA, reminded participants about the “Jewish-Black alliance” forged in the fight against Jim Crow segregation in the 1960s. “Now is a time of solidarity,” he said, in the face of increased antisemitic attacks.
Organizers of the event said they welcomed participation from everyone who supports the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and opposes antisemitism. Anyone who supports expelling Arabs from Israel was told they weren’t welcome.
“I see a lot of the antisemitism in the United States being articulated as anti-Zionism,” Melissa Landa, director of the Alliance for Israel, which initiated the rally, told the Forward. “To me, it’s for the most part one and the same.”
“I never thought we’d see in our lifetimes the rise in antisemitism,” Paula Bienenfeld told the Militant. “It is time for Jews to reclaim the public space.”
Over 100 mostly Jewish organizations endorsed the rally, including the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International.
The Socialist Workers Party supported the action and distributed hundreds of copies of a statement by SWP candidate for New Jersey governor Joanne Kuniansky, headlined “For Unconditional Recognition of Israel! Protest Every Time Jew-Hatred Raises Its Head!”
The Jewish Voice reported that Kuniansky denounced “acts of Jew-hatred both from rightists and middle-class liberals and radicals” and that she urged working people to oppose actions that call for the destruction of Israel as a “deadly danger” to the class interests and solidarity of Jewish, Palestinian, Arab, Kurdish and other workers.
The statement says opposition to Jew-hatred is in the interests of working people in the U.S. and that “at times of rising economic and social crisis, the capitalist rulers resort to antisemitism to scapegoat Jews and divert ruined middle-class layers and demoralized workers away from the class struggle.”
Silvan Meliza wanted to talk more when told that the party views opposing Jew-hatred as a key question for the working class.
“I consider myself progressive but I support Israel and all the antisemitism I see is very scary,” she said. “The ‘woke’ atmosphere on campuses is very intolerant and I worry that when my teenagers go to college they’ll be under pressure to not identify as Jews.”
Gabriel Epstein, who recently moved to the D.C. area from California, said he finds “the events of the past few months disturbing,” referring to the vandalism of synagogues with Nazi symbols as well as a physical attack against Jewish diners outdoors at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles by thugs waving Palestinian flags.