Mass march in San Francisco protests rise of anti-Semitism

By Betsey Stone
March 18, 2024
March 3 demonstration in San Francisco protesting rise in acts of Jew-hatred in the Bay Area
Militant/Margaret TroweMarch 3 demonstration in San Francisco protesting rise in acts of Jew-hatred in the Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO — Braving intermittent downpours, thousands turned out March 3 for the “Unity Against Antisemitism” march and rally in San Francisco. It was a strong, confident answer to the surge of Jew-hating actions in California in recent weeks.

The most serious attack against Jews occurred at the University of California, Berkeley Feb. 26 when a mob descended on the building where Ran Bar-Roshafat, an Israeli attorney and officer in the Israel Defense Forces reserves, was scheduled to speak. They chanted and pounded on the windows, shattered the glass at the front door and forced their way in, one yelling “dirty Jew.” Despite having adequate warning that a student group was planning to try to shut the meeting down, the university administration did nothing to ensure that the event could take place.

Rachele Fruit, candidata del Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores para presidente EEUU. Con ella, Laura Garza (izq.) y Margaret Trowe, candidatas para el senado y para vicepresidente.
Militant/Eric SimpsonSocialist Workers Party presidential candidate Rachele Fruit speaks with protesters.

“People are using anti-Zionism to mask their antisemitism,” Lior Verbitsky, a Berkeley student, told the Jewish News of Northern California. But the violent mob at Berkeley “attacked students because they were Jewish, not Israeli.”

One of the speakers at the March 3 rally, California State Sen. Scott Wiener, who is Jewish, has been hounded with threats to his life on social media and was surrounded while in his car by demonstrators charging him with “killing babies” and chanting, “Wiener, Wiener, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.”

One of the tech workers from Silicon Valley who initiated the rally told the Jewish News  that a key part of the planning was to include as many organizations as possible, Jewish and non-Jewish. Many at the march carried “I stand in support of the Jews” placards. And there were repeated thanks from the platform to non-Jews who turned out, including a large contingent of participants originally from India.

Rachele Fruit, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, joined the rally. “The fight against Jew-hatred is a fight that workers and our unions can be won to,” she told tech worker Maya Kochman, who came with her family from San Jose. “It’s in the interest of all working people to defend the freedoms of speech and assembly to debate ideas without threats and violence.

“The rise in antisemitism is being fueled today by supporters of Hamas, who deny what happened on Oct. 7 — a systematic slaughter of Jews, a pogrom, like those that marked the Holocaust — and they deny Israel’s right to exist as a refuge for Jews,” Fruit said. “They try to cover over Hamas’ responsibility for Palestinians’ deaths in Gaza.”

“I agree Oct. 7 was a turning point,” Kochman responded. “I was in Israel at the time and a supporter of Israel pulling settlements out of Gaza. I care deeply about Palestinians. But now we see that we cannot continue with Hamas there. We need actions like today, with more numbers.”

Laura Garza, center, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from California, at March 3 San Francis-co action against Jew-hatred. SWP promoted, joined in the march.
Militant/Eric SimpsonLaura Garza, center, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from California, at March 3 San Francisco action against Jew-hatred. SWP promoted, joined in the march.

The next day, supporters of the SWP campaign set up a literature table on the UC Berkeley campus and spoke with Elijah Feldman, who is on the board of Students Supporting Israel, one of the groups that organized the meeting for Bar-Yoshafat that was attacked and shut down.

Feldman said when the mob stormed into the building he was near the front entrance, helping a student whose hand had been injured when a woman came up screaming, “You Jew, you Jew, you dirty Jew.” He said this caught him off guard and he said to her, “I’m a Jew. Do you have a problem?” She called him a “f–king Nazi” and spit on him.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine have been blocking Sather Gate, the main entrance to the campus. They display a pledge to “Flood Sather Gate,” a reference to the “Al-Aqsa Flood,” which was the Hamas thugs’ code name for the Oct. 7 pogrom.

From their table, set up next to the Students Supporting Israel and not far from the pro-Hamas group, Socialist Workers Party campaign supporters distributed a statement by vice presidential candidate Margaret Trowe. They found widespread disapproval of the violent mob attack on the Jewish students.

But some took issue with the party’s opposition to demanding a cease-fire in Israel’s war on Hamas. “I oppose Hamas, but I want the war to stop because innocent people are being killed,” Sam Kaplan told Trowe, who was there campaigning.

“But Israel isn’t responsible for the carnage in Gaza, Hamas is. I support Israel’s efforts to put Hamas out of commission,” Trowe said. “Hamas and its backers in Tehran are proud of what they did, and swear to carry out more pogroms until all the Jews are either killed or driven out. Defeating Hamas is in the interest of all working people, in Gaza, in Israel, in Iran, in the U.S.”