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July 17, 2014

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Local officials rally for Israel, over loud protests

Ido Aharoni. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

At a pro-Israel rally on the steps of City Hall on Monday, dozens of elected officials asserted Israel’s right to self-defense, over the sustained chants of roughly 100 pro-Palestinian protesters.

The two groups competed to be heard at the event, as the protesters shouted from outside the gates at both the east and west entrances to City Hall, often overpowering the voices of the officials who were speaking on the steps.

“We will not apologize for our right to defend ourselves,” said Ido Aharoni, the Israeli consul general in New York.

He was joined by congressmembers Charles Rangel, Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, Nita Lowey, and Eliot Engel; state senators Adriano Espaillat and Brad Hoylman, assembly members Phil Goldfeder, Richard Gottfried, Helen Weinstein, and David Weprin; and council members Mark Levine, David Greenfield, Rory Lancman, Chaim Deutsch, Mark Treyger and Margaret Chin. The group also included former councilman Dominic Recchia, who is running for Congress, along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Mike Nussbaum, the publisher of the Queens Tribune.


The “New York Stands with Israel” event was organized by The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, UJA-Federation of New York, and the Jewish Caucus of the New York City Council and drew officials from all levels of government, as Israel continues to launch air and missile strikes at targets in Gaza and to sustain rocket attacks launched by Hamas. A U.N. official put the latest death toll in Gaza from the Israeli attacks at 174, with more than a thousand wounded. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito did not attend, but the mayor said later expressed support for Israel in the conflict, and the speaker submitted a supportive quote for inclusion in a press release announcing the event. 

Assembly Speaker Silver told a group of reporters after the event that he was satisfied with the turnout.

“I think what’s important on short notice is people came out to support Israel,” he said. “That’s the message that you should take very clearly.”

“Again, on short notice, on a Monday morning in the summertime, everybody says one thing,” Silver added.

After the event, Greenfield told a few reporters that there were “two dichotomies” at City Hall. 

“We have a pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy rally. And we had a pro-terrorism rally going on out there,” he said.

“If you asked the protesters specifically whether or not they support Hamas, they will either tell you that they will not answer, or they will tell you that they do in fact support Hamas,” he said. “Effectively what we have over here, is we have rallies in favor of terrorists.”

During the event, the protesters said that the politicians inside the gates didn’t represent them.

“These representatives also represent other people in New York City and we think the attack on Gaza City is terrible. We don’t stand with Israel,” said Dorothy Zellner, 76, one of the protest organizers and a member of the group Jews Say No.

Lourdes Vela, 49, of the Bronx, is a member of Latin Americans and Latinos In Support of Palestine.

“I’m going to look up who my councilman is, I’m going to not just send him a letter but show my face in his office and tell him I’m appalled,” she said.

Daniel Schneider, 26, of Brooklyn, said he saw a connection between the actions of the Israeli Defense Force and the New York Police Department’s “brutality.” 

“The kind of stance that I would want my city council member to take would be actually to call out those connections and to put an end to violence here and there,” he said.

Some of the protesters said city or state politicians should not be getting involved in international politics at all.

“It’s not their place in the first place—they shouldn’t be involved in foreign affairs. If they want to be involved in foreign affairs they should be in Congress,” said Sarah Aly, 19, of Staten Island. “As a New Yorker you don’t represent me standing with Israel. Because I definitely do not stand with Israel.”

Later, a group of the pro-Palestinian protesters on the east side of City Hall continued to chant, even though the protesters on the west side had dispersed. A television reporter who had set up her camera within the City Hall gates was using them as background for a shot.