Commentary by Chippy Dee, Photos © by Bud Korotzer
On March 9th there was a $1,000 a plate fundraising dinner at New York’s Waldorf Astoria for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) – the same folks that rained death and destruction on Gaza a little over a year ago.
The dinner was sponsored by Friends of the IDF.
Declaring that they would not remain silent, a substantial group of organizations (which included Adalah-NY, American Jews for a Just Peace, Brooklyn for Peace, Center for Immigrant Families, Codepink, Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism, Gaza Freedom March, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, Judson Church, Middle East Crisis Response, National Lawyers Guild-New York Chapter, NYC Anti-War Coalition, Progressive Democrats of America, Wespac, Women in Black Union Square, Woodstock Veterans for Peace and others) were determined to make the Friends of the IDF, as well as the citizens of New York, aware of their objections to what Israel had done and was doing to the Palestinian people.
Many of the Jewish groups felt a particular sense of responsibility because the crimes were being committed in their name since Israel purports to speak for all Jews.
Along with signs that said ‘War Crimes’ and ‘No US Military Aid to Israel’ there were hundreds of signs that listed some of the war crimes discussed in the Goldstone Report and by human rights organizations that have documented violations of international law.
*Israeli soldiers shot at handcuffed civilians and women and children carrying white flags.
*Israeli forces bombed a home, killing one family of 22.
*Israeli forces bombed a playground, 3 Gaza hospitals, and a U.N. school.
*Israeli forces destroyed more than 3,000 homes, the Gaza water plant, flour mill, egg farms, and the cement factory. Many of the signs gave the names and ages of people killed, including babies and the very elderly.
Between 500 and 600 people of all ages and backgrounds, most dressed in black, silently and militantly circled the block that the Waldorf is situated on. They did that for 2 hours as very well dressed attendees entered the hotel. Most seemed angry, many were abusive but, per instructions from the organizers, nobody (actually, almost nobody) responded. There were also a few Zionist supporters who infiltrated the demonstration by getting between the marchers and trying to provoke arguments as they walked. They were not responded to either. People who volunteered to be marshals kept the demonstrators moving at an even pace and kept reminding them to avoid confrontations. They did an excellent job keeping everything running smoothly. There were also many National Lawyers Guild legal observers with their bright green caps – always a comforting sight. However, there were no problems with the NYPD.
Across Park Avenue another group of about 150 demonstrators organized by Al-Awda were also protesting against the IDF and their General Gabi Ashkenazi, often referred to as the “Butcher of Gaza,” who was at the dinner also. Their demonstration was very different. There were Palestinian flags, a sound system, and very vigorous chanting, “When people are occupied, resistance is justified”, “Free, free Palestine”, “Gaza, Gaza don’t you see – Palestine will be free”, and “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry – Palestine will never die”. Some of the people who had walked silently joined the Al-Awda demonstration when the walk ended.
Although the styles of the 2 demonstrations were very different the message was exactly the same. Over 700 New Yorkers came out into the streets to say that they strongly objected to Israel’s destructive policies and to the US military aid being given to Israel, a gift from American tax payers. They will not buy products made in Israel or in Israeli settlements and they will continue to speak out forcefully for justice for the Palestinian people.