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2009-01-12

Tens of Thousands Demonstrate Globally Against Israeli Actions, Jewish Women Among Those Leading Protests

Guests

Judy Rebick, chair in social justice and democracy at Ryerson University in Toronto. She organized a sit-in comprised of Jewish Canadian women at the Israeli consulate in Toronto last Wednesday.

Dorothy Zellner, Jewish activist here in New York. She is one of fifteen Jews who have signed a call for a protest in front of the Israeli consulate today at 5:30 p.m.

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Tens of thousands of people took to streets over the weekend in cities across the globe to demonstrate against Israel’s assault on Gaza. Some of the protests have been organized by Jewish groups who are speaking out against Israel’s actions. We speak with two Jewish women for peace: Dorothy Zellner, one of fifteen Jews who have signed a call for a protest in front of the Israeli consulate in New York, and Judy Rebick, who organized a sit-in comprised of Jewish Canadian women at the Israeli consulate in Toronto. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

Tens of thousands of people took to streets over the weekend in cities across the globe to protest the Israeli assault on Gaza. In France, tens of thousands of people marched in the streets of Paris. In London, thousands filled Trafalgar Square. In Pakistan, security forces used tear gas and batons to repel protesters who tried to attack the US consulate in Islamabad. A protest in the Belgian capital of Brussels drew 30,000 people. In Manila, Philippines, policemen used shields to disperse students protesting outside the US embassy. In Spain, as many as 100,000 people attended rallies in Madrid and the southwestern city of Seville. In Beirut, Lebanon, an estimated 2,500 Lebanese and Palestinians gathered to demonstrate. In Damascus, Syria, demonstrators accused Arab leaders of being complicit in the Gaza assault. Here in this country, several thousand protesters in Washington gathered in a park across the street from the White House, and in New York, demonstrators gathered in Times Square.

Some of the protests have been organized by Jewish groups who are speaking out against Israel’s actions. Today we’re joined by two Jewish women for peace: Dorothy Zellner, a Jewish activist here in New York, one of fifteen Jews who have signed a call for a protest in front of the Israeli consulate today at 5:30, and joining us on the phone from Toronto is Judy Rebick. She’s the chair of Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University. She organized a sit-in comprised of Jewish Canadian women at the Israeli consulate in Toronto.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Judy Rebick, let’s begin with you. What did you do? What was your protest, and why in Canada?

JUDY REBICK:

Well, a number of Jewish women, some of whom had been involved in peace activism for a long time and others who are like myself, who have been involved in other things, decided that we had to do something to protest the Israeli assault that would be dramatic. And so, we decided to occupy the Israeli consulate. We knew we’d be arrested, and that was, you know, the intention, that we draw attention to the fact that this assault on Gaza is something so terrible that we’re willing to put our reputations and our lives — and our freedom on the line. And a number of us are fairly prominent in Canada. Most of the women there had never been arrested before. So it was something fairly dramatic, and it got a lot of coverage.

You know, we went in one by one, because security is quite high. We sat down, announced that it was a protest. And, you know, they told us we’d be arrested if we didn’t leave. We knew that. And about two hours later, we were handcuffed, arrested, put in a paddy wagon, but they let us go.

And it’s really had a big impact. I think the fact — you know, Israel doesn’t listen to world public opinion at all, as long as they have the support of the American government, but I think the fact that more and more Jews are speaking out against Israel may just have an impact. And I know that we’ve been getting emails and calls from all over the world asking us what we did, how we did it, and people feeling encouraged, because if you’re, you know, engaged in the Jewish community, it’s very difficult to speak out against Israel. And so, one of the things we did was appeal to other Jews, who we know disagree with what Israel is doing, to speak out.

AMY GOODMAN:

And can you explain, Dorothy Zellner, what you’re doing here in New York?

DOROTHY ZELLNER:

Yes. Several Jews have gotten together and issued a call to Jews in the City of New York to demonstrate and show this is intolerable, we cannot take it anymore. We’re heartsick in two respects: we’re paying for it, and they supposedly are doing it for us. And we are not going to let them do it for us without saying no, an immediate ceasefire, immediate stopping the attack on Gaza, and then, ultimately, get to the root of the problem, which is the occupation.

And we have to do it as Jews, because the social justice thread of our tradition, it says that this is a violation. We are the people who jumped out of the windows at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, and we’re the ones who organized the unions, and we’re the ones who went to Spain to fight and in the Second World War. And if anything we have learned, you cannot stand by and do nothing. So, we as Jews have to say to this country that claims to represent us, “Stop. Stop. This is a humanitarian disaster.”

AMY GOODMAN:

And you’re going to the Israeli consulate over between 42nd and 43rd on 2nd Avenue today?

DOROTHY ZELLNER:

Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN:

What will be your major statement there?

DOROTHY ZELLNER:

Well, the major statement will be what I just said: an immediate cessation and withdrawal from Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN:

Are you taking on — the most powerful lobby for Israel in this country, of course, is AIPAC, American Israel Public Affairs Council — Committee. There’s growing other organizations: J Street Project, others, Israeli Policy Center, Friends of Peace Now. Do you think they’re changing the dynamic?

DOROTHY ZELLNER:

I think it will change the dynamic. I think there are thousands and thousands of Jews in the United States who are sick and fed up, and these other organizations have to be pushed. We’re pushing. We’re going to push.

JUDY REBICK:

I don’t think it’s so much that these organizations will change —

AMY GOODMAN:

Judy Rebick.

JUDY REBICK:

—- but that public opinion -— you know, the public will see that these organizations don’t represent all Jews. That’s my view. I mean, they’re a solid pro-Israel lobby. And up until now, they’ve silenced — managed to silence and marginalize Jewish voices who disagree with them. And I think by organizing these visible protests of Jews, what we’re saying is they don’t speak —- these organizations don’t speak for us, and there’s a diversity of opinion in the Jewish community on the issue of Israel and especially what Israel’s doing right now. And -—

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re going to have to leave it there.

JUDY REBICK:

Oh, OK.

AMY GOODMAN:

Judy Rebick, I want to thank you for being with us, joining us from Ryerson University in Toronto, and Dorothy Zellner from here in New York, organizing — helping to organize a protest here in New York in front of the Israeli consulate today, Monday, at 5:30.

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