A small group of demonstrators from a North Brunswick-based peace organization — including some Jews — protested in downtown New Brunswick June 2 against Israel’s role in a deadly confrontation between its commandoes and passengers of an “aid” ship bound for Gaza.
The June 2 protest on the corners of Albany and George streets drew about 20 people from the Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War, which bills itself as “a diverse coalition opposing the American government’s pursuit of endless war no matter how it’s defined.”
The evening protest was ignored by most pedestrians and vehicles on the heavily trafficked street. However, some cars blew their horns in support while one car slowed and its young male driver rolled down the window to shout an obscenity at the picketers.
The protest was a microcosm of the condemnation directed at Israel from around the world following the May 31 incident. Local Jewish leaders, however, insisted the media and protesters had distorted the facts of the confrontation — and the motivations of the passengers — in order to demonize Israel.
“All human life is important and any loss of human life is tragic,” said Lee Livingston, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, in response to the demonstration. “The internal investigations in Israel and the investigations of the United Nations ought to be allowed to run their course. We all, of course, pray for peace and a solution to this. If people want to get out and protest, that’s fine. That is their right. ”
However, he noted, Gaza is controlled by Hamas, “whose primary objective is to destroy Israel,” and organizers of the flotilla have been quoted as saying they were itching for a violent confrontation.
Nine international activists were killed aboard the six-ship, Turkish-registered convoy that tried to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Israeli troops boarded five of the ships without incident, but said they were surprised by passengers wielding knives and bats on the sixth, and fired in self-defense.
A “resource page” on the federation’s website, describing the incident, said the flotilla organizers ignored an Israeli offer to unload their cargo in Ashdod, where it would be transferred to Gaza over land after undergoing security inspections.
“This incident, along with every other incident that happens, points more and more strongly that peace has to be made and accommodations have to be made in the Middle East,” added Livingston.
Some of the Jews at the protest declined to give their names or have their pictures taken.
However, several did speak to NJJN.
“I’m here because Israel just committed an act of piracy and because I’m outraged at the horrors committed during the siege of Gaza,” said Sam Friedman of Highland Park. “Israel has stolen the land of the Palestinians and continues to steal their land. Israel needs to get out of Gaza and get out of the West Bank. There needs to be peace there and in the rest of Palestine as well.”
Marion Munk of Piscataway said she was there because she thought what “Israel was doing was abhorrent.”
“I was always taught growing up the Jews believed in social justice and that all Jews do the right thing, but boy was I wrong,” said Munk. “I am so disgusted that money is being spent to perpetuate this brutality. It’s just unconscionable to me.”
For background on the flotilla incident, got to www.jewishmiddlesex.org.