A Report on the Palestinian Protest at Times Square, New York
Friday, 6 October 2000

Friday's protest was deeply affecting, powerful, hard to take, and wonderful at the same time. We stood across the street - we weren't participating, just watching - and listened as a very calm Palestinian with a microphone lead the group in chants, in Arabic and English. The protesters were strong, and loud, and as rowdy as protesters normally are, but they were peaceful and contained, and they exhibited no signs of losing control, trying to overrun the police barricades, or anything like that. Human, in other words.

After a few minutes, the leader asked the crowd to calm down a little bit (not too effectively, but that's to be expected), and said that the world was watching, that they'd confirmed they were on TV, and they wanted the world to see something. Directly across from us, in the middle of the group, a circle had formed, and then it became clear, as the smoke rose: they were burning an Israeli flag.

And who can blame them? It broke my heart to look at these people waving Israeli flags with swastikas painted on to them, not because they are wrong but because they are so right. A troupe of young women, in full chadors, walked by us with signs saying that their children should not be murdered any longer, and chanting "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" At the corner stood two Israelis and two Palestinians, arguing - peacefully, and calmly. The one sign of hope that I saw yesterday.

The news that night also mentioned that Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders in NYC had signed a pact to disagree peacefully here in America, despite the violence over there. Thanks, guys. How about agreeing to condemn the violence? How about agreeing to state, publicly, the mutual humanity of your respective constituencies and maybe even saying that murder is just plain wrong, regardless of who does it, and to whom?

It is, indeed, a miserable and unpromising start to the new year, and an awful way to enter the Yom Kippur holiday. I feel powerless, in the most awful of ways. And I feel deeply ashamed, even as an American, because I am a Jew.

Copyright 2000, by A. D. Freudenheim. All rights reserved, no use without prior permission.