Amid an otherwise festive ethos at New York City's Salute to Israel Parade, hundreds of paraders ended up facing off with a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who oppose the state of Israel. The annual festival unfolded Sunday against a backdrop of growing divisions over Israel within New York's Jewish community.
The parade's denouement descended into chaos as a crowd of paraders followed the anti-Zionists up and down Central Park South, taunting and harassing them with chants like, "Go Back to Hungary! Go Back to Poland!" NYPD officers struggled to keep the two sides apart.
Neturei Karta is a radical and controversial sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews that has opposed the Zionist movement in Israel, the US, and internationally since 1938. Members believe "Zionists have illegitimately seized the name Israel and have no right to speak in the name of the Jewish people." Its leaders have come under intense fire for seeking out dialogue with the late Yasser Arafat and with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Its synagogue and rabbi's residence in Monsey, NY were destroyed in a suspicious blaze in 2007.
Here the "Chai Riders" face off with the protesters on their motorcycles, revving their engines:
Here Neturei Karta's opponents chant, "Burn in Hell!" "Go Back to Hungary! Go Back to Poland!":
(Note: The Neturei Karta traces its origins to Lithuania, not to Hungary or Poland. What all three countries have in common is the fact that 80 to 90% of their Jewish populations were exterminated.)
Here the ultra-Orthodox Jews are called "Ahmadinejad's Bitches, Ahmadinejad's Whores":
Police officers herded the Neturei Karta protesters up and down Fifth Avenue, while straining at times to keep the anti-NK demonstrators away from them. One of the taunters went up to a rabbi and told him, "You look like a monkey," to which an officer replied, "That was a good one."
In another noteworthy development, a number of Israel paraders were spotted with flags and banners widely associated with the Tea Party movement, such as this "Don't Tread on Me" flag:
Some U.S. supporters of the Israeli settlers have made common cause with Tea Party leaders. Groups like the Jewish Action Alliance and the Tea Party-linked Stop Islamization of America have mounted joint demonstrations, including an April 25 "United Jerusalem" rally in New York and an upcoming June 6 "Stop Islamization" protest against a mosque slated to be built near Ground Zero.
Other signs called for the "transfer" or deportation of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza:
Passions were further stoked by the presence of several explicitly anti-Semitic protesters at the fringes of the Salute to Israel Parade, holding signs calling for a "Final Solution," for "Extermination," and for a "Mushroom Cloud Over Israel." The same signs have made a recurring appearance at recent protests, but protesters have stood by them. Anti-Palestinian protesters, likewise, told me they stood by their signs.
This work by Michael Gould-Wartofsky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License