The Philadelphia chapter of the Zionist Organization of America stood in opposition to a rally supporting Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill on Thursday afternoon. About 25 people affiliated with ZOA took one side of a small walkway at Temple’s Lenfest Circle, braving the biting cold with signs and chants. Across the way, members of Temple’s Students for Justice in Palestine and their supporters had their own signs and chants, along with pamphlets, large flags and more. Members of Temple University Campus Safety looked on.
“There is a really ugly professor on campus who called for the destruction of Israel, who called for violence against Jews, who called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions, and those are only the things he said at the United Nations,” said Steve Feldman, executive director of the Philadelphia ZOA. Feldman brought miniature American and Israeli flags for the counter-protest, which was set up about a half hour before the rally in support of Hill. The group also held signs: “THE JEWISH PEOPLE ARE INDIGENOUS TO ISRAEL,” read one; “AMERICA’S WAR ON TERRORISM IS ISRAEL’S WAR ON TERRORISM,” read another.
Hill, a Philadelphia native and a graduate of both Temple and the University of Pennsylvania, was speaking at the U.N. International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Nov. 28 when he remarked that, “we must advocate and promote non-violence,” but added that “we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing.” He also used the phrase, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which critics have pointed out originated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It referred to the establishment of a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, with the implicit (and often explicit) threat of violence to Jewish civilians.
Hill denied calling for such violence, and said that he meant to voice his support for a single democratic state in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Regardless, he was fired from his other position as a CNN commentator.
ZOA’s position remains that Hill should be fired from Temple on the basis of his comments.
Across the way, the rally doubled the size of the counter-protest. The crowd chanted, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and held signs with the same phrase. The writer and Palestinian activist Susan Abulhawa was also in attendance. “They think they deserve an extra country just for being Jewish!,” she said into a loudspeaker at one point.
Rose Daraz, a graduate of Temple, held up a Palestinian flag, and said that she was there to support Hill. “I don’t think he had anything to apologize for honestly. … People should be free to say what they wanna say.”
Jared Dobkin, also a Temple graduate and a member of Socialist Alternative, echoed Daraz’s sentiment. “It’s an issue of academic freedom, it’s an issue of academic independence, and accusations of anti-Semitism against him are not only coming from a bad place, but the same groups that are purporting to be fighting anti-Semitism are the same groups that uphold white supremacy,” he said.
Rally-goers chanted as supporters handed out flyers calling to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Department Officer Daniel Faulkner. Meanwhile, the counter-protest answered with chants and songs of their own: “Down with Hamas,” “Am Yisrael Chai,” and “Hatikvah.” Ron Borisovsky, a senior studying German, wore his kippah and a button that read, “BDS is BS,” much to the delight of some of the older members of ZOA.
Borisovksy was one of a few Temple students who attended the counter-protest. David Schatz, a junior and a graduate of Abrams Hebrew Academy, said that he attended in order to “show, I guess, solidarity with the state of Israel against SJP.”
Jesse Lavin, another Temple student, said that he believes that Hill’s comments have brought anti-Semitism to the foreground, and he’s worried that fellow students will become as hostile to Zionist activity as those in the University of California school system. Since Hill’s comments were made public, he said, “more students are either misinformed about the Palestinian-Israeli relation, or they’re more open to not supporting Israel. Previously you had open minds and proper debates.”
Jake Segal, a senior from Blue Bell, walked through the pro-Hill side, handing out photos of Hill with Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has made repeated anti-Semitic comments throughout his long public career. He posted the picture on Hill’s door, he said. Of the rally-goers, he said, “You should know better than to stand in solidarity with what he’s saying.”
After about 45 minutes, the rally began to march down 12th Street. Back in Lenfest Circle, the counter-protest debated whether or not to follow them, eventually electing to wait until they returned. (They did not.)
Asya Zlatina says that she wishes more people — and especially more women — had showed up to the counter-protest in support of Israel, which was echoed by several other attendees. “You can’t not show up to a rally like this,” she said.
The signs sported by the ZOA were not minis. Perhaps an in-depth news article detailing Hill’s quotes is in order.
Several years ago, at an afternoon pro-Israel event at Love Park sponsored by the Jewish Federation, the same type of vile Palestinians across 15th Street, on the apron of the Municipal Services Building, were taunting us who were supporting Israel, while JFGP leader Naomi Adler was addressing us.
Time for Israel to chant “From the river to the sea” while cleansing all of the PA out of the heartland of the Jewish nation the way Arab states cleansed out all the Jews out of all Arab states and out of Yehouda and Shomron, the very heartland of the Jewish nation. 850,000 Jews were cleansed out then. Time to return the favor to end their Islamic terror against pregnant women and children once and for all time.
From the river to the sea is much more valid and legal as the basis for a Jewish Israel than for a bogus Muslim Palestinian state. Maybe we should start to call Jordan the East Bank since there never was a state called Jordan before the British created it out of the Palestinian Mandate. Even in Mohammed’s Quran, Israel is promised to the Jews. The so-called Palestinians are not only a fraudulent nationality, they are evidently unaware of what is in their own holy book.