The 51st Celebrate Israel Day Parade

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When I mentioned that we went to see the Philippines Day Parade, I noted that the Israel Day Parade was on a different day this year. We did go see that too, but I didn’t say much about it because we didn’t stay that long. I like the idea of the Celebrate Israel parade because I like the idea of Israel as a country and what it’s trying to stand for. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the policies the country has, but then again I don’t agree with a lot of what the US does either. But I like the fundamental ideas of equality, freedom, and democracy that Israel is working towards. I won’t go into the rightness or wrongness of the establishment of the state within its current borders and boundaries, but denying that an Israeli nationality exists is just silly, and because my wife and I like and support Israel as a state, and for what it’s trying to do, we went to see the Celebrate Israel Parade last May 31st.

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What I don’t like about the parade is how generally unexciting it is. On the one hand, it’s cool to see all of the Jewish community and religious groups, but generally the parade is just people walking down the street in matching T-shirts, usually holding a sign saying what group they’re representing. Maybe I’m numbed to the simple pleasure of that sort of thing, but in New York City, when there are LGBT parades, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Macy’s Day Parade, floats and brass bands and actors and singers in attendance with accompanying conerts in the street, well, this one just sort of pales in comparison. There are plenty of valid reasons and justifications. It’s hard to live up to corporate-funded hype, but one can only stand in the sun watching people walk down the street for so long before it gets boring.

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I’d say the most interesting part of the parade this year was the protest and the counter protest between 58th and 59th streets, on 5th avenue, flanking the parade route. The protesters sectioned off into a coral, created with crowd control barriers. One group was composed of the chassidic Jewish guys that think Israel and its creation is an affront to God. Basically, they think Israel should not have been re-established as a state until the moshiach (messiah) returns. They had signs with wording that pretended they spoke for authentic or true Judaism, as if they hold a monopoly on Jewish religion and everyone else is just a pretender. The lie was put to their claims as thousands of Jews marched by celebrating the existence of Israel. The other group was, I assume, a traditional orthodox (as opposed to modern orthodox) group that had signs condemning homosexuality and women wearing skirts that are shorter than 6 inches below the knee. The irony is that one of the women holding the sign with that wording had a skirt on that was too short according to her own standard.

As the marchers walked by, many would veer off towards that side of the road and read what was on the signs. Watching their reactions was incredibly interesting. Some cheered louder, some laughed and ignored the signs, some made angry comments or gestures towards the protesters. The chassidic guys mostly stood there praying or making a pointing down “shame shame” gesture. The other group of protesters mostly just stood there, holding their signs and smiling stupidly. When women in shorts came by, or the LGBT Jewish group came by, they cheered louder. Some of the LGBT group members, if I recall right, stopped and waved their own signs in front of the protesters. Some of the signs were really too much. The ones the protesters had. A lot of the marchers were children and I wondered what sort of effect those slogans and messages might have on them. I get that protest and free speech should be protected, but the combativeness and ugliness of it has to effect those kids in a negative way.

One of the chassidic protesters crossed the street to where regular viewers of the parade were standing. A group of angry Jewish women chased him away.

At one point, someone came and handed me some newspaper that at first looked innocuous, but on closer inspection was Christian propaganda that spoke about blood, fire, and death. It was wholly inappropriate. What sort of jerk shows up at someone’s celebration of their cultural, national and religious heritage and tries to denigrate it through proselytizing?

We stayed about an hour and then met up with two friends and walked over to Bloomingdale’s to have frozen yogurt in their cafe, 40 Carrots. I hadn’t been there in a few years, since I did seasonal employment at Bloomingdale’s in 2010. If you’ve never been, their frozen yogurt is amazing! If you’re in that part of town, it’s worth stopping there to get some.

A slideshow of more photos from the parade:

50th Annual Celebrate Israel Parade

My wife and I went to the 50th annual Celebrate Israel Parade on 5th Avenue on the 1st. It was a lot of fun. I was particularly struck by the amount of pride and patriotism that the participants displayed. It stands in stark contrast to the attitude Americans seem to have about America.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but the Philippines National Day parade is held on the same day, one street over, every year. We missed out. Next year we’ll do a double-header and catch two parades in one afternoon.

We didn’t stay for the entire Celebrate Israel Parade. It runs from 11 AM until 4 PM. We were there until about 1:30 and then took a walk through Central Park before heading uptown to a nice a Indian food dinner in the neighborhood. It’s amazing how many cultures one can partake of in a single afternoon in this city!

Please check out the rest of my photos of the parade in full resolution in my Flickr Gallery: 50th Annual Israel Day Parade – 2014

Just got back from a trip to Jerusalem

The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel

I just got back from a week long trip to Jerusalem that was sponsored by the Jewish Studies program at the college I attend. It was a profound and life-changing experience that I am still processing. We did so much in such a short amount of time! More to come, soon.

Israeli School of U.P.K. Black Jewish Supremacist Extremist Group

Israelite U.P.K. School Demonstration in Times Square
Israelite U.P.K. School Demonstration in Times Square

Last Saturday my wife and I were in Times Square, heading to Olive Garden to have a nice dinner for our anniversary.  We got off the train at 42nd street and walked through Times Square to do a little site seeing first.  I was surprised to see what looked like a hate group preaching in the middle of Times Square.

When we were there, I didn’t really pay too much attention to them, other than to stop and take the above photo and note that they were yelling loudly about black people being oppressed.   When I got home, I looked them up on Wikipedia and found the following information:

Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) is a non-profit organization based in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, United States. The group is part of the Hebrew Israelism movement, which regards American blacks as descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled ISUPK an “extremist” and “black supremacist” group.

I zoomed in on the info boards they had set up and saw some things I didn’t expect:

Christianity Board Crop-Closeup
Christianity Board Crop-Closeup

They apparently consider Jesus to be the anti-Christ.  I’m no expert on Jewish theology, but I think that’s a harder line than the average Jew would take, fears of antisemitism aside.

Islam Board Crop-Closeup
Islam Board Crop-Closeup

Islam wasn’t spared either; not that anyone thinks to spare Islam these days when there’s an opportunity for criticism.  The ISUPK has apparently equated the Ka’aba (the square structure in the photo) with an idol.  They’ve gone so far as to tag the ‘black stone’ as a “clitoris”.  If you’re not aware, Muslims believe that Abraham visited Hagar and his son by her, Ishmael, and helped them construct a home near a spring which came up out of the ground when struck by Ishmael’s feet as a baby.  That’s the black square structure.  Or, at least, the rebuilt and maintained representation of it.  Muslims pray facing this structure, regardless of where they are in the world and perform a pilgrimage, but not because they worship the structure.  It’s just a symbol; it’s the focal point that unites all Muslims.  Islam as a religion is big on the concept of unity, though you couldn’t guess it considering some of modern day politics.

The black stone which the ISUPK referred to as a “clitoris” is a black stone said to have fallen from Heaven to show Adam and Eve where to build an altar for sacrifice to God.  It was, according to tradition, placed in the Ka’ba by the Prophet Muhammad.  Muslims attempt to touch it or kiss it on one of their seven circuits around the Ka’aba during the Hajj, or pilgrimage.

Neither the Ka’aba nor the black stone are idols in the sense that they’re worshipped.  They’re merely focal points for the religion.  I’d put good money on Jesus Christ not being the anti-Christ as well.

Deir Yassin and the Flight of the Palestinians

This is a paper I wrote for an undergraduate history course called Modern Middle East.  I was taking a very involved course on the Arab-Israeli Conflict at the same time, so my papers for the Modern Middle East class focused on Palestine and Israel as well.  The paper was given 15/15 points.  I’d like to have written more, but it was only supposed to be 5 pages.  If I’d had more time (or a requirement for more pages!) I’d probably have written more about how the Arabs and Jews both deliberately exaggerated to the events at Deir Yassin to their own advantage, and detriment.

Deir Yassin Massacre Victims
Deir Yassin Massacre Victims via Palestine Solidarity Project

Impact of the Deir Yassin Massacre on the Palestinian Exodus in 1948

In 1917, Britain conquered Jerusalem and ruled the region through a military administration. In 1920, the San Remo Conference awarded Britain the mandate of Palestine, which was sanctioned by the League of Nations in 1922.[1] By 1947, the British had grown weary of the sectarian violence between the Zionist Jewish and Arab populations in Palestine and as part of an overall downsizing of their colonial holdings after the economic stresses of World War II turned over the Palestine Mandate to the United Nations, which decided, in UN General Assembly Resolution 181, to solve the problem by separating the parties through land partition.[2]

The 29 November 1947 UN partition plan would have granted 55% of the land (much of it desert) to the Jews and 40% to the Arabs, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem falling under international control. The Jews accepted the plan, reasoning that it would provide them a foundation from which to build a Jewish state. The Palestinians, on the other hand, rejected the partition and launched a three day general strike followed by a wave of anti-Jewish terrorism in the cities and on the roads.[3]

As British Mandatory rule drew to a close in early 1948, the conflict between immigrant Jews and native Arab Palestinians erupted into an open civil war. On May 14th, 1948, the day before the Mandate ended, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, changed the nature of the conflict by declaring the establishment of a Jewish state. The fighting between Jews and Arabs stopped being a sectarian struggle and evolved into a national struggle, not just between the new Israelis and the Palestinians, but between the newly formed Israel and the surrounding Arab states, who joined in the fighting. The war in 1947 – 1948 later became known as the War of Liberation to Israelis and as al-Nakba (“Disaster,” or “Catastrophe” in English) to the Palestinians and Arabs in the Middle East.[4] The Arabs were soundly defeated, leaving the Israeli state in control of more land than originally granted to it by UN Resolution 181, which the Arabs rejected under the assumption that the combined powers of the Arab armies could defeat the Jews.[5]

The conflict was a total defeat for the Palestinians. They not only lost control of a majority portion of the Palestinian Mandate territory, but they also failed to establish political independence. Only the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (with larger boundaries than today) remained outside of Israeli control, but they were claimed by other countries who had participated in the war against Israel: Egypt and Jordan. After the 1948 war, Jordan retained control over the resource-rich West Bank and East Jerusalem while Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip.

Perhaps the worst blow to the Palestinians, however, was being driven from the land and being prevented from returning. During the fighting, Palestinians fled their homes in droves in advance of or during combat between the Jews and Arabs, or to evade Arab militias who abused villagers. A total of approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced by the 1948 war in Palestine, and the issue showed up time and again in peace talks in the form of demands for the right-of-return of refugees.[6] Today, the number of refugees has ballooned to approximately five million as new generations of Palestinians are born in refugee camps and inherit the refugee status of their parents.[7]

Many factors contributed to the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem, including expulsion orders, such as those signed by Yitzhak Rabin (later a Prime Minister of Israel) that ejected the Arab population from Lydda;[8] voluntary self-removal of the wealthier classes to other countries to avoid loss of capital during the fighting;[9] the flight of Palestinian leadership;[10] and as a result of Israeli actions during the implementation of “Plan Dalet” (also known as Plan D). Plan Dalet would later become known as a very controversial strategic operation which aimed at:

gaining control over the territory assigned to the Jewish state and defending its borders, as well as the blocs of Jewish settlement and such Jewish population as were outside those borders, against regular, para-regular, and guerrilla forces operating from bases outside or inside the nascent Jewish State.[11]

To its critics, especially those in Arab states, the plan called for nothing short of the ethnic cleansing of the land allotted to Israel in the 1947 United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution 181, which partitioned the land of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.[12]

Plan Dalet wasn’t necessarily a political blueprint for the expulsion of Palestinians en masse. It was governed by military considerations and, given the nature of the war and the admixture of populations in Palestine, securing the interior of the Jewish state from ‘external’ threats required the depopulation and destruction of villages that housed hostile militias and irregulars.[13] It was also common for roving irregular forces from other Arab states to impose on villages by demanding housing, since they were there fighting for their interests, supposedly.[14] The people of Deir Yassin had decided to remain neutral in the conflict, refusing entry to outsiders, and worked out a system of signals with the nearby Jewish settlement of Givat Shaul to alert them that roving militias and irregulars were in the area. Deir Yassin hoped that by cooperating, their town would be spared the hardships of war.[15] They would, however, be disappointed.

A widely implemented tactic by the Arabs was to cut off supply lines between the Jewish coast and Jewish population centers inside the country, like Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc. Opening up these supply lines became a priority.[16] At David Ben-Gurion’s insistence, a force of 1500 Jewish troops was mobilized to take part in Operation Nachshon. No longer would the Jews passively protect their convoys with guards; they would instead conquer and hold the routes themselves, as well as the heights surrounding them.[17] It was during Operation Nachshon that the Deir Yassin massacre occurred. The operational order of 3 or 4 April states that “all the Arab villages along the [Khulda-Jerusalem] axis were to be treated as enemy assembly or jump-off bases” and according to Plan Dalet, villages so defined, if offering resistance, should be depopulated (through forced migration) and destroyed.[18]

It’s not clear why, but the Haganah command allowed two Jewish militant extremist groups to participate in Operation Nachshon, perhaps because of the importance of securing the routes and the need for able bodied fighters. Irgun Zevai Leumi (Irgun) and Lohamei Herut Israel (Lehi, aka the “Stern Gang”) were widely regarded as terrorists by British mandatory authorities and the Israeli defense establishment itself.[19] For example, in 1946 the Irgun, acting under the direction of Menachem Begin, who would in 1977 become the Prime Minister of Israel under the Likud Party, ordered the bombing of the King David Hotel, which housed the British Mandate headquarters. The final casualty list included ninety-one British, Arab, and Jewish dead.[20]

The result of the Irgun and Lehi’s participation in Nachshon was a massacre of civilians. Despite Deir Yassin’s non-belligerency agreement with neighboring Givat Shaul, Irgun and Lehi forces entered the town to occupy it and met with unexpectedly strong resistance from residents who probably felt betrayed by their Jewish neighbors. During the fighting, Irgun and Lehi forces blew up several houses and gunned down families in the streets. They also rounded up groups of unarmed residents of both sexes and murdered them en masse. Some residents were paraded through the streets of Jerusalem before being taken back to Deir Yassin to be murdered.[21] A Haganah Intelligence Service report states that “whole families – women, old people, children – were killed.”[22] The following day the author of the report added: “[Lehi] members tell of the barbaric behavior of the [Irgun] toward the prisoners and the dead. They also relate that the [Irgun] men raped a number of Arab girls and murdered them afterward (we don’t know if this is true).”[23]

Regardless of whether or not it was true, reports like the one above and the stories told by the survivors rapidly spread throughout the region, becoming headline news. Altogether, about 100 – 120 villagers died that day, but the event became amplified through gossip and the media to such a degree that it became extremely influential in affecting the flight of the Palestinian population.[24] When trying to justify their actions after the fact, the Irgun cited the fear and panic the act caused and its beneficial impact on the Israeli war effort.[25]

The massacre and the way it was emphasized and possibly exaggerated in the media strengthened the resolve of Arab leaders to aid the embattled Palestinians and defeat the Jews. It also caused problems for the Jewish forces when criticized by the Western media, but the most important aspect of the massacre was the role it played in increasing flight from the Palestinian villages.[26] In Beit Iksa, fear caused the start of an immediate evacuation. The same occurred in al-Maliha and the residents of Fajja, near Petah Tikvah, Mansura, and near Ramle quickly called their Jewish neighbors and promised to not fight. In Haifa and surrounding villages, Palestinians heard rumors of Jewish atrocities at Deir Yassin and took flight. In the village of Saris, Arabs offered the attacking Haganah no resistance whatsoever, for fear of sharing Deir Yassin’s fate. [27] The fear of another Jewish massacre of civilians had an impact on the behavior of Palestinian villagers across the territory.

The British noted that whether or not all of those atrocities actually took place, the Haganah and the Jews had certainly profited from it and Jewish political leaders determined that the Deir Yassin massacre was one of two pivotal events in the exodus of Palestine’s Arabs, the other being the fall of Arab Haifa.[28] The psychological impact of the massacre may not have been the main cause of the Palestinian refugee crisis, but it certainly increased the number of people affected, making resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict that much more difficult for generations to come.


[1] David Lesch, The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History, p. 95.
[2] Ibid., p. 134.
[3] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 13.
[4] Ibid., p. 145.
[5] Tom Segev, One Palestine: Complete, p. 496.
[6] Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage, p. 7.
[7] “Palestine refugees”, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.
[8] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 429.
[9] Ibid., p. 67.
[10] The Pittsburgh Press, “British Halt Jerusalem Battle,” 1948.
[11] Quoted in David Lesch, The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History, p. 137.
[12] David Lesch, The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History, p. 137.
[13] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 164.
[14] Ibid., p. 123; p. 114.
[15] Ibid., pp. 90 – 91.
[16] Ibid., p. 66.
[17] Ibid., p. 233.
[18] Ibid.
[19] The Glasgow Herald, “Irgun Accept Ultimatum,” 22 September 1948; The Pittsburgh Press, “Two Palestine Hostages Dead, British Told,” 30 July 1947; St. Petersburg Times, “Jews Arrest Stern Gang Terrorists,” 19 September 1948; St. Petersburg Times, “French Uncover Plot To Bomb London,” 8 September 1947.
[20] David Lesch, The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History, p. 129 & 259; The Glasgow Herald, “Irgun Message Admits Guilt in Death Blast,” 24 July 1946.
[21] Benny Morris, Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p 237.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Benny Morris, Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 238.
[24] Ibid., p. 238.
[25] Ibid., p. 239.
[26] The Indian Express, “Arab States Out To Undo Jewish State: Azzam Pasha Outlines New Policy,” 21 May 1948.
[27] Benny Morris, Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 240.
[28] Ibid.



Bibliography

“Arab States Out To Undo Jewish State.” The Indian Express 21 May 1948: 5. Web Archive. 18 May 2012. .
“British Halt Jerusalem Battle: Fresh Troops Pour into City To Keep Peace.” The Pittsburgh Press 3 May 1948: 1. Web Archive. 8 May 2012. .
“Irgun Accept Ultimatum.” The Glasgow Herald 22 Sep 1948: 5. Web Archive. 17 May 2012. .
“Irgun Message Admits Guilt In Death Blast: Communique Purported From Underground Claims Warning Went Unheeded.” The Montreal Gazette 24 Jul 1946: 1. Web Archive. 17 May 2012. .
“Jews Arrest Stern Gang Terrorists.” St. Petersburg Times 19 Sep 1948: 1. Web Archive. 17 May 2012. .
Khalidi, Rashid. The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. New York: Beacon Press, 2007. Kindle edition.
Lesch, David W. The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
McGhee, George Crews. On The Frontline in the Cold War: An Ambassador Reports. Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997. Google eBook.
Morris, Benny. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.
“Palestine refugees.” n.d. United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Web. 17 May 2012. .
Segev, Tom. One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2001. Print.
“Two Palestine Hostages Dead, British Told: Sergeants Hanged, Underground Claims.” The Pittsburgh Press 30 Jul 1947: 1. Web Archive. 17 May 2012. .