Protesters and counter-protesters flank Wilshire Boulevard

While officials at the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles last Friday mourned the terrorist attack at a Jerusalem yeshiva the day before, a crowd of about 200 Muslim activists, college students and fellow travelers gathered along Wilshire Boulevard to protest the Jewish state, calling Zionists the “new Nazis.”

“Today, Israel is burying eight young students, the best and the brightest, who were gunned down in cold blood while studying Bible in Jerusalem,” Consul General Yaakov Dayan said at a press conference inside the Consulate. “The murder of students during a religious event expresses the most deplorable Islamic fundamentalist extremism. Hamas has blessed this massacre, and there were celebrations in the streets of Gaza…. Israel is at the forefront of the struggle against terrorism and will continue to defend its citizens who suffer under this threat on a daily basis.”

Exclusive video: Dueling demonstrations –Muslim students led by Amir Abdel Malik Ali, Imam of Masjid Al-Islam in Oakland and a pro-Israel crowd in front of the Israeli Consulate Friday noon. Rabbi Daniel Bouskila leads the singing of “Oseh Shalom.”

The protest outside the consulate was planned before Thursday’s attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, a seminary strongly affiliated with Jewish settlers in the West Bank. It was organized by UC Irvine’s Muslim Student Union (MSU), which has been accused of making the Irvine campus hostile to Jewish students. Its members have called for the end of the State of Israel.

“I condemn what happened in Jerusalem. That is disgusting,” said Marya Bangee, an MSU spokeswoman. “But we’ve got to see the bigger picture here.”

To the protesters, that is the plight of Palestinian civilians, who are often used as human shields by terrorists and, at times, have been denied foreign aid and electricity because of the actions of the Hamas leaders they elected.

The weekend before, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had entered Gaza after a Qassam rocket �” one of about 7,000 launched into Israel since September 2001 �” killed a 47-year-old Jewish man at Sapir College, near the border town of Sderot. Forty-eight hours later, the IDF’s response left 100 Palestinians dead; medics and Hamas said about half killed were civilians, but IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told Ha’aretz that 90 were armed terrorists.

“To us, you are the Nazis,” said Amir Abdel Malik Ali, a regular speaker invited by the MSU, explaining why Muslims and Zionists can’t coexist. “And so as crazy as it would be to have you sitting down with Nazis to have cookies and cake, that’s how crazy it would be for us to sit down with you for cookies and cake because you are the new Nazis.”

Across Wilshire Boulevard, a counter-protest organized by the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs drew several-dozen Jews and non-Jews.

“We are here to explain the context of why Israel entered Gaza,” said Roz Rothstein, national director of StandWithUs. “But more importantly, we are here because of these murders in Jerusalem.”

Holding a sign that stated, “Hamas: Stop terrorizing the children,” Steve Katznelson, who visited Israel for the first time two years ago, said he couldn’t help but feel as if the shooting in Jerusalem had shaken his own being. (L.A. Councilman Jack Weiss similarly compared the shooting to the 1999 rampage by a white supremacist at the North Valley Jewish Community Center.)

“Having been there,” Katznelson said, “I don’t feel these things happen to them anymore. They happen to me.”

Exclusive video: Press conference at Israeli Consulate, Friday afternoon, March 7. Speakers, in order: Consul General Yaakov Dayan, City Councilman Jack Weiss, Rev. Billy G. Ingram, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila.