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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Chaotic but Non-Violent Anti-Israel Demonstration Outside Israeli L.A. Consulate

A chaotic but nonviolent anti-Israel demonstration took place on July 1 outside the West L.A.-based Consulate General of Israel.

Dubbed a “Day of Rage,” the protest was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine at UCLA, and other anti-Israel groups in response to the Israeli government’s weighing annexation of parts of the West Bank. The protest featured a large caravan of approximately 150 cars driving around the consulate at Wilshire Boulevard. 

WATCH: Video of demonstrators outside Israeli Consulate

Protesters rolled down their windows, waved Palestinian flags and honked their horns. And although the majority of vehicles held pro-Palestinian demonstrators, a large number of pro-Israel supporters gathered on foot outside the consulate.

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers were on scene, and LAPD Officer Jeff  Nuttall estimated around 200 people showed up, and that 10 officers were on hand “keeping the peace.”

Mojahed Abuhabda, 30, a retail manager of Palestinian background, turned out to Wednesday’s rally to show his opposition to Israel’s potential annexation over parts of the West Bank. Photo by Ryan Torok

The protests, which began around 10:30 a.m., initially brought out a handful of people including supporters of the pro-Israel groups Club Z, a Zionist youth group, and Yad Yamin. As the day wore on, more people showed up and the protest occasionally escalated into shouting matches on both sides. 

Demonstrators, some wearing masks because of COVID-19, turned out to Wednesday’s rally. Photo by Ryan Torok

David Yahudian, an Iranian Jewish immigrant from Beverly Hills, told the Journal he shut down his jewelry store for the day to attend the protest. “The state of Israel is for every Jew around the world,” he said. “I have a sister who lives in Iran and I know she is protected by Israel. I know she is safe because of Israel, so Israel is in my blood.”

Thirty-year-old Palestinian supporter Mojahad Abuhabda carried a sign that read, “No 2 Annexation,” and told the Journal he lived in the Palestinian territories as a child. “I am here because annexation is wrong,” he said. “Israel deserves a state, Palestine deserves a state and I hope the new generation can make it happen.”

Benjamin Levin, a dual American and Israeli citizen, said he turned out to support his mother, who lives in Israel. He denounced the pro-Palestinian protesters who he said were linking their cause to current protests in the U.S. against police brutality. 

“My biggest concern is these guys like to mix things — to take the surfboard and catch the wave of Black Lives Matter,” he said.

Supporting the pro-Israel counter-demonstration were groups including StandWithUs (SWU) and the Iranian American Jewish Federation, which paid for truck ads expressing solidarity with the Jewish state to drive around consulate.

Naya Lekht, director of education at pro-Israel teen group Club Z, displays an Israeli and U.S. flag while standing outside the Israeli consulate on Wednesday. Photo by Ryan Torok

SWU issued a statement before the protest, discouraging Jewish community members from attending the event, saying they did not want opposing car protests or people putting themselves at risk of catching COVID-19. And although many demonstrators wore masks,  it was nearly impossible for those standing outside the consulate to practice proper social distancing.

SWU’s statement didn’t stop 18-year-old YULA Boys High School graduate Jake Fishman, who came to the protest with a megaphone to loudly broadcast his support for Israel. “It’s important to make sure a positive [pro-Israel] message is being spread,” he said, adding that he attended because he didn’t want the public to see a pro-Palestinian demonstration without seeing a pro-Israel one. “If people drive by and see this,” he said, indicating the pro-Palestinian demonstrators, “and not [pro-Israel demonstrators], it won’t look good.”

Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Hillel Newman, who was on the scene at the protest, told the Journal in a phone interview following the event that he supported the rights of people from both sides to demonstrate. “Israel has not come to a decision [regarding annexation],” he said, “and it is being debated at the highest level.”

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