More than a hundred people showed their support for Israel at MacDonald Park in Forest Hills on Thursday, May 13.
There were no visible or vocal counter-demonstrators. More than 15 uniformed police officers were seen guarding the event, including Captain Joseph Cappelmann of the local Precinct.
The event was organized in less than a day by Michael Nussbaum, president of the Queens Jewish Community Council, and Ethan Felder, a Democratic district leader in Forest Hills.
Felder said in an interview how he saw a need for the Jewish community to unite and confront “the new anti-Semitism that is inextricably tied to hatred of Israel and seeks the decoupling of American Jews from Israel.”
Felder hopes the “Jewish community leaders and allies have a better and deeper understanding of the new anti-Semitism and how it finds power and legitimacy in ascendant political movements on the Far Left.”
Michael Nussbaum said a map showing Palestine, with Israel completely erased, was tweeted by NY State Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant-Forrest of Crown Heights.
“I’ve been around a long time. I’ve never seen elected officials willing to say what was never said before, particularly: You want my support, you got to destroy the State of Israel.” That is what the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement and the Democratic Socialists of America demand, said Nussbaum.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said, “At the end of the day, this is about the fact that Hamas’ sole reason for being is to destroy the State of Israel.”
“We are here today, in the most diverse area on the planet, to say Israel deserves the right to defend itself. There is not another country in the world where bombs would be thrown indiscriminately in the streets, and people would say they don’t have a right to defend itself.”
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said there used to be close to 30 Jewish City Council Members in the 1990s. Now it’s about ten. “We have to change this. We don’t want anybody in the City Council who does not recognize Israel.”
City Councilman James Gennaro said, “The vilest anti-Semitic tropes are not only tolerated but abided and go unchallenged in the halls of the US Congress.” What is challenged and not tolerated is the right for Israel to defend itself. “We as a community have not the right but the sacred obligation to stand with Israel.”
City Councilman Barry Grodenchik said Jews want, live, and hope for peace, “but don’t ever expect that the people of Israel are going to stand by while people attack our parks, the schools, and the playgrounds, and every square inch of Israel is under attack.”
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills said that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned the situation around and blamed the Jews. “It is beyond comprehension, which shows you the nastiness, the irrationality of hatred for the nation of Israel.”
The congresswoman recently criticized President Biden and mayoral candidate Andrew Yang for their support of Israel and said she is “against the occupation.”
Rabbi David Algaze of Congregation Havurat Yisrael said the people attending the rally “are on the right side of civilization against the barbaric criminal acts of people who are doing this to innocent, innocent people.” Algaze cited the five-year-old Israeli boy killed in Sderot while the mother is in critical care. “We all need to be informed and we need to be active. Above all, we need to demand from our elected officials.”
Rabbi Chaim Schwartz, Executive Vice-President of the Queens Vaad Harabonim, said, “I call upon the “Shomer Yisrael” (Guardian of Israel); I call upon him, the self-proclaimed G-d who personally protects Israel, to stand up and say something.” Loud boos came from attendees asking why Senator Charles Schumer is not defending Israel. Schumer has numerous times referred to himself as a “Shomer Yisrael” (a guardian of Israel). Rabbi Schwartz asked people to question why their local representatives have not spoken up for Israel.
Itay Milner, spokesperson for the Israeli Consulate General in New York, said the Palestinian narrative is to show terrible pictures happening in Gaza. Hamas is shooting rockets towards civilians and from their own civilian areas “putting their own people at risk.”
Milner said Americans can help by standing up to lies on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, by calling friends “to stand up for the truth and to stand up for Israel.”
David Aronov, candidate for City Council in District 29, hopes the rally “shows that we have a united community here. That Forest Hills, that Queens, stands up against terror and that we send a message to Israel that New York is still strong for Israel.”
Edwin Wong, candidate for City Council in District 29, came “to show solidarity with the community.” “Hopefully, communication and education, how people feel, and what people are thinking, is the most important thing right now.”
Avi Cyperstein, also a candidate, has been at many recent anti-hate rallies. We must try “to recognize our differences and not hate for it but rather embrace it.” “I think that the goal from both sides should not be looking to win a battle but really be able to live well with each other.”
Forest Hills resident Betty Cyzner attended the rally, saying the major reason given by Arabs for the current fighting is the possible eviction of tenants in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. The tenants haven’t paid rent or taxes for years and are squatters, said Cyzner.
“Those people who feel bad and speak out for Muslims: Why haven’t they been speaking out for Muslims in China?” More than one million Uighur Muslims have been put in detention camps, according to PBS.org. “They’re only interested to have something to hit the Jews over the head with.”
By David Schneier