Nine Jewish activists protesting the Israeli assault on Gaza were arrested today after occupying the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) office in midtown Manhattan. The protesters, members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Jews Say No! (JSN), stood in the office for an hour, holding a banner, singing songs in Hebrew and English and reading the names of the more than 600 dead who have been killed as a result of the Israeli attack.
Watch the moment before they were arrested:
The activists demanded that the FIDF stop funding the Israeli army. FIDF is a multi-millionaire dollar non-profit organization that collects funds to send to the Israeli military. Signs taped to the JVP and JSN members read: “Jews say no to the ground invasion of Gaza.”
The demonstrators were arrested by dozens of New York Police Department members—including members of the Counter-Terror Unit–when they refused to leave the premises. They are expected to be charged with criminal trespassing. The demonstrators were taken to a precinct in Manhattan.
“We are here to demand as American Jews that the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces stop funding Israel’s massacres in Gaza,” Alana Krivo-Kaufman, JVP’s Northeast regional organizer, said while at the office. She was one of the nine arrested. Joining her was Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s executive director, Brandon Davis, an activist and contributor to Mondoweiss, and others.
The act of civil disobedience came amidst a wave of global protests against the Israeli attack. JVP and JSN members were determined to step up their activism as the assault on Gaza continued, and so they decided to target the FIDF. Last week, Chicago’s JVP chapter protested against Boeing, which manufactures fighter jets and helicopters that the Israeli army uses . Five demonstrators were arrested at that action. Chicago also saw tens of thousands of people march on July 20th in what was reportedly the largest protest for Palestine in the city. And a national day of action against the attack on Gaza is planned for Thursday.
While the civil disobedience action was ongoing, supporters gathered outside the FIDF to demonstrate, holding a die-in and demanding an end to the assault on the Gaza Strip. One legal observer told me that passers-by screamed epithets at them and one threw an iced drink at those gathered in protest.
Maia Ettinger, one of those who went inside the FIDF office, said she participated in the action to honor the memory of her mother and grandmother, who survived the Holocaust. Ettinger emigrated to the U.S. from Poland when she was young. “I learned from them to oppose dehumanization and abhor collective punishment,” she said. “I can’t stand by and watch their experiences desecrated by the Israeli government.”
The New York protest started early this morning, with the activists gathering in a coffee shop to plan their course of action. When about ten of the demonstrators arrived at the FIDF office, an employee asked what they were doing. Felice Gelman, a long-time activist, said they wanted to make a donation. When the door opened, the New York Jews flowed into the FIDF office over the protests of the FIDF employee. Greeting them were photographs of attractive Israeli soldiers. But the banner they held had a stark message: “Friends of the IDF: Stop Funding Palestinian suffering.”
Krivo-Kaufman announced what they were doing, and the FIDF workers immediately called the police. They looked at the protest with faces of consternation. “I need these people out of the office,” said one employee, while another snapped photos of those occupying the FIDF office.
The demonstration lasted for about an hour before the police arrived to arrest them all.
They were put into police vans and driven away while their supporters chanted, hoping that their voices were heard by those inside the cop cars.