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Something you can do, wherever you are

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7-22-14 Let Gaza Live v2

When I come back from doing any kind of public campaigning on behalf of Palestinian rights, I often have to struggle not to sink into depression – even with the strides we’ve made in recent years in opening the eyes of parts of the American public, it still feels like there are so few of us, surrounded by oceans of indifference if not hostility.

But that isn’t at all how I felt after this past Sunday’s rally and march for Gaza in San Francisco – in fact, I found that event positively exhilarating: it was huge (something on the order of 6,000 people, far more than at any other Bay Area action for Palestine I can remember), exceptionally diverse, and united in outrage, solidarity, and determination. (The text, photos, and especially the videos here  give a good sense of the size and flavor of the event.)

Today I took part in a much more modest demonstration, one I expected to be boring at best, but it too turned out surprisingly gratifying. Last evening a friend forwarded a message from  someone I don’t know who had just, on his own, decided to organize “a little Jewish sign holding for peace and against the Gaza invasion” during Tuesday’s rush hour at a busy intersection in one of the working-class sections of Berkeley (University and San Pablo Avenues, for those who know the city). He threw together a Facebook event page  and spread the word through friends and their networks.

In the event, something like 20 or 25 people, predominantly but not exclusively Jews, showed up – enough so we could have a cluster of people at all four corners of the intersection. Most of us had home-made, handwritten signs. The one I made said in big, bold letters “Let Gaza Live.”

The amazing thing was the reaction we got from passing drivers and passengers: in the hour and 15 minutes we spent out there, I saw not a single gesture of hostility or disapproval, and a remarkable percentage of drivers honked in support and/or waved, flashed a v-sign or thumbs-up. At times, we got that kind of reaction from every third or fourth car. Not surprisingly, the strongest support seemed to come from people of color.

One phenomenon I thought I noticed: it often seemed that once one driver honked, others right behind would join in – as if a lot of people were sunk in their usual passivity, but actually agreed with us, and once one person had the gumption to hit the horn, the others were inspired to express themselves, too.

The moral of the story: it appears to me that the horrific images we’re all seeing from Gaza are starting to have an effect, and more and more people are seeing through the politicians’ rhetoric about “Israel’s right to defend itself” and coming to understand the sheer viciousness of the Israeli onslaught – and the racism that underlies it. Obviously, Berkeley, even its non-elite sections, are by no means typical of America, but it’s hard to believe similar dynamics aren’t unfolding elsewhere. Even if that’s true, I don’t expect any change in US government policy in the near future, considering the grip of the Zionist establishment on our politicians and media, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

And activists taking to the streets can only help that awakening along. If you’re part of a local organization that can put out the call, all the better, but as our experience today showed, it’s not necessary: all you need are a few like-minded acquaintances to spread the word and some markers and poster board to make signs with. There’s not a lot we can do, in the short run, for the suffering people of Palestine, but I suspect most of them would appreciate even a simple effort like this.

A concrete suggestion, based on the one criticism I had of today’s little action: some of the signs people brought or made were fairly wordy, and the letters small and/or thin – to the point, I suspect, that drivers zipping by probably couldn’t make out what they said. My advice: simple slogans and big, bold, dark lettering.


Henry Norr

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9 Responses

  1. just on July 23, 2014, 10:19 am

    Thanks Henry! I have often kept a simple sign in my vehicle taped to an inside window when things are going very badly. (I’ve had them for anti- Iraq/Afghanistan war, etc)

    You’d be amazed at the interest provoked, especially in heavy traffic! Similarly, when I see activists out on a corner, I can stop and use my sign to stand in solidarity with them.

    PS You are lucky to live in SF/Bay Area! There are other, uh, less open- minded areas of the US, as you know.

  2. amigo on July 23, 2014, 10:32 am

    Henry , at last week,s protest in Dublin , one of the speakers made the following suggestion.

    Go to your local supermarket where you know they have contraband goods,(grown in occupied Territory) or even anywhere in Israel , given the present oppression visited on Palestinians at the moment.
    Fill your shopping cart with those goods (labelled grown/made in Israel) and then take it to the checkout and tell them you refuse to buy those goods and remind them , they should not be carrying them.

    Then tell a friend.

    I am pretty sure that with enough people creating work for these markets , they will soon get tired of emptying shopping carts and putting the goods back on the shelf.
    I wonder how long it takes to unload an average cart and return all the items to the respective shelves.

    I wonder also if they could refuse to allow me to shop there.Would it be legal.Could I stir up a media event.

    So many ways to hit them legally.

  3. hophmi on July 23, 2014, 10:59 am

    “The moral of the story: it appears to me that the horrific images we’re all seeing from Gaza are starting to have an effect, and more and more people are seeing through the politicians’ rhetoric about “Israel’s right to defend itself” and coming to understand the sheer viciousness of the Israeli onslaught”

    Not really.

    And yes, the unfavorables always tick up when there’s a war. But American support for Israel remains stable, and most American think Israel’s military response to the rocket is reasonable or not enough. And favorability for the Palestinian Authority is down in the last five years.

    The same number of Americans believe military aid to Israel should remain the same or go higher as in 2011.

    • eljay on July 23, 2014, 11:54 am

      >> hophmeee: But American support for Israel remains stable …

      The U.S. administration, pro-Israel groups and the U.S. media have done an excellent job keeping Americans in the dark about the reality of oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State”.

      It’s a questionable accomplishment, but one that is clearly a source of pride for Zio-supremacists.

    • quercus on July 23, 2014, 2:18 pm

      What happened with “CNN lies”, a bumper stick that was quite prominent on the cars of Orthodox Jews in my neighborhood may be 15 years ago or so. We were told that CNN was anti-Israel. Now here you are touting a poll conducted by CNN. So ….. CNN is no longer anti-Israel such that its polls can be trusted?

      Frankly, I couldn’t give a rat’s behind about CNN’s polls. What I do know is that more and more Americans (despite what their stupid politicians say or do) are questioning support for Israel. This has happened because many have had their eyes opened to the diet of propaganda they have been fed over the years by a biased media. I am proud to say I have done my part to enlighten many people I know, many who were initially suspicious and hostile when I criticized Israel, but now, like me, are vocal critics.

  4. on July 23, 2014, 11:17 am

    hophmi. And you really believe that? This reminds me of 1984 where people are barely getting by and living miserable lives and all the while the ever-present public announcements about how much better things are getting are heard.

  5. patricial on July 23, 2014, 1:12 pm

    “There’s not a lot we can do, in the short run, for the suffering people of Palestine, but I suspect most of them would appreciate even a simple effort like this.”
    I agree, Henry. I was at Sunday’s rally and San Francisco, and will attend the next one on Saturday. A palestinian dentist saw photos of the march I shared on Instagram and thanked me for that.
    I know what we do is not much, and we definitely wish we could do more, but it means something to them.

  6. Clif Brown on July 23, 2014, 9:09 pm

    Good work, Henry!

    Speaking of making signs, a couple of years ago I took two images, one of an IDF soldier in full battle gear, and another from the the ICAHD website, then used my graphics program to add titling. Beneath the soldier, in TrueType font, I put ISRAEL DEFENSE (of ethnic cleansing) FORCES. The other graphic already had the titling I wanted.

    I then dropped in to the local FedEx/Kinko’s store to see if they could make a poster from the JPEG’s I had created. They could and did. The result was two 18 x 24 inch glossy on foam-board signs. I glued on carrying sticks and hit the pavement at the next Friends of the IDF bash in Chicago. Each sign put me back $40, not cheap, but the look is absolutely professional and there was no problem with pixelation even though the originals I grabbed online were not hi-def graphics. Because of the cost, I chose subject matter that will be applicable to many different events. The signs look fantastic – far better than those with scrawled letters, and, being foam-board, are waterproof.

    This isn’t something you can afford to do for distribution to a whole group of people but it adds a professional touch to any demo.

  7. stopaipac on July 23, 2014, 10:31 pm

    Thanks Henry. It helped that you were in Berkeley, that has, for many reasons, been more educated on the issue for good reasons. One reason, the Middle East Children’s Alliance and their work for over 25 years in the community. Of course, it is also one of the most progressive anti-war communities in the US.
    That is why i have hopes that our action Saturday at a Rep Barbara Lee fundraiser will also make a difference. Mobilizing people to demand our congressperson repudiates her support for military aid to Israel. A petition to that effect has already garnered more than 1,300 signatures, and now the next step is to take the campaign directly to Lee… not just a phone call to an aide (and the stock response “i’ll relay your message to the congressperson”) but directly to her… and her supporters. Sipping wine at this fundraiser will not be so fun as we remind Lee that blood of children is being spilled in Gaza due to US military weaponry.

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