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Column: Free Palestine? Free the Brooklyn Bridge

We cannot be blamed for suspecting that 40-year-old Samantha Woll was stabbed to death at her Detroit home because of the crisis in Israel. Her murder occurred two weeks after Hamas butchered 1400 Jews in southern Israel, followed by Israel’s merciless bombing of Gaza.

She was a prominent political activist and president of an urban synagogue, the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. The region is populated by one of the nation’s largest bloc of Arab-Americans in Detroit and neighboring Dearborn. Automaker Henry Ford fanned his antisemitic flames from Dearborn a century ago.

That should be sufficient for any of us to wonder if an Arabic extremist murdered Woll over Israel’s reaction to the Oct. 7 Hamas raid. However, Detroit Police Chief James E. White told reporters at a news conference that Woll’s death did not appear to involve antisemitism, The New York Times reported.

At this writing, we do not know if any pro-Arab activists in America committed a crime so gruesome, but they have threatened violence, committed crimes and behaved crudely since Oct. 7. Reprisals run rampant worldwide, punctuated by a mob that swarmed a Russian airport to confront any Jews exiting an airplane arriving from Tel Aviv.

Most of their domestic tactics date back two decades.

Since 2000, they have hounded and attacked Jews, blocked traffic, burned Israeli flags, disrupted prominent speakers, distorted Middle East events, likened Israel to Nazi Germany, ignored Israeli suffering, disregarded the facts and denied Palestinian offenses.

One cannot blame them for railing against Israeli bombing raids that killed possibly thousands of civilians in Gaza, but I have heard minimal acknowledgement of Hamas’ raid at Sderot and other Israeli towns along the Gaza border. Many Jews have mixed feelings about the bombings, yet there is little evidence that Arabs care about 1400 Israeli deaths on Oct. 7 or have urged release of the 220 hostages held by Hamas.

They destroyed their credibility long ago and persisted with this pattern since Oct. 7.

There is plenty of room for legitimate criticism of Israel, and Israel’s supporters have not always acted perfectly in the past month. However, behaving badly is the exception to the rule for backers of Israel; it is the rule for supporters of the Palestinians. Following are the worst episodes I have noticed during the past month:

Threats of Lewiston-style violence emerged over the weekend at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., as posts such as “kill jews” and “jew jenocide” appeared on social media. The posts include titles such as “jewish people need to be killed,” “eliminate Jewish living from cornell campus” and “gonna shoot up 104 west,” the name of Cornell’s kosher dining hall, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

The posts were made on Greekrank, a site students at Cornell use to rate fraternities and sororities. A user who was self-identified as “hamas” wrote, “If I see a pig male jew I will stab you and slit your throat.”

Campus police are investigating and have notified the FBI since this was a potential bias crime. Hillel urged students to avoid the kosher dining hall.

Cornell once employed the late Benzion Netanyahu as a professor, the father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He left Ithaca in 1976 and returned to Israel after his son Yonatan was killed during the Entebbe rescue.

Almost 3,000 miles west of Cornell, Daniel Garcia allegedly shouted “Free Palestine” and “Kill Jews” as Los Angeles police hauled him away from a Jewish family’s home, according to JTA.

Garcia allegedly broke into the home where the family of six lived last Wednesday morning (Oct. 23). Efrat Meyers, the mother, recounted, “He was screaming at us, ‘You are Jewish, you are Israeli, I need to kill you, we need to kill Jewish.’”

The father, Mendel Meyers, forced the intruder into the yard while their children locked themselves in a safe room. Police are investigating the incident as a bias crime, according to JTA. “I never thought it would happen in my house,” Meyers said.

That must be what survivors of the Hamas raid are saying.

Some years ago, I recall that a group of Jewish students at a Canadian university barricaded themselves inside the Hillel after a gang of pro-Arab activists chased them around campus and then pounded on the door, trapping the Jews there.

They imported this tactic last Wednesday night to Cooper Union, a private college in downtown Manhattan, as they pounded on the doors and shouted slogans, New York Jewish Week reported.

As footage showed, Jewish students were in the school’s library while protestors outside pounded on the facility’s doors and windows, chanting “Free Palestine,” waving signs advocating a boycott of Israel and urging a cease-fire. Building staff had decided to lock the doors.

“People were nervous,” said a student who would not identify herself. “They were specifically acting very aggressive in those spaces where outwardly Jewish students were sitting.”

The pro-Arab activists released this statement: “Our protest was not targeting any individual student or faculty but the institution itself.”

How does one mistake humans for institutions?

Exactly three weeks after 10/7, also a day after the fifth anniversary of 10/27, hundreds of pro-Arab activists shut down the Brooklyn Bridge for a few hours as they marched toward Midtown Manhattan, The New York Daily News reported.

Oct. 27, 2018, is the day that a right-wing shooter traveled to Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue and gunned down several congregants, killing 11 of them.

“I’m here because we can’t stand in the face of genocide and not do anything,” declared Brooklynite Hala Boustany, 44.

Boustany did not clarify if this was a reference to Oct. 7, the Gaza bombings or both.

On Friday night, the anniversary of the Tree of Life shootings, hundreds from the pro-Arab side occupied the hall at Grand Central Terminal, shutting down part of the station. Police took 335 protestors into custody, and they were released with criminal court summonses for disorderly conduct and criminal trespass, according to the News.

Both these episodes top a pre-10/7 instance when they held a rally in Philadelphia several years ago and marched along Market Street, closing the street to traffic.

I might add: They risked their very lives when they took over the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central, especially the former. Jewish students may seek out the police to stop these attacks, but motorists whose travels are disrupted – especially in New York – are least likely to wait for the police. Haven’t these blockheads ever heard of road rage?

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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