Latest update: March 20th, 2013
Frank H. Ogawa Park is a huge public space in Oakland, California. It is located where San Pablo Avenue converges with Broadway and 14th Street, and is across from the Oakland City Hall. Ogawa Park was named for a civil rights activist who was the first Japanese member of the Oakland City Council. But Ogawa Park was “renamed” by Occupy Oakland protesters to “honor” Oscar Grant, a felon who had been imprisoned for drug dealing and weapons offenses, and who was shot by Oakland police 1n 2009, while resisting arrest.
An area in the Park is specifically designated for public expression; it has been the scene of many boisterous protests, including the long-term occupation by Occupy Oakland, last year.
Last week a perfect example of what so much of the anti-Israel movement is built on, was on display in Ogawa Park. In this “free speech” park taken over by “peaceful” protesters of all kinds of oppression, a young woman who was drawing a message of peace was physically assaulted, cursed out with the foulest possible language, and thrown out of the public park by people who claim to be, and are referred to by the mass media, as “peaceful,” “non-violent,” “free speech” activists. In truth, they are frequently abusive, intolerant, violent anarchists who believe the highest form of expression is provoking violence with what is usually aggressive resistance, but occasionally spills over into outright violence.
This is what happened.
On Wednesday, March 13, there were several anti-Israel events taking place and banners raised in Ogawa Park: one banner advocated the boycott of a company that does business in Israel and with which the state of California does business, another was for the International Solidarity Movement, a virulently anti-Israel group. The third one is the focus of our attention.
This third banner was in honor of Tristan Anderson, a California member of the International Solidarity Movement who was severely and permanently wounded when participating in a riot to protest the security fence in Ni’ilin, Samaria, on March 13, 2009. The International Solidarity Movement describes itself as a “non-violent,” “direct action” organization committed to “helping the Palestinians resist the occupation of Palestinian lands.” More on the ISM and Ni’ilin later.
The event associated with Anderson was called “Justice 4 Tristan,” and the banner shows a white dove – the symbol of peace – flying near his name.
“THE JEWISH PEOPLE LIVE” PROVOKES VIOLENCE BY THE “NON-VIOLENT”
In the late afternoon, Channa L., a 22 year-old from a rural part of Washington State, who made Aliyah in 2006 and who completed her IDF service in January, came to Ogawa Park. Channa told The Jewish Press that she knew there were going to be some anti-Israel events happening there, and she went with a friend, Daniel Wencel, to see what it was about.
Channa met Wencel and his son when she volunteered in Israel on a Sar-El program. It was then that she fell in love with the country, and after signing on for a second three week session, Channa decided she would make Aliyah. After completing her military service, during which she served in a combat intelligence unit, Channa came back to the States for a visit with her family and her friends, including the Wencels.
After arriving at the Park on Wednesday afternoon, Channa told The Jewish Press, she went up to several people and asked them about what they were doing, and why they were doing it.
“It was so strange – they didn’t even want to talk about it, they just kept telling me to ‘Google’ it,” Channa said. “It was as if they weren’t interested in educating anyone, maybe even themselves,” she continued, “it was almost as if they knew it was just propaganda and didn’t want to get involved with someone who might have different information.”
“They didn’t have a peaceful message,” she continued. “When someone told me they wanted to ‘tear down the state,’ and I asked, ‘what state?’ they told me to ‘Google’ that also.” Channa’s conclusion was that all they were interested in was demonizing Israel and Israeli soldiers.
Channa decided, after looking around and finding no one interested in talking about why they hate Israel, to take a piece of chalk from one of the communal bags that had been placed around the Plaza for people to use to ‘express themselves.’ She began to draw, underneath a message in large block letters – FREEDOM TO SPEAK – and drew in large letters, “Am Yisrael Chai.” Why? “I’m from Israel, I love my country, and they are attacking my people, my culture.”
Channa said she was simply writing a message of peace, but before she could finish her short message, a harpy descended on her, yelling, “you can’t write that here,” grabbing at her chalk, screaming, cursing and shoving her. It was Gabrielle Silverman, a resident of Oakland, formerly of Brooklyn, and full-time, long-term “peace” activist. Name a major protest – one in Washington, D.C. against the International Monetary Fund in 2000, when she was only 17, Occupy Oakland, Black Bloc attacks in San Francisco, and Silverman has been involved in some way. She’s been arrested for violent, destructive behavior, as recently as this past October.
The attack, shown in the video below, went on for several minutes, with more and more people coming to assist Silverman in menacing and ejecting Channa. The crowd assisted Silverman in shoving Channa and her friend David out of the public square.
Freedom of speech? Nah. Freedom to assemble? Nope.
The Jewish Press reached Silverman late Saturday night, and asked her “why you felt it was justified to attack someone who was expressing a view – even one you find abhorrent – in a public place.”
We had created a space at the Plaza to chalk the names of our dead friends and people who have suffered because of state or corporate violence. (“freedom to speak and assemble” was written either semi randomly or as a statement on the wittling away of constitutional rights that we are experiencing in the present time.) It was over this memorial space that they intruded. They came to pick a fight with us on the anniversary of Tristan’s shooting. I want to say that I don’t like or respect the right wing, but I would never disturb one of your memorial spaces, and I find their targeting of an event for Tristan Anderson to be cowardly and unethical. They are a shonda for the goyim.
She added, “I also want to add that my only regret is calling her a whore. Solidarity with whores everywhere!”
Channa told The Jewish Press that she was somewhat aware of Tristan’s history, but she also knew the organization he was showing solidarity with is not interested in justice or peace. The International Solidarity Movement, she says, “claims to be peaceful,” but in reality uses “direct action” in an effort to provoke Israelis so they can capture on film and publicize the response as examples of Israeli aggression
“They are not about freedom, they are not about ‘justice for Tristan,’ if they were, they would not be supporting regimes that have nothing to do with freedom, they wouldn’t be supporting terrorist groups,” Channa asserted, “it’s just about hating Israel.”
“Hating and delegitimizing Israel? That’s the new, politically correct form of anti-Semitism,” Channa told The Jewish Press several times during the interview. “And they get away with it, for the same reason that people used to get away with anti-Semitism, because people allow it.” And, she might have added, the newer new form of anti-Semitism? Ridiculing those who label the double standards used to criticize Israel, as anti-Semitism.
“These groups are only and all about demonizing Israeli soldiers, their goal is to upset us with their outrageous conduct, and then show that we [Israelis] are violent,” Channa told The Jewish Press, explaining how she was able to maintain complete control and perfect composure, when first Silverman, then a group of people were screaming, shoving and removing her from a public space.
“As a former soldier, I was trained to maintain my composure in the face of that kind of provocation,” she said.
David (who asked that his last name be withheld, as he lives in Oakland where anti-Israel people can be “quite vindictive”), appears in the video trying to fend off the people menacing, shoving and hitting Channa. He said he is very familiar with those antics in the Oakland area.
“The ultimate goal of the leadership of groups like the International Solidarity Movement is the complete elimination of Israel,” David
told The Jewish Press. “There are many people involved with the group – maybe Tristan was one of those – who are naive and are indoctrinated by the leaders to believe that Israel is the root of all the problems in the Middle East, and if only Israel was gone it would usher in a new golden age of humanism.”
David pointed out that one of the people in another one of the videos from the March 13 Oakland event was Paul Larudee, a leader in the ISM and Free Gaza Movement, who “…recognize[s] that violence is necessary and it is permissible for oppressed and occupied people to use armed resistance and we recognize their right to do so.” Larudee has been involved with several well-publicized efforts to defeat the blockade of Gaza, supports Hamas, and obtained official approval from the United Nations for his nongovernmental organization, the Free Palestine Movement, which is a pro-Hamas group.
TRISTAN ANDERSON AND NI’ILIN PROTEST
Silverman is the girlfriend of Tristan Anderson. Anderson was severely wounded in 2009 as he stood in solidarity with Arab Palestinians who regularly protest the security fence Israel has built to deter terrorism. This protest took place in the Arab town of
Ni’ilin. The security fence, as can be seen in the map, runs mostly along the 1949 Armistice lines (the “Auschwitz Borders, as Abba Eban described them) but jut into the disputed territories in certain locations so as to protect Jewish majority towns from terrorism. Most of Ni’ilim is outside of the fence, but a small portion of it falls within. Anderson came to Israel to visit Silverman, whom he had first met as a fellow protester at the IMF and World Bank protests in 2000, in Washington, D.C. The IMF protest was organized by the anarchist group A16.
Anderson told an interviewer two years ago about his life prior to his injuries: “Sometimes it’s solidarity, sometimes it’s like we’ve all got to fight against something. I did everything there is to do: bicycle activism, gardening activism, anti-globalization activism, [US political prisoner] Mumia [abu Jamal] activism, tree-sitting.” Mumia abu Jamal is a convicted murderer who killed Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981. And in 2009, Anderson went to the Middle East to be with Silverman.
Not only did Silverman physically assault Channa on March 13, but the ISM/Occupy Oakland event on the day of the assault was to protest
the devastating injury of her boyfriend caused by the throwing of a non-lethal weapon, yet Silverman was arrested just a few months ago when she and others in a militant anarchist group did what? Hurled “non-lethal” (but potentially lethal nonetheless, just like tear gas canisters) projectiles at police and other people.
Further irony: the message Channa wrote for which she was attacked? A message of peace: “Am Yisrael Chai” – The Jewish People Live. Yet another irony: Channa, when attacked violently and verbally and removed from a public place, was writing her message right below the clearly marked message, in bold letters: FREEDOM TO SPEAK AND ASSEMBLE. And a final one: the park, the public space from which Channa was ejected by Silverman and her comrades, was named for a legitimate civil rights activist but was renamed to “honor” a convicted felon, now considered a martyr because he was killed while resisting arrest.
WARNING: EXTREMELY FOUL LANGUAGE IS AUDIBLE ON THIS VIDEOLori Lowenthal Marcus
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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