Bus 19 Anti-Terrorism rally in Berkeley, on January 16, 2005.

On January 29, 2004, a Palestinian suicide bomber climbed aboard Bus 19 in Jerusalem and detonated his explosives. The explosion killed 11 people, injured 50, and destroyed the interior of the bus.

The mangled shell of the bus was subsequently sent to The Hague, in the Netherlands, where it was displayed outside the International Court of Justice to protest the court's ruling against Israel's separation barrier -- which is intended to prevent attacks exactly like the one that destroyed Bus 19. A Christian humanitarian group now called The Jerusalem Connection subsequently bought the bus and had it shipped to the United States, where, loaded on the back of a flatbed trailer, it has since made stops at anti-terror rallies across the country.

At none of its previous appearances did the bus stir much controversy. Everything was going smoothly until a group called Israel Action Committee of the East Bay decided to bring the bus for a three-hour exhibit in Berkeley, California on January 16, 2005. Word of the upcoming anti-terror rally quickly spread to pro-Palestinian activist groups in the Bay Area, and a counter-demonstration was planned -- based on the complaint that the bus exhibit was "out of context" and failed to illuminate the real "complexities" of the sources of terrorism. Meanwhile, Israel boosters planned to show up in support of the exhibit, and to express their condemnation of terrorism in general.

Shortly before the event, I asked the organizers if they expected a significant counter-demonstration of any kind. A silent vigil, perhaps, they said, but beyond that -- really, who would dare to come out and protest in favor of terror?

I would soon find out.

Before I even reached the site of the bus exhibit, I encountered the protesters gathering across the street. And I realized immediately that the intifada had arrived in America. Silent vigil? Think again.

Click here (or on the photo above) to see a video of the pro-Palestinian protesters shouting at Jews attending the bus exhibit across the street (QuickTime, 4.9mb). Here's a transciption of the video:
Man: If you are afraid to die, GET OUT! If you are afraid to die, GET OUT! GET OUT!
Masked Boy: Go back to Germany! Back!
Woman: Allahu Ackbar! Allahu Ackbar!
Boy Without Mask: Go back to Europe.
Woman: (phrases in Arabic)
Boy #3: Allahu Ackbar!
Man: I'm gonna send you [unintelligible]. You are weak! You are cowards! That's what you're all about. Get out if you're afraid to die. We love to die because we --
Masked Boy: Go back to Germany! [unintelligible]. Get [the hell] back to Germany!

Many of the younger protesters between the ages of (approximately) seven and sixteen wore masks made out of kaffiyehs (Palestinian scarves). And I was soon to discover further evidence that the Palestinians were using their children as their first line of attack.

I crossed the street to look at the bus next to MLK Park (also known as Provo Park) and listen to the program of visiting speakers scheduled for the event. But we'll get to that in a moment. Before I even made it to the stage area I encountered a trio of very young Palestinian children who had (presumably) been sent by their parents into the crowd of Jews in front of the event stage. All three were holding signs depicting gruesomely mutilated bodies. This child, about four or five years old, held a sign with the words "Organ Thieves" below a photo of a disemboweled corpse -- apparently a reference to the bizarre blood libel conspiracy theory, widely accepted in the Muslim world, that Jews steal bodily organs and eyeballs from dead Palestinians. I couldn't tell how many people in the audience grasped the implications of the boy's sign.

A member of the security team took notice of the kids. But I heard a ruckus back toward the street and scampered away before I found out what happened.

Some of the Palestinian adults had crossed the street to confront the Jews in person. Click here (or on the photo above) to see just how close the confrontation came to becoming violent (QuickTime, 5.8mb). Here's a transcription of the video:
Palestinian #1: How many people have you killed? You're nothing but terrorist scum. You suck all of American tax dollars, and you use it against an unarmed population. [Notice how he does not distinguish between American Jews and Israeli Jews. -- Ed.] Where's the Palestinian army? Where's our army? All we have is civilians. But guess what? But guess what? With our civilians we will win! We will win. You guys come cry over a, a bus bombing? Where's the --
Palestinian protesters: Hey hey, ho ho! The occupation's got to go! (Repeated several times)
Palestinian #2: [Rushes up to an Israel supporter and yells in his face while dancing back and forth.]
Palestinian #3: [Lunges to attack the Israel supporter, but is pulled away in the nick of time.]
Israel supporter: That's right -- you can't! You can't touch this!

As the pro-Palestinian protesters regrouped, I realized that they were not stationed across the street by choice -- they were ordered to remain there by the police, who were trying to preserve the peace and prevent any outbreaks of violence.

I took the opportunity to check out the bus and the speeches being given on the event stage.
Click here (or on the photo above) to open a new page with pictures of Bus 19 and speakers at the main event.

After a short time observing the bus itself and the main stage, I spent the rest of the afternoon mingling with protesters on both sides of the aisle.

Much has been made of a detail mentioned in the San Francisco Chronicle's article about the Bus 19 event, in which the writer (in an otherwise woefully incomplete description) quotes the Palestinian protesters chanting "Two, four, six, eight, we are martyrs, we can't wait." Could it possibly be true -- did they say that? No one (at least that I've encountered) who was present that day remembers hearing them say it, and many people who weren't there simply refuse to believe it happened.

Well, I have proof not only that it happened, but that the chant also had another part that the Chronicle reporter misssed. I was quite a distance away when the chant started, but by sheer luck I was able to make a recording of it -- which I present here:

Click here to hear a group of Palestinian protesters chanting in praise of Islamic "martyrdom" (mp3 file, 570kb). Please note that the sound quality of the audio clip, due to the circumstances of the on-site recording, is rather low; extraneous environmental noise makes the chanting hard to hear, especially at the beginning of the clip when the protesters had not yet coordinated their chanting. As the clip progresses, however, the words become clearer. Here's the transcription:

Palestinian protesters: One, three, five, seven, all our martyrs go to heaven!
Two, four, six, eight, we are martyrs, we can't wait!
One, three, five, seven, all our martyrs go to heaven!
One, three, five, seven, all our martyrs go to heaven!
Two, four, six, eight, we are martyrs, we can't wait!
Two, four, six, eight, we are martyrs, we can't wait!
One, three, five, seven, all our martyrs go to heaven!
[The sound of a shofar (a Jewish musical instrument made from a ram's horn played during religious ceremonies) blown by a pro-Israel protester drowns out much of the rest of the chanting.]
Two, four, six, eight, we are martyrs, we can't wait!
Allahu Ackbar!
Allahu Ackbar!
Allahu Ackbar!
[Phrases in Arabic.]

This chanting happened in the United States.

Not all the protesters were anti-Israel. There was a substantial group of counter-counter-protesters, who came not so much to attend the official, sedate bus event, but rather to stand in opposition to the pro-terror protesters. This pro-Israel coalition was a mixture of Jews, Christians, Protest Warriors, San Francisco Voice for Israel members, anti-idiotarians, and just average people with the peculiar opinion that terror must be opposed at all levels.

Unlike their opponents, the pro-Israel folks had a sense of humor.

One pro-Israel protester brought with him a shofar made from a very long horn; he seemed to be quite an expert at playing it, and he used his skills to drown out the anti-Israel protesters at every opportunity.

He was, in fact, slighly unhinged and absolutely fearless -- what they call crazybrave -- and his incessant badgering and messianic sermons drove the Palestinians into frothing fits of fury (as seen in the video above when he says, "You can't touch this!").

Click here to continue on to Part 2 of the report.

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