Bus 19 Anti-Terrorism Rally in San Francisco, on January 17, 2005.
The shell of Jerusalem Bus 19, destroyed by a Palestinian suicide bomber who killed 11 people on January 29, 2004, was displayed in San Francisco's Civic Center Park on January 17, 2005. The event followed a similar demonstration in Berkeley the day before. (For more background info on the bus, and a glimpse of the confrontational Berkeley event, click here.)
The San Francisco appearance of Bus 19 was sponsored by a local group called San Francisco Voice for Israel, which has recently emerged as a strong force countering the often extreme anti-Israel sentiment expressed at public events in the Bay Area.
The bombed-out bus was parked directly in front of City Hall, drawing a steady stream of onlookers.
San Francisco Voice for Israel's publicity efforts had paid off, and a large crowd of Israel supporters gathered to hear the event's speakers call for an end to terrorism. Unlike the previous day's Bus 19 rally in Berkeley, today's pro-Israel crowd greatly outnumbered the anti-Israel crowd, who were kept far away by the no-nonsense San Francisco Police.
Many of the attendees were members of San Francisco's large Russian Jewish community, mostly senior citizens who had fled persecution, anti-Semitism and bad economic conditions in Russia and the old Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, the same group of Palestinian militants who had disrupted the Berkeley protest the day before had arrived here as well and were starting to make a racket at the far end of Civic Center Park. Their bullhorn was not loud enough to be heard clearly from the bus, but if you walked over closer you couldn't help but hear their nonstop attacks on the Jews. Click here (or on the photo above) to see a short clip of the Palestinian protesters telling the Jews that they will "pay." (QuickTime, 1.4mb). Here's a transcription of the video:
Palestinian Spokesman: ...Theodor Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan. You guys [all are out] with one agenda: to rule the world. You will not rule the world! You will not win, because every dog has its day, and you will pay!
The anti-terror crowd were not about to back down this time, however, and came prepared with a series of large, red handmade banners that left no doubt about their feelings.
Radio talk show host Jeff Katz (seen here on the left, interviewing a San Francisco Voice for Israel spokesman) broadcast live from the event; but -- being stuck in his booth all day -- he missed the most disturbing parts of the rally, which took place far back from the main event stage.
As a series of calm and reasonable speakers denounced terrorism from the stage in front of the bus, things started to heat up in the audience.
It's not often that one gets to stand just inches from a real live anti-Semite and see him in action. This incident seemed to start innocuously. One of the protesters instigated a heated discussion after declaring that both sides were equally to blame in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Considering that this is a common enough belief in the Bay Area, at first he presented himself as somewhat reasonable. Then he began to escalate his rhetoric a bit by yelling that the anti-terror rally was "one-sided." Cracks started to show in his facade of impartiality. Before long he was sputtering about Israel's illegitimacy, and his true face of hatred was exposed. Click here (or on the photo above) to see a sneering anti-Semite use the verbal techniques of a cornered playground bully. (QuickTime, 6.8mb). Here's a transcription of the video:
Anti-Semite: ... roots are still alive before 1948: I readed that book. I read that book.
Audience Member #1: : Did you go --
AS: : I read that book.
AM1: Did you go --
AS: I read that book.
AM1: You don't wanna listen, do you? Did you go to the fifteen other things in Berkeley that were pro-Arab and tell THEM that they were being one-sided?
AS: [momentary silence]
Everyone: [talking at once.]
AM1: Answer me.
AS: I don't live in Berkeley, I live here.
AM1: He refuses to answer the question.
AM1: He refuses to answer the question.
AS: I live here, I don't --
AS: Yeah, well, I don't make big money to make it over to Berkeley.
AM1: You only come to Jewish, uh, gatherings and say it's one-sided. You don't go to the Arab --
AS: Yeah, because you probably don't want to hear them at all. You don't wanna hear them at all.
AM1: We hear 'em! We hear 'em!
AS: That's the thing. That's it, yeah, yeah.
AM1: We can't help but hear 'em.
AS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
AM1: They're all over the news.
AS: 'We're right no matter what.' You're right no matter what, which is really sad.
AM1: You've got a big mouth. You've got a big mouth.
AS: Yeah, you do, you do. What're you gonna do, what're you gonna do?
AM1: You're full of shit.
AS: Yeah, I'm full of shit, that's right.
AM3: Let him go.
AS: [Mockingly recites Jewish prayer in Hebrew] Shema O Israel Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad, hunh? Shema O Israel Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai...
Nearby, flags from four nations that have suffered recent terror attacks -- India, Russia, Spain and Turkey -- fluttered in the wind.
Another virulently anti-Israel rabble-rouser, holding a sign that said "Zionism=Fascism," stationed himself directly behind the audience and started shouting abuse at the Israel supporters. He quickly drew a crowd of outraged hecklers. Click here (or on the photo above) to see a short clip of an ongoing war of words that lasted most of the afternoon. (QuickTime, 3.1mb). Here's a transcription of the video:
Anti-Israel Protester: Act like a Nazi, act like a Nazi.
Audience Member #1: Islamofascist!
Audience Member #2: [words in Russian]
AIP: Why don't you just shoot me? That's what they would do in Israel.
AM2: He doesn't know what fascism is [in Russian].
Policeman: All you're doing is giving him the attention he wants.
AIP: Nazi Zion out of Palestine.
Policeman: ... at this point is to ignore him.
AIP: Kiss my ass!
Taking the opportunity to get right up close to another authentic anti-Semite, I accompanied an ABC News crew who stepped up to give the guy some air time.
As I headed back toward the main stage I noticed that one of the most aggressive of the Palestinian protesters had slipped unobserved into the middle of the crowd of Jews listening to the speakers. I surreptitiously snapped a shot of him.
But he didn't intend to stay undercover for long. He took off his jacket and pulled up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo on his shoulder.
"100% Palestinian," it read. It was obvious from his demeanor that he was looking to start trouble.
One of the event organizers, instead of confronting him, wisely pointed him out to the police, who swiftly ushered the interloper off to the side and gave him a talking-to before sending him back to his fellow anti-Israel protesters at the far end of the plaza.
Attempting to repeat the "invasion" of the rally that they had staged in Berkeley, the Palestinians then gathered up all their flags and banners and made a rush for the stage across Civic Center Plaza. This time, however, the invasion was rebuffed almost immediately, and after only a minor skirmish the protesters were forced back onto the lawn. No one was hurt, and the speeches continued after only a short interruption. But nerves were frayed and some of the Israel supporters were visibly unhappy at the attempted disruption.
Click here (or on the photo above) to see the aftermath of the failed "invasion": the Palestinians are marching in a circle, chanting slogans; an angry Jewish audience member is shouting at them; meanwhile, up at the bus itself, a Christian chorus sings the popular gospel tune "Oh Happy Day." (QuickTime, 6.6mb). This all seems significant somehow, but I'm not sure of what.
Strangely, just a few steps from all the fracas, a group of Muslim mothers and young children were spending the afternoon in the Civic Center playground. I'm not sure if they were the families of the Palestinian protesters, watching from a distance, or if they were totally unconnected to the rally.
Back at the main stage, famed Arab-American pro-Israel author Nonie Darwish was giving an inspiring speech.
One of the audience members had written a poem about the bus.
Many of the signs at the rally were very candid and forthright.
As at the Berkeley event, a group of leftists showed up to support the Palestinians, but here in San Francisco they were kept far off to the side and were hardly noticed by most of the people in the audience.
This lone Berkeley-style pro-Palestinian peacenik tried to distance herself from the younger hardcore leftists and from the aggressive Palestinians and from the pro-Israel peaceniks, and found herself stuck uncomfortably in no-woman's land between the three camps.
The Palestinian protesters regrouped at the far end of Civic Center Plaza, and spent the rest of the afternoon shouting an unending anti-Semitic tirade through their bullhorn. It might seem impossible to accept that such terrifying lunacy could be displayed publicly in the United States, were you to merely hear secondhand reports of what was said. Luckily, I captured some of their astounding statements on film. Here's a selection of video snippets.
Click here (or on the photo above) to see the Palestinians proclaiming a bizarre conspiracy theory about the kosher certification of foods. (The "K" and the "U" the speaker refers to are the small markings found on many food packages indicating that they have been approved as kosher.
Click here for more information about how this anti-Semitic conspiracy theory originated with the KKK and other extremist right-wing groups.) (QuickTime, 6.2mb). Here's a transcription of the video:
Palestinian spokesman: And you know the K, the U, and every product that's purchased in America is nothin' but a BS tax scam. These rabbis and these Jewish organizations warn these companies and they tell: 'You must have our stuff kosher. If not, we know that the Jewish media' -- the media is owned by the Jews -- 'we will boycott you. We will put you down.' And in return, rabbis are employed at full-time lucrative salaries, and at the same time these companies must pay billions of dollars to put these registered trademarks of the K and the U on labels. Billions and billions of American dollars are sent to these rabbis and these organizations, who [inherits it]? The Union of Orthodox Jewish Rabbis: Everything that you buy that has a U and a K is sent to Israel. This money is sent to support the Zionist government of Ariel Sharon. All this tax dollars? And you're talking about that you are victims? What kind of victims are you?
Click here (or on the photo above) to see the Palestinian protesters telling the Russian Jews to return to Russia, and ascribing sinister statements to the Jewish scriptures (QuickTime, 3.1mb). Here's a transcription of the video:
Palestinian Spokesman: You are foreigners occupying an occupied territory. We say: Go home! Go back where you came from. Go back to Poland. Go back to Germany. Go back to France. Go back to Russia. Don't come to Palestine and say that this land is promised to you, and that you wanna take over the whole country. You think that Palestinians and the rest of humanity are non-Jewish and they are subhuman. These are your sayings from your book! You say it's okay to cheat....
After an hour or so of nonstop ranting, the Palestinians had started drifting into The Protocols of the Elders of Zion territory, spinning wild fantasies of Jewish global domination. Click here (or on the photo above) to see them accusing the Jews of controlling the government, the economy, the media -- well, everything, to be exact. (QuickTime, 8.5mb). Here's a transcription of the video (with verbal slip-ups intact):
Palestinian spokesman: No matter what kind of lies that you say, we know the Jews own the media, the Jews own Hollywood, the Jews own everything! The CEOs of all the major companies. Look at the House of Representatives! Look at the Congress! They're all Jews; their Zionism have agendas, and their agendas are to take over the world. They have America fighting their army. They instigate all this BULLSHIT that has millions and millions of Muslims and Arabs killed. That's all it is. And they sit there and they lie -- talk about they are victims of terrorism? They are not terrorism. If you look up terrorism, it should be Israel. They are the biggest terrorists. On the one hand you cry every day about your Holocaust, you cry about Hitler, and you do the same things if not worse to what Hitler did. You guys are modern-day Nazis. You are modern-day Hitler-followers. That's all you are! You cry about Hitler. You get millions and millions of dollars from the German companies, from countries, you guys still receive compensation. What about Palestinians? What about all the land that you confiscated? You think that you're going to get it without a cost? There's a price to occupation. That bus is a price to occupation. Every time that a martyr goes out and does a mission, it's a price of occupation. And you will pay, and you have just seen the beginning of it.
Click here to view the report on the Berkeley appearance of Bus 19 on January 16, 2005.
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