Anti-Israel activists disrupted the Council’s stated meeting yesterday, at precisely the moment that a vote was called on a resolution commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz.
Protestors, angry that a number of councilmembers, including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, are taking a trip to Israel next month, booed and heckled the Council from the gallery, from which they draped banners and Palestinian flags. The protestors were expelled from Chambers, and eventually the entire gallery was cleared after the protests continued.
One might be sympathetic to the argument that trips abroad by councilmembers, paid for by the propaganda arms of Israel, Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, etc., are questionable and should be disallowed. After all, the Council doesn't even have control of the city's schools or most of the budget, so its influence on foreign affairs is likely to be fairly limited as well.
But clean government without junkets was not on the protestors' agenda yesterday. No, the problem was Israel and Israel alone. A coalition of anti-Zionist groups has been trying to gin up controversy over the planned trip, sarcastically calling it "Apartheid Tours," and targeting individual councilmembers, especially the Progressives among them, insisting that they cancel the trip.
The anti-Zionists undercut their usual claim--that opposition to Israeli policies is not equivalent to anti-Semitism--by patiently sitting through 58 minutes of the meeting until the words “Auschwitz/Birkenau” were pronounced by the Public Advocate as she was calling for a voice vote.
Four resolutions were voted on before the activists disrupted the proceedings: a resolution designating the week following the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. as “Peace Week;” a resolution making January cervical health awareness month; a call for the state legislature to pass laws that would facilitate treatment of HPV among young people; and a resolution asking the US Congress to pass legislation expanding the protection of a woman’s right to safe abortions.
At that point PA James read aloud the title of Resolution 548, “commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps on January 27th, 2015,” but was interrupted by boos from the gallery, as protestors raised a Palestinian flag and a banner reading “Don’t Tour Apartheid Israel.”
Ten minutes later, after the first protestors were expelled, several more individuals began screaming about “genocide,” and directly addressed the Speaker, “Melissa! You are a hypocrite! How can you say you are a progressive and support Israeli atrocities against children! Palestinian lives matter! Etc., etc.” At this point the gallery was emptied and the stated meeting continued without any members of the general public present.
One of the organizations behind the action, Jewish Voice for Peace, distanced itself from the timing of the disruption with the vote on the Auschwitz resolution, calling it “a mistake and extremely unfortunate.”
Other groups involved in the protest took a familiar approach to spinning the ugly scene: first denying it, then justifying it. Nastaran Mohit, an expert heckler of messianic self-regard, who made news in 2012 by repeatedly screaming “Fuck you” at a Mitt Romney appearance, insisted that her disruption began during the "Peace Week" resolution vote, though Council video proves otherwise.
The most egregious twisting of events came from the “Occupy Wall Street” Twitter feed, which angelically claimed, “Standing against apartheid is a stand in solidarity w/an anti-genocide reso.” Yes, to disrupt a commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz to scream about Palestine in fact shows the deepest possible respect for the Holocaust: certainly more earnestly felt than that of the disrupted original ceremony. Sophistry and doublethink at this level indicate either cynical brilliance or schizophrenia.
Anyway, the whole fiasco was a fantastic and depressing demonstration, if you care to make it, of the emptiness of the argument that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure does indicate correlation!