The same International organization that broke into the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to stage a sit-in, in support of Gaza and Hamas, resulting in 305 of their members being arrested for illegal entrance and three of them for assaulting police officers, also staged a rally on State St. and Las Positas Thursday night in Santa Barbara.
Many protestors seemed to be in their early twenties; some held signs that read, “No Genocide In Gaza,” indicating they are not aware or are ignoring the fact that the Israeli government has been delaying a ground incursion and encouraging evacuations so as to spare the lives of Palestinians, when they go after the Hamas terrorists who killed, maimed, raped and kidnapped over 3,000 Israelis on October 7, 2023.
On this last day of the High Holiday cycle, and on the Jewish Sabbath, more Jews were killed at once than since the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, 80 years ago.
According to an announcement the anti-Israel organization placed in the Santa Barbara Independent, they call themselves “Jewish Voice for Peace”, yet the decades-old and well funded organization is known for sometimes violent Guerrilla tactics, and some of their members rushed at a small group of Jewish counter-protestors including a man who was wearing a US Marine’s jacket, aggressively pushing two men who were holding the disabled veteran’s flag, snatching the sacred banner from their hands, and running off into the night. Santa Barbara Police were called to the scene and a report was made, and the Pro-Gaza protestors quickly dispersed.
When interviewed, the man whose flag was torn from his hands stated, “There was a protest supporting… I don’t know what they were protesting… there was a “Ceasefire” sign… It’s astonishing to me that someone would take to the streets to celebrate something after a tragedy like that, regardless of your political views. There was an assault — they came over and pushed and grabbed a flag — we were just standing here on the opposite corner. They grabbed it from people … this is assault… this is America! We are suppose to be safe: we are suppose to be able to express our views; they are able to express their views; there are flags; freedom of speech, freedom of assembly; that is what it is about! But these are intimidation tactics!”
Some members of the Santa Barbara Jewish community brought flyers with the faces of the 200 babies, adults and elderly kidnapped on Oct. 7 in the brutal attack– including people from 35 different countries. Twelve are from the USA: no one but Hamas in Palestine knows how many are still alive: unconfirmed reports of beheadings abound. The counter-protestors stated they did not recognize any of the several dozen protestors standing across the street, and questioned who they are and if they are from out of town. (No one answered the local phone number shared in the protest announcement, to clarify their demographics.)
One female counter-protestor approached the Pro-Gaza group, whose members were packed in together dangerously on or close to the curb of traffic-laden State Street, on the tail end of rush hour; she said she had the intent to engage in thoughtful dialogue. When she inquired how they could support a terrorist organization like Hamas, she was screamed at with curse words and told to go away.
Tensions were high on both sides.
I intuitively drove to the protest site Thursday evening, without knowing this was going on, but I am experienced photographing rallies, protests and strikes — as a person who cares deeply about social change and equality, and as a Contract Photojournalist with Zuma Press. I have been a Santa Barbara resident for 18 years. (I lived in Tsfat, Israel, in my twenties for three months.)
I spent most of the first ten years of my life living in Skokie, IL. the part of Chicago with the highest population of Holocaust survivors in North America; my family shared a building with the lovely couple who owned it: they had survived imprisonment in the Aushwitz – Death Camp. I believe this is largely why me and my twin had nightmares through out out entire childhood: we were sleeping over their rooms. No one spoke of the death camps back then, but they haunted our dreams.
Even back then, my father was a proud “Card Carrying Member of the ACLU.” He believed even the Neo-Nazis should be allowed to rally, because it is the freedom of speech that keeps us free, and allows what is in the shadows to come to light so we can deal with it. I have a Master’s Degree in Speech Communication with a specialization in Intercultural Communication from Southern Illinois University, and a Certificate of Completetion in Graduate Course work in Community, Liberation and Eco-Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Along with being a Photojournalist, I am also an Intuitive Counselor, Realtor and Dream Specialist.
I have a strong desire to contact this Anti-Zionist organization, as well as local, pro-Israel, Jewish congregants in Santa Barbara, and to organize and engage in a civil and thoughtful debate together, if the parties are willing. Many Jews in the Santa Barbara community have been studying and practicing peaceful communication around “hot issues”, including compassionate Debate practices, as part of educational programs offered by a local synagogue: if this isn’t a time to engage in authentic, deep, passionate yet civil discussion for the purpose of deeper, truth-finding and problem-solving, I do not know when it will ever be. If you have desire to bring people from all sides of this issue together, in a non-violent way, please reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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