Op-Ed: Tensions Ran High at Pro-Palestine Rally on State Street

Dozens of Pro-Palestinian protestors under the State St. sign and a red light in front of an audio shop on October 19, 2023 (Photo: Amy Katz)

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!”

The pro-Palestine supporter who stole the flag was arrested and charged with Theft; the men who were pushed declined to press battery charges.
A Jewish, American, Counter-Protestor makes a police report to a Santa Barbara Police Officer after being attacked by a Pro-Palestinian Protestor around 7:30 pm in Santa Barbara on October 19, 2023. (Photo: Amy Katz)

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.

Counter-protestors, American and American-Israeli, who are Pro-Israel, hold an Israeli flag with a Jewish Star of David on it, next to a board with Kidnapped fliers on it. (Photo by Amy Katz)

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.

A counter-protestor, Pro-Israel, holds up Kidnapped flyers— showing the face of IDan Shtivi — one of over 200 Israelis abducted by Hamas on October 7. On the other side of the street are dozens of Pro-Palestinian protestors. (Photo: Amy Katz)

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: amykatz@yahoo.com


Op-Ed’s are written by community members, not representatives of edhat. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors.

[Do you have an opinion on something local? Share it with us at info@edhat.com.]

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Written by Amy Katz

Amy Katz is a edhat contributor and photojournalist. All of her photos are available for commercial licensing via Zuma Press or by contacting Amy directly at www.photojournalist.us

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24 Comments

    • MARATHONER – you are absolutely right. It has gone to far now. This is no longer “self defense,” this is criminal. Even if one Hamas leader is hiding in an apartment building, you can’t the bomb and kill 100 civilians and just brush it off as “collateral damage.” You can’t compare it to WWII civilian deaths either. That was 80 years ago, without the intel or smart weapons of today. Bombing civilians in this day and age is deliberate.

      It is truly sad how silent many are, but I don’t blame them. Supporting the Palestinian people is equated to supporting Hamas. People have lost their jobs for speaking out against Israel. The threat is real. Blaming Israel for years of oppression being a cause of this conflict is not “supporting Hamas.” As much as Hamas is to blame for this current conflict, the last 3-4 weeks of murdering civilians is only further proof of Israel’s complicity in the pain and suffering in this region.

      The US needs to stop tiptoeing around the fact that Israel is now committing atrocities. Time to speak up.

  1. “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”

    Speaking of ignoring facts….. the forced movement of a population is a war crime.

    So is bombing residential buildings, schools and medical facilities (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/10/damning-evidence-of-war-crimes-as-israeli-attacks-wipe-out-entire-families-in-gaza/).

    So is using white phosphorous on civilian populations (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/human-rights-watch-says-israel-used-white-phosphorous-gaza-lebanon-2023-10-12/#:~:text=Human%20Rights%20Watch%20says%20Israel%20used%20white%20phosphorus%20in%20Gaza%2C%20Lebanon,-Reuters&text=JERUSALEM%2C%20Oct%2013%20(Reuters),serious%20and%20long%2Dterm%20injury.)

    Are we to just ignore the ongoing civilian deaths in Gaza and the West Bank now as well? IDF-armed settlers murdered a son and father at a funeral last week. They continue to attack Palestinians. The Palestinian people have been suffering for generations under oppressive policies and now they’re dying in masses in Gaza. But no, don’t you dare criticize Israel or else you’re supporting terrorists.

    Yes, Hamas needs to go. They are a vile terrorist organization. No one (at these protests) is supporting them. This backwards logic of attacking anyone who speaks out against the Israeli government as “anti-Semitic” needs to stop.

    Showing support of the innocent Palestinian people dying every day due to Israeli airstrikes (and those killed over the years of oppression) is NOT THE SAME as supporting Hamas attacking the Jewish people. This thinking is absurd, yet very real. The inability of anyone to criticize the Israeli government’s actions without fear of reprisals, even losing one’s job offers, is becoming worrisome.

    The terror that Israel suffered is inexcusable and must be defended against. That said, the people of Gaza/West Bank should not be forced to suffer alone in silence.

    • What do you think about the elected officials speaking at some of these Rallies, using aggressive rhetoric and lies to intentionally incite and provoke? How about rep rashida Tlaib screaming and screeching at one of these “peaceful protests” and using as a means to inflame, the outright lie claiming Israel bombed the hospital, when our president has stated that it was not Israel that bombed the hospital but a misfire from a terrorist group within Gaza?

      • “screaming and screeching” is all I need to know your biased opinion on this. Rep Tlaib, like any other public official, should be allowed to exercise her 1st Amendment rights and voice her support for the people of Palestine. Yes, it may be intense, but when you look at the history there, it IS emotional. Innocent people have been suffering for generations and now are being killed by bombs. The hospital was confusing for all and according to many media sources, is still not confirmed one way or another. Some saying only a few dozen deaths, some saying 500. The media first reported it as Israel’s doing, so there was no lie there.

        Despite that, schools, homes, other medical services have been bombed. Cities in the south (Rahaf, Khan Yunis, etc) are being bombed even after the Palestinian people were ordered to evacuate to the south. So yeah, people who have ties to the Arab community and people who just plain give a darn about innocent people on both sides being killed by Hamas AND the Israeli government might be a little passionate.

        So, what do I think about Tlaib being upset? I say good for her. We need more vocalization in support of the innocent men, women and now over 1000 children who have been killed by bombs in their homeland, which has been under blockade for almost 20 years.

        People need to remember, vocal support or compassion for the innocent deaths on one side, does not preclude support or compassion for the innocent deaths on the other side.

      • Everyone needs to tone down their rhetoric. Tlaib is, somewhat understandably, overheated and has repeated debunked claims about the hospital. That’s not going to help. At the same time, you should mention people like Lindsey Graham saying “This is a religious war, I don’t care if they (Israel) flattens the place (Gaza and 2m civilians).

        I mean, wow. One of our highest profile politicians publicly giving a green light to the Israeli government to kill 2m civilians. WTF? What does that do to bolster the claims of our worst enemies in the Middle East.

        That’s not even in the same universe as Tlaib, she probably has family over there that she is concerned about. Yes, she should be more responsible in her remarks. But Graham? Wow. That is WW3 shit right there.

        • No I shouldn’t mention Lindsey Graham, thank you much. I don’t watch Fox news, and don’t want to listen to his blathering. That is classic “whataboutism.” I also should not be required to mention Joe Public or any number of others among the millions of people in our population in order to be allowed to add needed perspective on this thread. Since no one else had added any comments with more than one perspective, it seemed up to me to point out the added violence, vitriol and harm that can be done from making inflammatory and false statements such as rep Tlaib did. I don’t even have a “pony” in either race, but you are right about one thing, if people don’t tone it down we could be facing WWlll. And don’t be stating that I am asserting these things. On both these topics, I am quoting OUR PRESIDENT’s position! If you are claiming humanitarian relocation is a war crime, I guess you are stating that our president is condoning a war crime? You trying to tear down Biden so Trump can get re-elected?

    • Please explain what you mean by the forced movement of a population being a war crime? According to our president, holding off an invasion until the population is able to get to a point of safety Is being done to get them out of harm’s way and preserve their lives. When you want to prove that Israelis are habitually killing Palestinians, not sure why you use as your evidence a single example of one single individual Israeli you claim killed a Palestinian at a funeral. That’s like saying Americans are murdering the Germans, because a news account describes the killing of one German tourist by an American. I’d like to know, please provide more substantial information about Israelis habitually killing Palestinians for no reason at all, when unprovoked and not attacked first..

        • Of course rep Tllaib has the right to be passionate, my point was that she does not help matters by using mis information to inflame more hatred. In reply to your other seemingly purposeful mischaracterizations of my points, of course everyone is aware of a war going on where there are heartbreaking casualties, and the death of innocent Palestinians is heartbreaking. But again, you peculiarly, chose to talk about one individual incident as if that one event somehow characterized a whole nation.

        • why is there 283 miles of tunnels under Gaza? Because of their love of their fellow man? Here is fact. There will be no more attacks from Gaza, once Gaza is gone! Did not here anyone crying when the US bombed Belgrade civilians under Clinton, and I doubt there were many ‘protests’ when the US destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Seems only the Jews cannot retaliate, the rest of the world practice revenge and its fine and dandy. I have a great idea, how about the US stays out of Israeli/Gaza affairs and Russia/Ukraine affairs and tends to its own business like closing the border, housing and building mental institutions for our homeless and building prisons for mandatory sentencing for gun related crimes. How about that!

      • People need to try and be honest about what has happened over, primarily, the last 55 years (post war of 67), not who has killed more of whom, etc., etc.. That will never, ever lead anywhere.

        You can argue that the push to move the population South to clear the battlefield so the IDF can engage Hamas without their human shields is a legitimate way to protect civilians. But, under international law, mass expulsions of civilian populations can in fact be considered war crimes as is any attempt to inflict collective punishment on non-combatants.

        So, yeah, that’s just a fact. And, you really can’t come to any conclusion other than the fact that the people in Gaza and West Bank have lived under terrible and oppressive conditions for a very long time. I know. Then it becomes “Whose fault is that though!?” Well, it is the fault of every faction in the region with the power to change it. The Israeli government, the surrounding Arab states and of course you can make an argument that the people of Gaza have a duty to stand up and fight against their own bloodthirsty and psychotic government. That is a huge ask because it is basically a civil war of family against family.

        People like to point out that the Hamas terrorists have committed unbelievable brutality and the Israelis have never reached that low. But, I think that’s just because of the discrepancy in their military capacity. Having seen the disgusting rhetoric from Israeli settlers, dancing and singing about a Gaza with no children, celebrating their deaths, etc., I’m pretty well convinced that, if the roles were reversed there are elements in the Settler community that would do exactly the same thing to the children in Gaza.

        So then what?

        The only way there can ever be any peace there is for people to reconcile to the past and leave it behind. No more scorecards. The regional Arab powers must defy Iran and require the removal of Hamas as a government and install an interim governing body of multi-national representatives, make a deal with Israel to make Gaza a Palestinian nation and pump massive amounts of money in to rebuild and create a sustainable economy so that the eleven year old of today becomes the IT guy of ten years from now and not the Hamas terrorist.

        It will probably never happen but that’s how I see it.

    • Sac–

      1. Yes on forced relocation of civilian population.
      2. No on White Phosphorous-there are no accounts of it being used against people, but only as aerial target marking which is allowable under international law–that is a lie that is being repeated as anti-Israel PR. The state of Israel has plenty to answer for without making things up.
      3. Intentional targeting of non combatants is illegal. Collateral casualties as a result of strikes against military targets is not. Hamas has command and control, rocket launch sites, and military supplies embedded in tightly packed civilian areas in order to maximize the deaths of their own people to win the PR game. Show clear evidence that Israel intentionally targeted structures with no military use occurring. It’s not happening, because, it is not in Israel’s interest to do that. The more civilians they kill the more PR wins they had to Hamas and their Iranian masters. People who are talking about “genocide” in Israel don’t recognize the fundamental fact that, if genocide were the Israeli government’s goal there would already be 100k dead civilians. There are about 4k. Considering the number of aerial strikes and the nature of the urban and population dense battlefield that is very very low.

  2. > 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

    So because genocide has not yet occurred (although actually it has been ongoing since the Nabka), no one should say it shouldn’t happen, and if they do then they are ignorant?

    This and the rest of this article is the sort of nonsense that we get from grossly intellectually dishonest people who look at everything through a one-sided lens crafted from their personal affiliations and biases.

    > When she inquired how they could support a terrorist organization like Hamas, she was screamed at with curse words and told to go away.

    That’s because her comment was grossly dishonest and deeply offensive–it was a troll comment designed to inflame.

    > Many Jews in the Santa Barbara community have been studying and practicing peaceful communication around “hot issues”

    Apparently not you, else you would not have written this dishonest biased tripe.

  3. > A counter-protestor, Pro-Israel, holds up Kidnapped flyers— showing the face of IDan Shtivi — one of over 200 Israelis abducted by Hamas on October 7. On the other side of the street are dozens of Pro-Palestinian protestors. (Photo: Amy Katz)

    When this same person-or you or any of your think-alikes–holds up a picture of a single one of the thousands upon thousands of Palestinians killed by Israelis, then we can have “authentic, deep, passionate yet civil discussion for the purpose of deeper, truth-finding and problem-solving”. But bad faith articles like this one are not on that path.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_casualties_of_war

  4. ““No Genocide In Gaza,” indicating they are not aware or are ignoring the fact……”

    What word would you use to describe the IDF’s refusal to allow fuel into Gaza, despite being aware of the fact that over a hundred premature infants and over a thousand other innocent and wounded Palestinians are currently dependent on life support machines that are about to fun out of fuel in the next 24 hours? Just curious.

    How about the 6 hospitals that have already had to close due to lack of fuel? Or those who’s only water supply is a nearby well?

    ““Neonatal intensive care units house over 100 newborns, some of whom are in incubators and rely on mechanical ventilation, making an uninterrupted power supply a matter of life and death,” [the World Health Organization] said.”

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