Saturday, August 13, 2022 -
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Protesters revel in opportunity

Whatever else Denver may have been for the past few days — and it’s been any number of things — it has certainly been this: a carnival of causes.

Drawn like moths to a bright porch light, those with an axe to grind, a cause to champion, an ox to gore, flocked to Denver this week as the brilliant glare of the media spotlight bathed the city in international attention.

It has been a lively and colorful carnival indeed, from the mostly black-clad and menacing looking anarchists who missed few opportunities to bring whatever anarchy they could to downtown Denver, to the more individualistic sorts of protesters — those who might be seen in pink tutus, yellow superhero costumes with capes or various outfits that successfully defy description.

The circus atmosphere even infiltrated the Pepsi Center itself, the epicenter of this week’s events, where DNC delegates were given to wearing exaggerated Uncle Sam top hats and straw boaters and bouncing colorful balls around the crowded convention floor.

But just as there was a very serious core to what was going on at the Democratic National Convention, there were real and significant messages in much of what the multitudes of protesters were doing and saying.

The fate of Israel — and of Jews — was on several agendas, and discussed from vastly differing perspectives.

Most such activity took place well away from the boisterous, and occasionally near violent, parades and marches that snaked their way through and around central Denver this week.

It could certainly be seen and heard early Sunday morning, at a Civic Center rally sponsored by Recreate 68, the group that helped organize much of the DNC-related protests and demonstrations during the convention.

Helping kick things off at the well-attended rally was Ward Churchill, the fired and much-discussed CU professor who has, since his lengthy confrontation with the university and media, become a sort of folk hero to many of the ultra-left activists whom Recreate 68 encompasses.

“It’s an honor to be here,” Churchill shouted in his best rally voice, “for people who feel they don’t need the permission of the state to exercise their rights. It’s an honor to be here, for people who don’t feel they need to relinquish their right to self-defense in the face of state violence, real or threatened.”

Churchill informed his listeners that they were there to resist “occupation,” meaning specifically American occupation, and itemizing a laundry list of criminal occupations that the US government has allegedly engaged in.

In addition to “occupied Denver, right now,” these included Wounded Knee, the “illegal occupation of native North America,” Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Southeast Asia, Korea, even Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

It seemed a bit strange that Churchill — an avowed and vocal anti-Zionist — did not include Israel’s occupation of Palestine on his list.

No such hesitation was evinced by another rally speaker, Ida Audeh, who was identified by Recreate 68 simply as a “Palestinian refugee.”

Audeh devoted the lion’s share of her speech to what she considers the criminal behavior of Israel and the victimization of the Palestinian people. She was apparently reaching sympathetic ears. When, in her first sentence she mentioned the name of Barack Obama, loud boos emanated from the crowd.

“One thing that has not been mentioned in this election season is US support for Israel’s imposition of a medieval type siege and economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians,” Audeh said into the booming microphone. “Israel has pretty much sealed the territory so that few people can enter or exit.”

The speaker alleged Israeli restrictions on imports of food, medicine and fuel, and the dire consequences of those restrictions, but provided no context, devoting not a single word to Hamas, Palestinian terrorism or Egypt’s role in the blockade.

Like Churchill, Audeh concentrated on such rousing and catchy phrases as: “We understand that such measures will ultimately prove futile. No country, no government has yet succeeded in convincing a nation that it must accept oppression as its fate.”

Although potential president Barack Obama might understand the true dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, Audeh said, he will likely “heed the voices of powerful lobbies who will insist that Israel remain above the law.”

Not all of the leftwing points of view were delivered in such sledgehammer fashion.

At Cuernavaca Park, just northwest of downtown, Amnesty International took a quieter and more educational approach in an effective and disturbing display.

Situated in the center of the urban park that served as a campground for many of the protesters who came to Denver, Amnesty had put up a replica of a typical prison cell at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where suspected terrorists are held.

It was a sobering presentation — a stark six-by-eight foot square room with a tiny stainless steel sink and toilet and a benched area covered by a thin cushion to serve as a bed.

Amnesty volunteer Rayne Betts explained how some US prisoners have lived in such cells for nearly six years, and that they typically spend more than 20 hours a day confined to the tiny quarters.

Although encouraged by recent Supreme Court rulings which may finally provide trials for some of the Guantanamo detainees, Betts said “we still have a lot of work to do.

“Amnesty International’s position,” she summed up, “is to shut down Guantanamo and give all the prisoners fair trials in the United States.”

Protests at the DNC in DenverAlso taking a soft sell approach was a young man from Salt Lake City who preferred to remain anonymous. Attired in a blue “McCain” t-shirt and giving away free bottles of water labeled “Nobama,” he took a break from the August sun and his unpopular duties and rested in the shade of a tree next to the South Platte.

“Most of the Democrats have been really polite,” he said, a note of sustained surprise in his voice. “They’ve treated me with respect when I approach them.”

He was fascinated to discover that Denver has a sizable Jewish community since, he said, “we hardly ever hear of Jews in Utah.”

Openly and proudly Mormon, he said he’s holding out hope that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon, would get the nod this week or next as John McCain’s running mate on the GOP ticket.

He imagined, he said, that Republican Jews probably feel the same sort of pride and anticipation about Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Jew who some think might also land on the Republican ticket.

Despite his youth, however, the young man came across as a political realist. The Republicans might frown on Romney and Lieberman alike, for precisely those reasons, he acknowledged.

“I guess that’s what being a minority is all about,” he said, a little sadly, as he continued on his lonely mission to convert Democrats.

There were Jewish voices too, amidst all the bustle and hubbub of convention week, but some of them were not heard by very many listeners.

Such was the case Monday evening, when local supporters of Shalom International, a Miami-based activist front that seeks to prevent the division of Jerusalem, held a small “Defend Jerusalem” rally in the chain-linked no-man’s land set aside as a demonstration zone a few hundred yards south of the Pepsi Center.

Only a dozen or so people showed up to speak, which was just about equal to the number of reporters and photographers who came.

Dr. Neil Dobro, the local activist who organized the rally, attributed the poor turnout to the “maze” or fences and closed streets that border the demonstration zone, discouraging all but the most intrepid of participants.

He accepted the necessity of the largely quarantined area, but wasn’t too happy about it.

“I think the city was probably afraid and had to be very defensive, given the violent nature of groups like Recreate 68, which have openly advocated disruption. I understand they want to keep people away from the Pepsi Center.

“I think it’s unfortunate that people who claim free speech for themselves act in such a way that it restricts free speech for all of us.”

He gazed somewhat longingly at the distant dome of the Pepsi Center, hazy as the afternoon shadows grew long.

“We certainly would have liked to have been a lot closer.”

Shalom International had also hoped to march through downtown rally at noon on Monday, but canceled it because they would have been placed next to demonstrators from Recreate 68. The juxtaposition, Dobro said, would have been “distasteful.”

He was quick to deny rumors that leftist activists had threatened the Jewish demonstrators — a rumor that gained currency from an email sent Monday which stated that the march was “cancelled due to Left Wing threats.”

The aim of Shalom International, Dobro said, is to prevent Jerusalem from being divided in any Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, and — on a larger scale — to discourage any American efforts to broker Mideast peace through the land-for-peace formula.

“We want to send the leadership of DNC a message: That dividing Israel in half, which is what Barack Obama has advocated, would be a terrible thing. He’s in favor of a contiguous Palestinian state that would cut Israel in half. Virtually all of Israel would be within rocket range or even rifle fire range.”

Although some of the placards that were supposed to be used during the rally bore anti-Obama messages, Dobro insisted that the rally was about issues, not candidates.

“We’re certainly not protesting the DNC or the convention. We’re just trying to send a message to Barack Obama and the DNC that the idea of land for peace hasn’t worked, there’s no indication at all that it will work and that history is the best indicator of the future. It just shouldn’t be tried.”

The founder and national leader of Shalom International, Bob Kunst, also stressed that the effort was issues-oriented, but the “Obamination” pin on his hat suggested otherwise, as did his own words.

“Actually, I’ve been a Democrat all my life,” he said, adding that he once worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “But I’m voting Republican now because I see the dangers that Obama represents. I see Obama as Bush’s third term.

“At least McCain says he’d keep the united Jerusalem and will move the embassy to Jerusalem. And he says he’ll be Hamas’s worst nightmare.

“Obama says one thing to AIPAC — that he supports a united Jerusalem — and then 24 hours later he was ready to negotiate with Hamas. It’s insane.”

Kunst planned to take Shalom International to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul next week for several rallies and demonstrations, “and hopefully to capture as much media attention as we can.”

There, he said, he would deliver the same message he did in Denver, all the while hoping that Republicans might be more receptive listeners than Democrats.

He has even more ambitious plans for next month. Kunst said he hopes to organize 1,000 shofar blowers in front of the UN on Sept. 21, just before Rosh Hashanah begins, while simultaneously gathering another thousand before the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“What we’re saying is, let’s tear down this wall of hate controlled by the Islamic terrorists and the oil industry,” Kunst said. “And it’s not just anti-Israel. It’s anti-Christian, anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist, it’s anti-other Muslims who want to make peace, and anti-anybody who’s an infidel. If we organize all of that, then we’ll have a serious majority. That’s how we’re functioning.”

IJN Assistant Editor |

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