Saturday, August 23, 2014

Activists Protest Talk by Israeli Consul General at Temple Beth El

On August 21, activists with the Palestine Israel Action Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace Santa Cruz picketed outside of a talk at Temple Beth El in Aptos about Israel and Gaza, given by Dr. Andy David, Israel's Consul General for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. The topic of the talk was "Operation Protective Edge," Israel's name for their most recent military assault on Gaza, which began on July 8 and has killed thousands of Palestinians.

The smaller signs in the photo read: "Say NO! to Israeli murder of Palestinian children. Demand U.S. Sanctions on Israel," "Ethical Jews Support Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions," "Ethical Jews Demand U.S. Sanctions on Israel," "What Jewish Law Permits the Killing of Innocent Children?"

About a dozen protesters were present outside of Temple Beth El. A series of large signs with the names of those killed in the war were displayed near the temple's entrance, and individuals held a large banner on Soquel Drive that read "Sick of Gaza Massacre?"

An announcement for the demonstration made it clear that it was not a protest targeting the temple, but "their guest, the Israel Consul General and the policies of the Israeli government."

Many of those attending the Consul General's talk were deeply offended and angered by the presence of protesters outside of the temple.

When demonstrators were handing out information about Israel, one angry person literally smacked the flyer one of them was offering out of their hand, causing it to fall on the street. The flyer listed suggested questions to ask the Consul General, and it also included a list of six "myths" regarding the birth of Israel.

Demonstrators were also called names, but a small number of those attending the talk did agree that the attacks on Gaza were wrong. 

Some of the literature the demonstrators were handing out called Israel's claim that "Operation Protective Edge" was an act of self-defense disingenuous. "The Incredible violence against Gaza is indisputably disproportionate to any threat that Israel faces from the Palestinian resistance to occupation," one brochure stated. It called Israel's attacks, "a siege on an open-air prison."

Gaza has been called an open-air prison because Israel controls its land, borders, airspace, sea, access to electricity, and movement of people and goods, including food, water and medicine. "There is nowhere for people to go," the brochure states. "Evacuation is not an option."

One large sign displayed by demonstrators was titled "Remembering Some of the Victims of Israeli Operation 'Protective Edge'," and it showed pictures of people killed, and included short biographies about them. 

Remembering Some of the Victims of Israeli Operation 'Protective Edge'

The event was not open to the public. Admission was restricted to the members of three Jewish congregations. The event was described on the temple's website as an opportunity to, "Find out first-hand about Israel’s efforts with Operation Protective Edge, as the Jewish State works to re-establish stability for its citizens and fight the daily reality in which millions of its citizens are subject to the whims of radical Islamic terrorist organizations."

The Consulate General of Israel is an official governmental office of Israel and is responsible for coordinating relationships with national and local organizations, offices of public officials, businesses, and citizens.

Consul General Dr. Andy David, a practicing dentist before working for the Israeli government, was was born in Romania and immigrated to Israel with his family. He spent three years in the Israel Air Force and in RAFAEL, the Ministry of Defense's Armament Development Authority. He is a graduate of the Executive Combating Terrorism program at the National Defense University in Washington D.C., and he has been a diplomat for Israel since 1998.

Temple Beth El calls itself "Reform Judaism, Santa Cruz Style," and its website states: "At TBE we reach out to help heal the world through community support activities including a High Holiday food drive to replenish local food pantries, Sunday dinners at the River Street Shelter, and informational programs on a variety of topics including healthcare, the environment and human rights. By our participation in COPA, (Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action) we are a leading institution in Faith-Based Community Organizing working to identify social justice issues and improve our wider community through interfaith efforts."

Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold looks at a flyer while entering.

The entrance to Temple Beth El.

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