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The Times Square Intifada

Want to know what the BDS crowd is really into? Just listen to what they were saying this weekend in Manhattan.

Liel Leibovitz
December 11, 2017
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Participants in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Times Square, April 12, 2002.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Participants in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Times Square, April 12, 2002.Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Congregating this weekend in Manhattan’s Times Square, pro-Palestinian activists protesting Donald Trump’s Jerusalem declaration gave us a useful lesson in the true aims of their movement. On college campuses and in op-ed pages, the same crowd wraps itself snugly in the mantle of social justice, arguing that it wants nothing more than peace and equality for Palestine’s oppressed, but in the streets the picture’s sharper and more ghoulish: It’s all about violence against Jews.

A video reportedly capturing the demonstration shows a troubling progression from the hateful to the homicidal. It begins with the relatively benign cheer “We don’t want no two state, we want 48,” which, if you’re in a supremely forgiving kind of mood, you can interpret as merely a call to abolish the Jewish national homeland and replace it with a comity of Arabs and Jews. But what comes next leaves little room for the imagination.

“With spirit and blood we’ll redeem al Aqsa!” shout the hundreds huddled under the neon arch that is the 42nd Street subway entrance. “There is only one solution, Intifada revolution!” And then, to top off the frenzy of religious hatred and incitement: “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.” Khaybar, to anyone not well-versed in Islamist eschatology, is an oasis not far from Medina where, in 628 CE, Muslim armies slaughtered and subdued the Jews. Finally, as the demonstration was reaching its peak, the crowd took simply to shouting “Intifada,” the name given to the Palestinian campaign of violence which has murdered thousands of Israelis in the last three decades.

If you still had any doubts about what the BDS crowd really wants, wonder no more. This is not a human rights campaign. This is not a movement interested in coexistence or committed to any of the values liberalism holds dear. And this is not a movement, as the Khaybar chants make clear, that bothers with any meaningful distinctions between Israelis and Jews. This is a movement fueled by rage and religion and dedicated to violence. And this weekend, it celebrated its bigotry in the open, in the heart of America’s most robust Jewish city:

And if you’re still unclear about why tolerating calls to violence is a very bad idea, turn your attention to the aborted terrorist attack in Port Authority this morning, where another bigot, likely stirred by similar noxious strands of religious fervor, attempted to blow himself up amidst a swarm of morning commuters. We should have no patience for Intifadahs, in Times Square or anywhere else.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.