Pro-Israel activists cited at S.F. protest against Israel

Three pro-Israel demonstrators were cited for battery at a noisy pro-Palestinian protest July 6 in front of the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco.

The protest, organized by anti-Israel groups, coincided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting earlier in the day with President Barack Obama at the White House.

Approximately 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators lined one side of Montgomery Street, with several dozen flag-waving pro-Israel counterprotesters on the other side. Though San Francisco Police Department officers sought to keep the two factions separated, two altercations occurred.

Counterdemonstrator Marshall Schwartz blows the shofar across the street from anti-Israel protesters July 6. photo/dan pine

In the first, pro-Israel activist Marshall Schwartz of Oakland said a group of pro-Palestinians approached him at a table on which Israeli flags and signs were stacked.

“They surrounded the table,” he said. “One tried to grab our stuff. I called out ‘Officer, officer,’ but not a cop could be seen. So I took out my shofar and started to make some noise, and evidently it got rather near the ear of a young girl.”

Grabbing and pushing ensued, Schwartz said, before police “finally” showed up.

Later, an officer cited Schwartz, he said, after the girl’s mother insisted battery charges be filed. “I never touched this person,” Schwartz added. “Nobody got hurt, nobody got scratched.”

A separate incident led to Yehiel Yisrael of Oakland and another pro-Israel activist, who didn’t want to be named, being cited for battery.

Yisrael said a group of pro-Palestinian activists approached him, blocking his passage on the sidewalk. One of them, he said, “put his hands on me and touched my chest. I at no time touched him.”

Sgt. Troy Dangerfield, a spokesman for the SFPD, said that people at the protest contacted officers on the scene and wanted to initiate citizen’s arrests. “People were cited for simple misdemeanor battery and released,” he said.

Otherwise, the protest was pretty much standard fare. Pro-Israel demonstrators chanted “Free Gilad Shalit … Shame on Hamas.” Anti-Israel forces chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Long live the intifada.”

One of the pro-Palestinian speakers said to the crowd, “Your racist thug, [Israeli Consul General] Akiva Tor, who lives in this building, doesn’t scare us. We will sink the Zionist project through all kinds of resistance.”

He then led the crowd in a chant of  “Israel is a terrorist state, Israel is a racist state, Israel is Zionist state.”

In addition to the two altercations, Faith Meltzer, an activist with the pro-Israel group StandWithUs/S.F. Voice for Israel claimed one pro-Palestinian protester brandished a beer bottle, making a threatening gesture toward her.

“This was the first time we’ve had this level of violence and assault,” she said. “The [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement is picking up steam. We’re seeing the rise of municipal resolutions against Israel. We need unity across all aspects of the Jewish community.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.