About 250 cars with Palestinian flags and anti-Zionist posters and slogans painted on their windows caravaned through the streets of downtown San Francisco Wednesday as part of “Day of Rage” protests that took place across the country in response to Israel’s planned annexation of a portion of the West Bank.
Starting at 4 p.m. at City Hall, the line of cars traveled for a little less than two hours, eventually ending at the Israel Consulate on Montgomery Street, a roughly two-mile journey that had store owners and onlookers craning their necks onto the street. Some clapped along and raised their fists in support, as cars honked their horns and a lead truck with the event’s organizers in the cargo bed chanted on a microphone, “Palestine must be free!” and “No to annexation!”
The event had been planned as an in-person march, but organizers later decided to follow Covid precautions and instructed participants to stay in their cars or on their bicycles. A couple of dozen individuals did end up walking the route.
The protest was overseen by Al-Awda: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, and organized in conjunction with the Palestinian Action Network, which includes the Bay Area chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestinian Youth Movement and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism.
We’re now outside the Israeli consulate. Hundreds of cars are behind us. The protestors have created a gridlock on California and Montgomery. pic.twitter.com/wF0Vsu1RMu
— Gabriel Lorenzo Greschler (@ggreschler) July 2, 2020
“We have a responsibility to stand up when things are being done in our name and supposedly for our benefit,” said Clyde Leland, a longtime member of JVP and a former professor at the University of San Francisco’s law school, who participated in the event from inside his car.
Protesters rallied against the planned annexation of about 20 to 30 percent of the West Bank, which was supposed to happen on July 1 but has been delayed. It would make all Jewish settlements since 1967 sovereign Israeli land. The move is in accordance with President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan that was announced in January.
At the San Francisco event, a counterprotest was set up by the pro-Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs and the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF). The groups organized a truck with messages that included “Israel needs a partner for peace” to drive along the same route as the protesters.
In a statement to J., StandWithUs Bay Area representative Mike Harris said, “The main obstacle to peace isn’t settlements across the Green Line; it’s the refusal to accept a Jewish state in any part of the Jewish homeland. That’s why the Palestinian Arab leadership in both the West Bank and Gaza have been rejecting peace offers since the 1930s.”
In the statement, Harris described the protesters as “extremists” who view the entire State of Israel as “illegal settlements on occupied Arab land.” In a joint press release from Harris’ group and IAJF, the protest’s organizers were described as “hate groups” that “spread antisemitic imagery.”
Noura Khouri, a member of the pro-Palestine group Al-Awda: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and a main organizer of the San Francisco event, disputed these characterizations.
“We’re not here for confrontation,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that there is that level of mischaracterization in the Jewish community putting out those statements against us for standing up for what’s right. We’re asking Israel to be held accountable, just like any other state.”
As the line of cars finished the route and arrived at the Israel Consulate, protester Daryn Copeland, a member of JVP, stepped outside and said he was “inspired by the Palestinian youth who led [the protest] and continue to teach me, as a Jewish person, how to be part of the movement.”
The Israel Consulate did not respond to requests for comment.
Other anti-annexation protests occurred yesterday in San Francisco, including at Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s Pacific Heights home, where members of IfNotNow, a progressive Jewish group, met at 7 a.m. to bang pots and pans and play klezmer music. They urged the House speaker to join other U.S. politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, in setting conditions on U.S. military aid if Israel chooses to go through with annexation.
“This should be a wakeup call for all representatives and Jews in the country that Israel’s government has crossed red line after red line,” IfNotNow organizer Binya Kóatz said in an interview with J. “We were out there to say, ‘Wake up Nancy!’”
According to Kóatz, about 20 to 25 people showed up at the hourlong protest. About 20 minutes in, according to a video posted on Facebook, a police officer moved people off of Pelosi’s property, where they had affixed a banner. The protest finished on the street in front of the house.