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Pro-Hamas Protesters Met By Jewish Counter-Protesters in Newtown

Chants of “Free, free Palestine” and similar slogans rang out in Newtown Wednesday evening as about 35 pro-Hamas protesters rallied and then marched with Palestinian flags waving.

More than 100 Jewish counter-protesters also turned out, with Israeli and American flags. They chanted, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

Since the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel by Iran-backed Hamas terrorists, pro-Palestinian demonstrators have marched in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and other U.S. cities. The Jewish community has also rallied in support of Israel.

Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,200 people, including women, the elderly, and children. They also took some 240 hostages. As of Jan. 13, Hamas was holding 132 hostages in its network of tunnels beneath Gaza. Six of them are U.S. citizens.

On Wednesday, both groups rallied at opposite ends of the Newtown Shopping Center and began walking through Newtown. There was a heavy police presence, and some streets shut down temporarily as marchers passed through.

Montgomery County resident Aisha Chughtai came to the Palestinian protest and said she’s been active with the Liberation Center in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

“It’s important for us to go to every county, every street, and every locale,” said Chughtai when asked why the group had come to Newtown. “We’re based in Philadelphia and have been organizing many protests (in the area). They’re popping up regularly.”

The fact that people came out despite the cold weather “shows how much they’re affected,” said Chughtai. However, she said some of the protesters she expected did not show up because they went to Newtown Square in Delaware County instead of Newtown in Bucks County.

Philadelphian Timon Kamran led chants and gave a speech.

Pro-Hamas Palestinian protesters in Newtown.

He accused Israelis of “genocide” and the Biden administration of being complacent and sending taxpayers’ money to Israel. He blamed the U.S. government for the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and claimed that Jesus was Palestinian. Despite his anti-Israeli rhetoric, he contended that he and the protesters were not antisemitic.

Bucks County resident Luba Gutman took part in the counter-protest and said she was surprised to see the pro-Hamas protesters in Newtown.

“It’s very shocking and very disappointing,” Gutman said. Her family emigrated from Ukraine when she was a child, and she never expected to “see such hate” in America. She speculated that the protesters came to Newtown because it has a large Jewish population and supports three synagogues.

A man said he came to show his support for Israel and the hostages.

Jewish counter-protesters.

Jewish counter-protesters also demonstrated outside the Lubavitch Center on State Street as the pro-Hamas protesters walked by. Lubavitch Center Rabbi Aryeh Weinstein told DVJournal the center did not request those counter-protesters presence, but they were part of a “grassroots counter-protest.”

There was no violence; “only voices were used,” he said. “Peaceful chanting.”

“There were no incidents. We were happy about that. We were concerned.”

He added that many protesters came from out of the area and out of state to “spread propaganda.”

“I hope it becomes clear to them that whatever happens in Newtown will be met by double or triple the response,” Weinstein said.

Asked to comment, Michael Balaban, the president & CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said, “The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia upholds and respects free speech and the right to peacefully protest. However, as we have seen with other pro-Palestine protests in the Philadelphia area, these protests can often spread dangerous misinformation about Israel and utilize harmful language that can incite hatred against Jews and Jewish-owned businesses. As we have said many times before, any attempts to scapegoat or isolate Jews are unacceptable and need to be denounced immediately.”

Newtown Police Chief John Hearn posted on Facebook that his department worked to ensure a “peaceful resolution.”

“The protest and march, which was organized privately by a local resident and shared via social media, aimed to raise awareness and express community concerns regarding the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza,” said Hearn. “The police department, after receiving notification through other means, deployed a comprehensive strategy to identify the organizer and facilitate a peaceful gathering, ensuring the protection of First Amendment rights while maintaining public safety in Newtown.”

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FELDMAN: ‘It’ Can Happen Here…And Already Is

Any allusion by Jews in America that “it” can’t happen here should evaporate as quickly as the rain from a mid-day desert thunderstorm.

The “it” of course refers to conditions deteriorating so badly here that life for Jews in this country would be untenable. It has already become uncomfortable for many who are fearful of wearing garb that identifies them as Jewish, or walking to and from synagogue.

The latest attack on a Jewish institution and Jews: A Muslim terrorist stormed into Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, near Ft. Worth, and took the rabbi and three congregants hostage to wrest the release from prison of Muslim terrorist Aafia Siddiqui (a k a “Lady al-Qaeda”) this past Shabbat. Thanks to G-d’s grace and the work of local, state and federal law enforcement, none of the hostages suffered physical harm.

Yes, the Jewish People continue to be the prey of choice by a spectrum of attackers.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker credited a recent security workshop for the well-being of the hostages – he said training made it possible for him and congregants to know when and how to escape their captor. It is unclear whether or not a security guard had been on the premises at the time of the attack, or whether or not that would have made a difference.

Attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions in America have increased dramatically in recent years and especially in 2021. The meteoric rise of violence and other physical attacks coincides with increased rhetorical attacks against Jews in academia, in the media, among some government officials and on social media. Most of these attacks have been directed at the world’s largest and world’s oldest Jewish community: The Jewish state of Israel.

Past taboos about attacking Jews in public have evaporated.

All of the verbal attacks are based on outright lies and distortions to advance what is portrayed as the “Palestinian” cause, as well as eternal stereotypes against Jews. Nearly all are part and parcel of the generations-old Arab and Muslim war against the Jewish People.

What happened to Jews in Europe time and time again did not begin with the murders of tens of thousands and then millions. Each began with the combination of lies about and dehumanization of Jewish People at an institutional level including by academia, media and government.

Accusing someone of being racist or of oppressing others, or claiming they commit “apartheid” or are “colonizers” are some of the most damaging charges that one can make against an individual, a People or a nation. Today there is a steady stream – one repeated ad infinitum – of such false accusations against the Jewish People and the Jewish state. Academia, media and some in government are again the chief disseminators.

No, we are not now on the precipice, though we must raise awareness and call for a concerted effort by all who are decent to retard the attacks on Jewry immediately before more are terrorized and attacked and our civil liberties are further damaged.

A few years ago and earlier, American Jews were shocked to witness or learn about the level of security necessitated at synagogues, Jewish schools and community centers in Europe to safeguard the premises and those inside. It was unimaginable that American Jewry would have to install bollards around the perimeters of its buildings, hire armed guards, have 24/7 security cameras and locked doors, and resemble “Fort Knox.” But today in the United States, it is rare that a Jewish institution does not have at least one of these features – and many have all of them.

How awful. This is not normative and must not be accepted as “the new normal.”

Why is it that such persecution of the Jewish People in America is permissible? Why is it that to advance their cause, others can lie about, demonize and dehumanize the Jewish People for exercising their rights to self-determination as well as their self-defense? When did academia, media and some government officials abandon standards of facts, accuracy and balance to instead further an agenda that has as its goal inflicting a cataclysm on the Jewish People, who have been persecuted and annihilated from time immemorial?

Until deterrence is restored, there must be a heavy price to pay for lying about Jews and inciting Jew-hatred.

Let’s be clear at least here: The goal of the predominant attacks against the Jewish People today is to destroy the Jewish state of Israel; to destroy the largest Jewish community in the world today; to destroy the place that is central to Judaism.

The lies and demonization go far beyond criticism of a government and its actions; they go far beyond taking issue with the need for there to be a nation-state for the Jews. The attack against the Jewish state of Israel, and the attacks against the Jewish People throughout all of time are meant to strike a final blow against a singular People.

The attack against Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville will likely be looked upon as a singular event in this era of fleeting attention spans and denial of Jew-hatred. Some have ridiculously and outrageously claimed that the attack had nothing to do with Jews at all! But there is a bigger picture taking shape here and this attack is one tile in a larger mosaic. By speaking out now and taking action now, we can prevent the picture from becoming an ugly monstrosity. All people of good will must do so. Surely, history will be the judge of what we did and what we failed to do.

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