New York City -- At 10AM, July 14, 2014, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, UJA-Federation of New York, together with the Jewish Caucus of the New York City Council, organized a press conference in front of the steps of City Hall. With 14 members, this year's caucus is bigger than ever and comprises the largest percentage of Jewish members on the Council since it expanded to 51 seats in 1991. Chairmanships come with an $8,000 a year bonus, while leadership positions bolster the councilmen's $112,000 annual salary by $15,000.
Michael Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council approached the podium only to have his voice drowned out by protesters. "Free, free Palestine! End the occupation now!" protesters who were not permitted inside chanted from 300 feet away. Nearly 100 protesters were staged at both entrances. The protest was organized by Human Rights Attorney Lamis Deek and community organizer Raja Abdulhaq.
Three Jewish activists made their way inside somehow, stood behind the row of speakers huddled around a podium and silently unraveled 12" signs that read, "This Jewish New Yorker doesn't stand with murder of children in Gaza." They were quickly chased by a press conference organizer and told, "We don't do that here." Eventually, security escorted them outside the gates.
Pro-Palestinian Protesters Counter-Demonstration / Source: Stefano Giovannini / VINnews
Rep Carolyn Maloney; NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; Council member David Greenfield; Assembly Member David Weprin and NY11 congressional candidate Domenic Recchia, Eric Goldstein of the UJA-Federation of New York, as well as Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Israel's Consul General in New York were among some of the speakers who grew increasingly uncomfortable.
All of the reps called for peace and an end to terrorism caused by the "terrorist," Palestinian party Hamas:
That is entirely Hamas's fault, not Israel. If you want peace unite against terrorism, extremist ignite the fire. We mourn the loss of lives in Gaza for sure, we blame that solely on Hamas, Hamas needs to know that. We support Israel, we support the only democracy in the middle east.
Also present was Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler. Here are two consecutive Tweets he made. It is unclear which side he stands on.
After each statement was made, speakers applauded themselves followed by blank stares by press. Media slowly removed their microphones that had been attached to the podium. Thirty minutes into the conference, most of press had left to go back to work. No questions from media were answered following the press conference. Some council members returned inside City Hall, some left having to walk past protesters -- most were smiling. One speaker stopped to take photos with his cell phone.
According to the UN, 17,000 people have sought refuge as the death toll tops 120. "It affects me a deep level. Palestine is affecting a lot of people. Innocent people are being killed for no reason," said Allan Husejnovic of New York City. Husejnovic was with his 7-year-old cousin who held a sign that read, "Please don't arrest me. Don't torture me. Don't kill me. I'm only 7 years old."
Sharmin of the Ya-Ya Network:
It is our responsibility to highlight the contradictions and blatant participation in apartheid and genocidal practices both at home and overseas. The complacency and support City Council has shown in regards to Israel, a state that has been ethnically cleansing Palestinians since 1948, receiving over $3 billion a year in military aid for their illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, is a travesty.