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Rally for Peace in Israel Draws 2,000 New Yorkers

April 25, 1988
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Supporters of Israel’s left-wing and moderate political movements struggled to make themselves heard over the shouts of their right-wing counterparts at a peace rally here Sunday.

They succeeded, for the most part, because of an unexpectedly large turnout police estimated to total more than 2,000. The demonstrators packed a half block of 88th Street on the city’s politically liberal and heavily Jewish Upper West Side.

They wore buttons bearing the word “peace” in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and waved signs reading: “Israel yes, occupation no” and “End the violence.”

The “Rally for Peace” was sponsored by a coalition of more than 19 left-of-center Jewish and pro-peace organizations, including American Friends of Peace Now, Americans for Progressive Israel, the Committee of Artists and Writers for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and the International Jewish Peace Union.

Speakers at the two-hour rally included Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a professor of religion at Dartmouth College; Professor Menachem Brinker of Israel, a Peace Now activist; and writer Grace Paley.

According to a “call to action” statement distributed to reporters, the groups support negotiations between Israel and Palestinians “based on the principles of mutual recognition and self-determination, for peace, security and an end to occupation.”

“I think all of us are upset that the position of American Jews is being misrepresented in Israel,” said Mark Gold, executive director of Americans for Progressive Israel and a rally organizer.

Gold said that Israelis are being told that Americans fully support Prime Minster Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud bloc and his refusal to negotiate territory for peace. However “a history of surveys shows over and over that Americans think the security and well-being of Israel are essential, but are shocked at what they see on TV,” he said.

“They know something is terribly wrong,” he added.

There were a few dozen supporters of Shamir at the rally. They were kept by police behind a barrier at the rear of the crowd, where they tried to drown out the speakers with shouts of “Not one inch” and “Israel yes, suicide no.”

Among the counter demonstrators was Andrew Eichenholz, a bearded resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, who referred to press reports of the violence on the West Bank as “lies,” and an elderly woman who described herself as a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“These people are just ashamed in front of the Christians,” she said, asking that her name not be used. “They’re here because they’ve never been in a concentration camp. They don’t know why we need Israel.”

On the other side of the barrier, holding a poster bearing the figures of a dove and an olive branch, Art Spiegelman disagreed. A cartoonist, whose best-selling “Maus” chronicled his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor, Spiegelman said he had spoken to a Warsaw ghetto survivor moments earlier.

“She came over to ‘kvell’ and tell us how proud she was of us. She said there was a straight continuity between fighting in the Warsaw Ghetto and being here today.”

About his own reasons for attending the rally, Spiegelman said, “I try not to think about it, but the situation is too heard to ignore. It keeps digging into my awareness. It goes against everything I understand as a Diaspora Jew.”

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