Passions high on Summit avenue

By Zac Farber

It was a dreary and uneventful Friday afternoon, but on the corner of Summit and Snelling avenues the air was ripe with car horns voicing their approval and disapproval. For the past several months, a small group of community members has assembled each Friday afternoon to wave homemade signs and protest Israeli foreign policy.

The 10 to 15 mostly middle-aged protesters said they seek to eliminate American aid to Israel, make the Israeli-Palestinian borders compliant with the 1949 Armistice Agreements and reduce Israeli military aggression in Lebanon and the occupied territories.

Karen Redleaf, the leader of the protesters, said that they are supported by local organizations such as Women against Military Madness, Veterans for Peace and Coalition for Palestinian Rights.

Redleaf cited the high civilian casualty rate in Israel’s recent war against Hezbollah and the suffering of Palestinians from Israeli embargoes to argue that the Israeli Defense Force crosses a moral border and defies the Geneva Convention.

“The IDF is a terrorist organization,” she said.

Passions at this street corner run high enough to tie tongues.

In one statement, Redleaf asserted that the civilian casualties from Israeli bombing campaigns establish Israel as a rogue and “inhuman” nation. She then made the counterpoint that suicide bombing is merely an act of war and implied that it should be encouraged as a way for Palestinians to inflict pain on their oppressors.

“I’d think a people who were subjected to the cruelties of the Holocaust would learn something about treating other human beings,” she said.

Redleaf did, however, stop short of declaring Israel a perpetrator of genocide.

“I think Israel wouldn’t exterminate in mass in the same way,” she said.

Hyperbole prevails in the rhetoric of Redleaf and her fellow protesters.

“The wall separating Israel from Palestine is so high that they can’t even see the sunrise or the sunset anymore,” Kathleen Ruona said. A poster held by another protestor read “End Israeli Apartheid.”

Across Snelling Avenue from Redleaf, David Goldstein, the lone counter-protester stood stoically in the drizzling rain. He held a large blue and white sign that read, “We Support Israel.”

Goldstein argues for Israel’s right to self-defense amid a sea of hostile regional powers.

“I’d love to see a peaceful solution,” Goldstein said, “but there are many nations trying to annihilate Israel, and they have to do what they have to do.”

The protesters from Redleaf’s group also condemn Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

“Israel’s massive nuclear arsenal makes it a greater nuclear threat than Iran,” Redleaf said, “The U.S. is spending $5 billion a year to finance Israel’s military actions.

“We are responsible for financing Israel’s nuclear program.”

While opinionated personalities like Redleaf and Goldstein are the norm at political protests, one attendee who insisted on being called “James, just James” was conspicuous for his forceful apathy.

Despite a purposeful presence and a habit of shoving a Norman Finkelstein book titled. “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History” under the nose of everybody who walked by, James avoided discussing his political views beyond his complete agreement with the precepts set forth in “Beyond Chutzpah.”

“Beyond Chutzpah” supports the rights of Israel, but Just James seemed to separate himself from both the protesters and the counter-protesters in making his case that “everyone should read this book.”

The melodrama that ensues on Friday afternoons stays distant from the attention of Macalester students.

Emily Heckel ’10 said she was unaware of the Summit Avenue protesters.

“I don’t even know what they’re protesting,” she said.

For those who are aware, the novelty of their protest may be wearing off.

“They were out there frequently over the summer but I didn’t know they were still protesting,” Michael Blythe ’07 said.