OpinionIsrael at War

What was the purpose of the ‘March for Israel’?

The participants had no direction to go in because the organizers didn’t provide them with one.

Nearly 300,000 people attended the "March for Israel" rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Shay Shohat/Flash90.
Nearly 300,000 people attended the "March for Israel" rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by Shay Shohat/Flash90.
Lauri B Regan
Lauri B. Regan
Lauri B. Regan is the vice chair of the executive board of the Endowment for Middle East Truth and the vice president and treasurer of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. She is a board member of Polaris National Security and the former chair of the American Zionist Movement’s Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism and Holocaust Denial Project.

In 2019, I approached a top-ranking American Jewish leader to ask him about planning a massive rally in Washington, D.C., to address the rising antisemitism in America and around the world. Having spent many years writing and speaking about the issue and growing more concerned by the day, I thought it critically important to bring Jews together in an enormous demonstration in order to draw attention to the dire situation. With something of a sneer, he told me it would never work and his organization would not support it.

Having helped to organize a number of rallies in New York City with grassroots pro-Israel Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, I understood that, to do something massive, we would need the legacy Jewish organizations behind us. Too many American Jews know only about these major groups. Grassroots Zionist organizations cannot reach the masses without the help of these organizations.

Alas, most of us who warned about the Jew-hatred metastasizing everywhere from academia to the halls of Congress were ignored or labeled right-wing fearmongers. The major organizations and others weren’t worried about antisemitism unless it came from neo-Nazis or could be blamed on Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Islamists, BLM, academia, the media and the progressive wing of the Democrat Party were ignored because 80% of American Jews are wedded to one or more of them.

Fast forward to the massive March for Israel in Washington. Sickeningly and sadly, it took 1,200 Israelis butchered and some 240 kidnapped by Palestinian monsters for the leadership of the major organizations to finally activate.

Yet they would not permit over 100 grassroots organizations to co-sponsor “their” rally in support of Israel, although these groups were expected to promote it. The major organizations refused to permit Jewish leaders who have been fighting antisemitism to speak. They controlled the event, speakers and narrative. They chose the middle of a weekday in front of the Capitol because they wanted to send a message to Congress. But what was the message?

This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to actually make a difference and help Israel and the Jewish people survive by empowering the 250-300,000 attendees to take action. While I’m sure everyone in attendance left feeling elated after spending two hours waving Israeli flags and singing “Hatikvah,” they had no direction to go in because the organizers didn’t provide them with one.

When you organize such an impactful event, you must recognize the opportunity it presents. Jews vote en masse for Democrats, read the Israel-bashing New York Times as if it’s their Bible and worship the Torah of liberalism. Israel is at the bottom of their voting issues. This rally afforded an opportunity for Jewish leadership to educate, inform and reach people who were open—indeed, desperate—for words of wisdom and advice about what they can do to fight antisemitism, support Israel and promote changes in U.S. policy that impact both of those issues.

Instead, the main rallying cry seemed to be a call for the release of hostages. Given that the pro-Hamas rioters are screaming non-stop for a ceasefire, was this really the most important message? How can we “bring them home” without a ceasefire? Was the rally sending the same message as the Jew-haters? Which should it be: Force Israel into a ceasefire that leaves Hamas to fight another day or no ceasefire and fight until Hamas is destroyed so that Israelis can rebuild their lives, confidence, safety and security. 

The organizers of the rally promoted no clear messages, but the main one should have included constant chants all afternoon of “No Ceasefire!” This is not just because disgraced Obama appointee Van Jones, never known as a Zionist but famous for his conspiracy theory that George W. Bush knowingly allowed 9/11 to occur as a pretext for war—similar to the antisemites who peddle the conspiracy theory that 10/7 was a false flag pretext for Israel to invade Gaza and commit genocide and ethnic cleansing—called for one. At least the attendees booed, but why was he on stage at all?

The organizers should have made it clear that every speaker and their organization support Israel’s right to defend itself no matter how long it takes and that they will fight anyone—from the Biden administration to the United Nations—who seeks to prevent Israel from destroying Hamas. Instead, the day after the rally, the Biden administration failed to exercise the U.S. veto at the U.N. Security Council, thus enabling the passage of a resolution that effectively calls for a ceasefire and other pro-Hamas measures.

They should also have been calling for Congress to immediately pass an aid package for Israel and stop playing political games when Israel is facing an immediate and existential crisis. Alas, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is anything but a shomer yet who is consistently given a platform by the major organizations, lied to the masses about his pro-Israel bona fides, promising that as the “highest-ranking elected Jewish official in American history … we will not rest until Israel gets all the assistance they need.” He returned to the Senate shortly afterward and together with all of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate voted against assistance for Israel.

The rally presented a golden opportunity to call for the immediate passage of the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which my organization, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, has been working on for years. The Democrats have refused to support it even though it would protect Jewish students now under siege on college campuses. Recently reintroduced, it is ripe for passage. But until the legislation is enacted, the Jewish community and its major organizations should be demanding that the Biden administration enforce Trump’s executive order that has the same effect. Sadly, this was not part of the rally’s agenda.

The rally’s organizers and speakers could have insisted that any college that does not protect its Jewish students from antisemitic attacks in any form will lose federal funds. Unfortunately, the chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, Julie Platt, is also a trustee at the University of Pennsylvania—described by Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies at a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee as “probably the worst campus” in the country—and has enthusiastically and publicly defended that university’s president despite calls for her termination. Platt was a speaker at the rally who, when interviewed, defended the conspicuous absence of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the rally.

Then there’s Iran, which should have been a constant theme at the rally. There should have been chants calling for the beheading of the serpent at the helm of global terrorism. Chants of “Defund Iran,” “Stop Iran” or “No Nukes for Iran” would have all worked. Instead, just minutes after the rally was over, the Biden administration issued yet another sanctions waiver resulting in a $10 billion windfall for the Islamic Republic. Again, there was total silence.

The organizers failed to call for the immediate cessation of funding to UNRWA, which has been brainwashing Palestinian children to kill Jews and annihilate Israel. They didn’t call for Biden, who reversed the Trump policy that terminated funding to both the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, to cease funding the P.A. despite a White House report that concluded that such funds—American taxpayer money—would likely be used by Hamas to fund terrorism. And despite the P.A. announcing last month that it will pay close to $3 million to families of 1,500 dead Hamas terrorists, there were no calls for Biden to finally abide by U.S law and start enforcing the Taylor Force Act, which would withhold the funds used for these payments. I suppose the organizers feared criticizing the administration lest they be disinvited to the White House Chanukah party.

To be clear, the rally was a huge success in terms of historic attendance. Jews and non-Jews from all over the country joined to show solidarity with Israelis on the front lines of this war against terror and Islamism (I don’t believe any speaker shared that important point). It sent a positive message to Israelis that American Jews care. For the young people in attendance, it provided their first opportunity to stand up for themselves and their people and make it clear that they will not be intimidated by the haters and those who seek their annihilation simply because they are Jewish.

It is wonderful to see American Jews finally, at least temporarily, stand up for Israel and against antisemitism. But my concern is just that—it could be temporary. Come the presidential election next November, Jews will likely be slumbering again, comfortable in their blue bubbles, told by their rabbis, leaders, politicians and leading organizations that Republicans are evil antisemites and the Jews must vote Democrat. But that’s what got us here. Team Obama-Biden is directly responsible for 10/7, yet the Jewish leadership maintains its silence.

Until that changes, “kumbaya” is a wonderful sentiment and makes everyone feel good, but Israel will increasingly find itself more and more isolated while the terrorists who seek her annihilation will continue to be empowered both financially and diplomatically by the United States. What a missed opportunity.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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