EPF PIN member Steve France reports on one of many Nakba Day actions around the country. He begins by summing up the purpose of these public witnesses:
On Nakba Day (May 15) in the Nation’s Capital, about 30 interfaith clergy and leaders of the DC-area Palestinian solidarity movement gathered at the Embassy of the State of Israel to deliver a KAIROS Global Justice petition expressing the suffering and injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian People since 1948 at the hands of the State of Israel — and demanding that the government of Israel respect Palestinians’ basic human rights and their established rights under International Law.
There were Christian clergy of many denominations, a Muslim imam, and representatives of the Orthodox Neturei Karta International.
Rev. Graylan Hagler (UCC) and the other clergy prayed aloud and spoke movingly of the 71-year Palestinian quest for justice and placed their struggle squarely within the larger global struggle against “White Supremacy.” He led other African-American clergy, as well as Baptist, Episcopal and Presbyterian clergy — and the group as a whole — to the guarded gate of the embassy to deliver the petition. But Embassy personnel hastily slammed the door shut. So, EPF PIN member Steve France read out in a loud voice the words of the petition and left it at the gate.
EPF PIN member Priscilla Read continues with an account of the public witness in New York City:
At 10 a.m. on Nakba Day, May 15, a group assembled in Manhattan at Second Avenue and 42nd Street aiming to deliver the petition based on the Kairos Call to officials at the Israeli Consulate. Our plan was for three Presbyterian clergy to try to enter the building while the rest of us stood in quiet vigil across the street, holding signs and distributing flyers to passers-by to explain our presence.
Upon entry, the three pastors were immediately accosted by a consular security officer. They stated their mission; he asked them to step aside while he found a staff person to meet them. Shortly an employee from the mail room appeared and indicated that the envelope would have to be x-rayed before delivery. As one member of our delegation handed over the petition, another quickly snapped a photo for documentation, whereupon the employee became agitated, asserted “You can’t take my picture,” and insisted that she hand over her phone so he could delete the image. She refused, citing her right to privacy, and the three said they were leaving. At that point, the Israeli security guard loomed back into view and demanded the phone. Apparently expecting support, the guard consulted the New York police officer posted outside the building, who instead confirmed the privacy argument and told the three they could exit. As they walked away, the security guard followed them down Second Avenue muttering, “We’re won’t be so polite next time.”
Meanwhile the gathering across the street had grown to some thirty people, including members of Adalah-NY, Blauvelt Dominican Sisters, Catholic Workers, Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Palestine Israel Network, Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester, Maryknoll Sisters of Ossining, rabbis from Naturei Karta (Jews United Against Zionism), Pax Christi Metro NY, and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. Our EPF-PIN representative made a short statement about the purpose of the petition. Then one of the Presbyterian clergy read a prayer, and an Episcopal priest read a poem he had written. To be heard over the loud provocation of two people brandishing an Israeli flag and wielding a video-camera as they hurled insults, we repeated the prayer and poem line by line in unison. Many passers-by and the police officers standing watch were sympathetic. Ultimately, our steadfast refusal to engage with the disrupters defeated their purpose, and they desisted. A journalist from a Turkish news agency interviewed several of us. Before we disbanded at 11 o’clock, our Adalah- NY participant led us in song.