Takin’ it to the streets — not
We would have much preferred to picture proud Jews on our front page waving Israeli flags in front of so iconic a Pittsburgh landmark as the statue of the late Mayor Richard Caliguiri.
Sadly, that’s not what happened. When our photographer, Christopher Rolinson, went Downtown last week to cover the G-20 protest in front of the City-County Building, he only found anti-Israel demonstrators on the steps, waving Palestinian flags.
There were some Jews watching, but they held up signs calling for a halt to settlement activity on the West Bank. Not that it’s overtly anti-Israel to oppose the settlements. Many Israelis also oppose them, but it’s not an overtly pro-Israel position either.
While Jews gathered at forums, interfaith prayer sessions, speeches and lectures during the G-20 last week, none that we know of were Downtown publicly demonstrating for Israel.
It’s not surprising really. With some exceptions, American Jews — pro-Israel American Jews — aren’t so keen these days on, as the Doobie Brothers put it, “takin’ it to the streets.”
That’s a shame, because we used to be. We recall the 1987 Washington rally for Soviet Jewry. Mikhail Gorbachev was in town and U.S. Jews, including many from Pittsburgh, sent him a loud and clear message in support of the refuseniks.
Are those days gone? Last week, we said here it wasn’t necessary to “protest Downtown with placards in hand.” We were wrong. We should be out there.
As a community, we failed to show our passion for our cause last week. We didn’t get our hands dirty, take it to the streets and shout our support for Israel, challenging the growing din of anti-Israel hawkers who are trying hard to seize the American soapbox.
It was an opportunity missed.
Perhaps we’ve forgotten the power of public — and peaceful — demonstration. Martin Luther King Jr. used it to maximum effect during the Civil Rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. People do watch these demonstrators; the television cameras turned in their direction guarantee it. The zeal of the protestors is on display.
Last week, though, our zeal for Israel, which is very real, was not on display and we should take a lesson from the experience.