“We stand here together with everybody to say that this has to stop and that Israel has to be protected from the terrorist Hamas,” State Senator Toby Stavisky said.
She was joined by politicians including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz; Assembly members Nily Rozic (who was born in Israel), David Weprin, Ed Braunstein, and Michael Simanowitz; and Council members Karen Koslowitz and Rory Lancman.
The rally was held in order to show Queens’ support for Israel, as well as to call for the end to the fighting overseas and for peace talks to ensue.
“There are tens of thousands of New Yorkers who visit Israel, who have family members in Israel and for whom this conflict is not theoretical, or philosophical, or ideological, but is real and is personal,” Lancman said.
A number of the elected officials who spoke, many of whom are of Jewish descent, spoke directly about Israel’s right to defend itself and use force against Hamas.
“I’m proud to be joining everybody here today, getting the message out that the state of Israel is entirely justified in its actions,” said Braunstein. “The people there are just trying to protect themselves.”
A recurring sentiment at the rally was that Israel just wanted peace. Another was that there is no “moral equivalency” between Israelis and Hamas.
“Israel is a good state. We are a good people. We value life and we cherish life on all sides of the world. But not so with Hamas,” one rabbi in attendance said. “They want to kill us. All they want is to see not just more Jewish children killed, they want to see more of their own children killed. Is that normal? Should that in any way be recognized and respected?”
A couple of members of the Muslim community, along with Adem Carroll of the Flushing Interfaith Council, stood on the outside of the rally with signs reading “Queens Jews and Queens Arabs should be standing together” and “Mourn with Palestine, stand with your Arab and Muslim neighbors.”
Immediately after the rally was over, a few attendees began arguing with the Muslim and Arab supporters, yelling at them about recognizing the state of Israel.
“We obviously are not pro-Hamas, and the Muslim community here does not support Hamas, however I am very aware that the very large Muslim community of Queens is mourning and troubled and really grieving about the killing that’s going on,” Carroll said.
“We know that this is a very emotional issue, and so what we’re calling for is dialogue, and we would like for elected officials to be organizing dialogue between the communities, instead of pandering to one community or the other,” he added. “It’s got to be both together, and that’s what we’re asking for.”
Regardless of the differences between the two groups, the rally ended with a prayer from Rabbi Yossi Mendelson of Congregation Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills calling for protection for innocent lives in both Israel and Gaza.
“I am joined today by my two sons, and when I hold them close to me, my heart overflows with sadness for what’s happening in the state of Israel and for what’s happening in Gaza,” Rabbi Mendelson said. “May Hashem protect the children of Israel, the adults of Israel, and may Hashem protect the innocent civilians in Gaza, and especially the kids in Gaza.”