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‘It Is Right to Rebel! Israel, Go to Hell!’ Olivia Reingold

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Pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside the Consulate General of Israel yesterday after a Hamas terrorist attack killed more than 900 Israelis. (Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images)

Young girls in burkas waved Palestinian flags in the street. Men in ski masks hung from scaffolding chanting, “Israel, go to hell.” And pamphlets rained from the sky, lauding the recent violence by Hamas as “heroic.” 

This wasn’t the Middle East. This was Midtown Manhattan, home to the second-largest Jewish population in the world after Israel, just days after Israel herself was ambushed by Hamas in the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s history. More than 900 Israelis are now dead, more than 2,000 wounded, and an estimated 100 held hostage.

Many have called it Israel’s 9/11. But unlike America’s 9/11, when New Yorkers stood unified in their grief, this crowd of hundreds seemed bound by their fury. 

They chanted for the end of Zionism—or as they put it, “decolonization.”

It is right to rebel! Israel, go to hell!

5-6-7-8, Palestine is ours to take!

Resistance is justified when people are oppressed!

One sign stretching across an entire street dared: “By any means necessary.”

Facing the United Nations plaza with police helicopters whirring above, 23-year-old Jordan native Youssef Almasri stood with a group of friends and declared, “Glory to the revolution.”

He told me what decolonization means to him.

“It means: Land. Fucking. Back. We’re taking the land that they took from us, we’re taking it back. We’re putting our refugees home,” said Almasri, who told me he is a student based in New York.

As for the Israelis, he said, they should “go back to where they came from.” 

“It’s our land. We are willing to fight and die for it. They want to flee as soon as they can’t smoke their joint on the beach in peace.” 

Over the weekend, local activist group Within Our Lifetime urged the public to “mobilize to defend the heroic Palestinian resistance” at an “Emergency Rally for Gaza” outside the “Zionist Embassy.” Hundreds answered the call, gathering outside the Israeli Consulate on 2nd Avenue and 42nd Street, then marching several blocks to the United Nations, stepping over statements scrawled in chalk on the pavement.

“DEATH TO BIBI & THE IDF,” screamed one message in yellow. 

“FUCK PISSRAIL,” another blared in purple.

Most of the pro-Palestinian supporters seemed to be in their 20s. (Fatih Aktas via Getty Images)

Most of the protesters appeared to be in their 20s, although some kids and several elderly people participated, too. A group of men stomped on an Israeli flag. Many wore keffiyehs, a headscarf that’s become a symbol of the Palestinian resistance. When I asked to interview a man, he wanted to know if I’m Arab—and he turned abruptly away when I answered that no, I’m not. 

Ribhi Elzaru told me the conflict is personal to him. His grandfather, he says, is the “pre-1948 type,” meaning he lived in the region before Israeli independence. He says he doesn’t celebrate violence, but he sees it as inevitable. 

“Hamas is a logical conclusion for people struggling and uprising,” says Elzaru, 27. “Violence is the cry of the oppressed.” 

Jet Adams, a 72-year-old black woman from New York, told me she came to the protest because the media coverage of the violence in Israel had been giving her a “headache.” 

But coming to the protest energized her, she said. 

“​​You can’t repeatedly kick people in their face and expect them to take it lying down,” she said of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas. “Anyone after a certain period with an ounce of self-respect is going to do something to push back. People are not just going to lay down and allow themselves to be murdered.” (Since fighting began Saturday, 687 are dead in the Gaza Strip, 140 of whom are children.) 

When I suggested to her that “there are a lot of different perspectives,” she flashed me a look.

“I don’t want to hear it from a different perspective,” she replied bluntly. 

Across the street, supporters of Israel pushed back by blaring Israeli pop music under the consulate’s flag on 2nd Avenue. Others leaned over the police barriers to stick out their middle fingers and hurl insults at the pro-Palestinian side across the street.

“Terrorists! Murderers!” they yelled, their faces turning red, veins nearly popping out of their necks. 

A 17-year-old boy from New York whose parents were born in Israel held up a sign with the image of Shani Louk, the woman whose maimed and nearly naked body was seen on the back of a truck driven by members of Hamas on Saturday.

“This is what the media won’t show you,” his mom yelled toward the pro-Palestine side. 

One day earlier, a similar protest led by the Democratic Socialists of America started in Times Square and ended at the Israeli Consulate, where they were outnumbered by Israeli supporters. 

On Sunday in New York City, Israel supporters outnumbered those who came out in support of Palestine. (Adam Gray via Getty Images)

A pro-Palestinian man taunted them from behind a barricade and wielded his phone, which projected the image of a burning building in Israel.

“Ha, ha, you’re mad,” he yelled, his voice breaking with effort. 

“Payback, that’s what this is,” he said, showing me the photo. “Payback.”

Fatima Alesayi, an 18-year-old waving a Palestinian flag, told me she came down from the Bronx to show her “proudness” of Palestine. 

“Finally they stood up,” she beams, her eyes crinkling beneath a navy burka. “I wouldn’t say we’re celebrating the murders—we’re celebrating that we got our land back, the place that we were taken away from.” 

Her friend, a Puerto Rican native who recently converted to Islam, says “it’s hypocritical” for Israel to object to Palestine’s recent attacks.

“When we fight back we’re the terrorists,” Brendalys Vilca, 17, scoffs. “Even though they’ve been doing this for 70-plus years.” 

She says it almost reminds her of America’s treatment of Puerto Rico, which she says has its own “long history of being a colony” like Palestine. 

“It’s so important for someone who has an oppressed background to support these people because we’re one of the same,” she says. “We’re Muslim, and it’s innocent Muslims getting killed.” 

Yesterday afternoon as the sky turned to dusk, the chanting died down, the posters were put away, and the protesters wandered back to their subway stops to head home. 

As the sun set, the Empire State Building lit up in red, white, and green—a color scheme they say is to honor Indigenous People’s Day but is coincidentally the colors of the Palestinian flag. Just blocks away, One Penn Plaza was bright with the blue and white hues of Israel.

A skyline illuminated in dueling colors.

Francesca Block and Olivia Reingold are writers for The Free Press, based in New York City. Follow Olivia on X (formerly Twitter) @Olivia_Reingold and Francesca @FrancescaABlock.

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WATCH: ‘This Is My First Rodeo’ | Ben Meets America Ben Kawaller

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In the latest stop on his cross-country quest to understand America, Ben Kawaller watches men hurl cows to the ground.

Last month I attended The American Rodeo in Arlington, Texas, a city of around 400,000 souls situated between Dallas and Fort Worth. This was my first rodeo, and it did not take me long after entering its host venue, the gargantuan Globe Life Field, to realize that I did not know what a rodeo was. If you’d asked me six weeks ago to define the term, I would have said something like, “It’s when you watch someone career around an enclosed pen on an animal.” 

Which is actually not too far off. But what I hadn’t realized is that a rodeo is actually a sporting event. 

You see, some people are especially good at bending these animals to their will, and if you are one of those people, you can win competitions for things like making the animals run very fast, or tying the animals up very quickly, or not dying while trying to sit on one of the animals.

Of course, I wasn’t really there for the games; I was there to talk to the crowd about what makes our society so divided. If you’re tuning in for the first time to my new series—“Ben Meets America”—I was born and raised in progressive Brooklyn, I now live in West Hollywood, and I will admit to being soft in some fundamental way. Suffice it to say I get a more transcendent high from watching a torch song than I do from watching a man hurl a small cow to the ground.

But, in fact, theater and rodeo have their similarities. If you’ve been to a play in recent years, you will have suffered the degradation of a “land acknowledgement.” This is when the audience is told before the show—either in an announcement or in the program notes—that they’ve gathered on land stolen from whatever Native American tribe existed there years ago. My sense is that some of this is rooted in the idea that America itself is fundamentally illegitimate. Whatever’s behind it, the inclusion of a land acknowledgement has become de rigueur.

I did not think conservatives did land acknowledgements, so I was surprised when the Native American actor Mo Brings Plenty appeared before the start of one of the competitions and performed a minute or two of indigenous wailing. I believe the intent of this was to, well, acknowledge the fact that Native American bloodshed was central to the expansion of the American West. What I did not expect was the incongruence of what came after. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. I’m still puzzling over its significance.

In the end, however, I decided I prefer the conservative version of a land acknowledgement. Unlike the inane liberal sacrament, it appears to be capable of expressing two truths at once: that oceans of indigenous blood were spilled in the creation of this country, and that we live in one of the greatest nations on earth.

Even if one of our favorite spectator sports is man versus cow.

Only paid subscribers can see Ben’s video on The American Rodeo. Become one today and scroll down to watch.

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April 14, 2024 Garamond

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Senate spotlight: A Trump Republican’s China problem Judd Legum

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November’s election will not only determine which party controls the White House but also the United States Senate. Currently, the Democratic caucus holds a narrow 51-49 advantage. Control of the chamber will come down to a handful of competitive races. This is the first installment in a series that takes a deep dive into the issues shaping these campaigns. 

In Ohio, businessman Bernie Moreno (R) is attempting to unseat Senator Sherrod Brown (D). Ohio, once a swing state, has been trending Republican. Moreno’s campaign strategy is to attach himself at the hip to Donald Trump. He refers to himself as the “Trump endorsed Republican nominee for US Senate from Ohio.” This helped him easily win the Republican primary against a field of more politically experienced opponents.  

In a potential second term, Trump is vowing to declare economic war on China, promising to “tax China to build America up.” Trump’s plan is to revoke China’s most favored nation trading status and impose a tariff on Chinese goods of up to 60%. (The policy would cost the typical American household thousands of dollars annually and increase inflation.) Imports of “essential goods” from China, including electronics, steel, and pharmaceuticals, would be completely banned

Moreno has taken a similar approach, saying he is running for Senate to “Beat Communist China.” To bolster his anti-China credentials, Moreno claims to have a history of combating Chinese power. These stories, however, don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Moreno made his fortune through buying and selling car dealerships. As his wealth increased, so did his interest in Republican politics. In 2011, former Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) appointed him to the board of trustees at Cleveland State, one of Ohio’s public universities. Moreno served as chairman of the Cleveland State board from 2016 to 2018.

Confucius Institutes, which offer “Chinese language and culture programs,” were established at numerous U.S. universities beginning in 2005. They were partially funded by the Chinese government. Over time, there were bipartisan concerns that Confucius Institutes were being used to promote Chinese government propaganda or even to facilitate espionage. On the campaign trail, Moreno has repeatedly claimed that, in his role as chair of Cleveland State’s Board of Trustees, he eliminated the university’s Confucius Institute.

Here is how Moreno described his role in a March 2023 campaign event:

I chaired the board of trustees at Cleveland State University, and I’m very proud of the fact that when I was there, we got rid of our Confucius Institute. We made certain that we focused everybody on student achievement, and we respected free speech on campus.

He made a nearly identical claim in October 2023. But it is a lie.

Moreno’s service on the board ended in May 2018. Cleveland State did not shut down its Confucius Institute until 2021. The truth is, while Moreno was on the board, he repeatedly approved funding for Cleveland State’s Confucius Institute. In 2016, when Moreno was still vice chairman, he voted to approve $38,000 in funding for the school’s Confucius Institute. The following year, as chairman, Moreno voted to re-up the funding. Minutes from these meetings show that Moreno did not express any concerns about the Confucius Institute

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Moreno told the Columbus Dispatch that he deserves credit for the elimination of the Confucius Institute at Cleveland State because of “his role in the hiring of Harlan Sands, who was Cleveland State’s president when the institute closed.” There are a couple of issues with this response. First, this is not what Moreno said previously. He clearly said that the board “got rid” of the Confucius Institute while he was chair. Second, Cleveland State did not eliminate the Confucius Institute because of the initiative of President Sands. Cleveland State, along with nearly all other universities, closed its Confucius Institute after Congress passed legislation in 2018 and 2020 limiting federal funding for universities that maintained the Confucius Institutes. From 2019 to 2023, the number of Confucius Institutes operating in the United States went from about 100 to fewer than 5.

The truth about Moreno and Chinese-made SUVs

“When I was a General Motors dealer, I sold Buicks. The Buick Envision was made in China. I told General Motors I wouldn’t sell one of them, don’t even ship it to me,” Moreno said during a February 10, 2024 radio interview. “They threatened me and sent me all kinds of nasty notes… we have to actually take this stand…”

That story, which Moreno also told during his brief run for Senate in 2021, is a lie. 

In reality, Moreno sold the Buick Envision at his dealership for at least five years — from 2014 to 2019 — and promoted the vehicle repeatedly on its social media channels, an investigation by NY1 revealed

A December 13, 2016 video published on the “Bernie Moreno Companies” YouTube page begins with this testimonial: “My name is Kayla McCullough. I purchased a 2017 Buick Envision from Buick GMC of Beachwood… I highly recommend you visit the team at Buick GMC of Beachwood, a Bernie Moreno company.”

Moreno’s campaign “acknowledged to Spectrum News that his dealership did sell the Chinese-made SUVs.” It claimed that “in response to the closure of the Lordstown Plant here in Ohio [in March 2019],  Bernie made a decision to stop any new inventory of Envision’s from being sold at his dealership. After he sold off the inventory he already had on the lot, he refused to take orders for more Envisions.” This explanation, however, makes little sense as the Envision was also produced in China and never at Ohio’s Lordstown Plant. Moreno’s dealerships also continued to advertise for the Envision months after the closure of the plant. 

 

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