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June 5, 2017 10:22 pm

Jewish Voice for Peace Activists Disrupt ‘Celebrate Israel’ Parade With Attempt to Block LGBT Marchers

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

JVP activists formed a human chain and blocked an LGBT cluster from marching in the ‘Celebrate Israel’ parade. Photo: Twitter.

An anti-Israel group created a human blockade and tried to prevent a Jewish LGBT contingent from marching in the “Celebrate Israel” parade in New York City on Sunday, The Algemeiner has learned.

Activists from the organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) formed a human chain on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and held signs saying “No pride in apartheid” and “Queer Jews for a free Palestine,” which they also chanted as they blocked the LGBT cluster — made up of six Jewish LGBTQ organizations — who were marching in the annual parade.

Justin Spiro, the former director of the teen program for the organization Jewish Queer Youth (JQY), was at the scene and said JVP protesters also “unplugged our sound system [and] took off their pro-Israel shirts to reveal apartheid shirts,” which read, “Celebrate the end of apartheid all together.”

Spiro added that the JVP protesters “made physical contact with our marchers in the process, and it got ugly, with 25-30 police officers swarming in to neutralize them.” No one was injured in the incident but Spiro said some of the LGBT activists from the Jewish community had “nervously” joined the parade for the first time ever and the confrontation with JVP activists soured the experience for them.

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“I can testify firsthand how much rejection, anxiety, and self-loathing these teens had to overcome to be where they are today,” Spiro explained on Facebook. “And after all that — after finally coming to the amazing realization that one can be LGBT and Jewish and proud of Israel — these teens came under vicious attack by protesters from Jewish Voice for ‘Peace’…Shame on you Jewish Voice for Peace for attacking the most vulnerable among us in your specious quest to seek ‘justice’ against Israeli ‘aggression’…Much like Amalek, who attached the weakest among the Jewish people, JVP attacks the most vulnerable Jews.”

Hannah Simpson, who was among the LGBT cluster marching down Fifth Avenue, wrote about the confrontation on Facebook shortly after it occurred.

“None of our group was injured [but] we were shaken as all hell,” she said.

Seven JVP were detained by New York Police Department (NYPD) officers following the disruption and continued to chant, “No pride in apartheid,” as they were escorted away. Six of the detained JVP members were released later on Sunday and the last person was expected to be released on Monday, according to +972 Magazine.

JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson said the LGBT marching cluster was “a carefully chosen target,” and that the protest was organized by “a group of queer Jews who feel strongly about gay rights not being used to pinkwash the occupation.”

Craig Willse, one of the arrested demonstrators, said, “We are here as queer and trans Jews to say that apartheid and occupation are nothing to celebrate and that we will not be used by the State of Israel to cover up its violent oppression of Palestinian people.”

Mordechai Levovitz, the founding director of JQY, told Tablet magazine that the protest “was a hate crime. The reason this happened is because we were lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender and queer. They targeted us. They didn’t target another high school; they targeted us, the queer kids.”

JVP is a vocal supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and, according to a campus watchdog study, has “expanded its presence on American campuses…helping [non-Jewish anti-Israel organizations] legitimize anti-Zionist rhetoric and effectively defend against accusations of antisemitism.” The group refers to itself as the “Jewish arm” of the Palestinian solidarity movement.

The LGBT contingent first marched in the “Celebrate Israel” parade in 2012, according to Tablet. At this year’s parade, one group of JVP activists also attempted to block New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his contingent from marching, in protest of the NYPD’s cooperation with Israeli security forces.

Watch the scuffle between JVP activists and the pro-Israel LGBT contingent in the video below.

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