A large crowd of pro-Palestinian protestors gathered outside of the Israel Consulate in downtown Atlanta Tuesday, following heightened tensions and bombings in Israel. About 300 protestors stood on the sidewalk outside the embassy, sometimes taking over the streets and lighting smoke bombs that filled the air. At points during the evening, protestors chanted as passing cars honked horns in support. Others drove around the area, leaning through car windows with flags and signs, to the cheers of the crowd.
Many of the chants targeted the United States’ support for Israel’s military, with some particularly calling for President Joe Biden and recently elected Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to take action against the Jewish state.
Protestors also called for the end of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange at Georgia State University. As part of the program, Israeli law enforcement train their counterparts in Georgia.
Tuesday’s protest was completely peaceful with the only related arrest being for a protester peeling his tires with burnouts in front of the crowd, after which he was stopped by Atlanta police units monitoring the protest and taken into custody.
The protest came as Palestinians and supporters went on strike in Israel and across the West Bank and Gaza in response to the recent escalation in the conflict, with solidarity protests occurring throughout the world.
The violence in Israel is believed the worst fighting in that country between Palestinians and Israelis since 2014. It intensified May 10 with national and Israeli media citing the contributing factors including unrest over the feared eviction of Palestinians in east Jerusalem, unsettled Israeli and Palestinian elections and pent-up frustration among Israeli Arabs. Militants in Gaza fired rockets at civilian areas May 10 and Israel returned fire. The violence has continued.
The Atlanta protestors stuck largely to the sidewalks, with some of them attempting to keep protestors out of the street due to warnings from Atlanta police.
The Israeli Consulate had been aware of the protest, ensured that the relevant authorities were prepared, and trusted them to handle the event, according to Anat Sultan-Dadon, consul general of Israel to the Southeast.
In an interview with the AJT, Sultan-Dadon questioned the reason for protesting Israel given Hamas’s role in the current violence. “If they are so passionate about the welfare of the Palestinians, they should be concerned with the Hamas terror organization, who are not only waging a terror campaign against Israel, but oppressing their own people.” Sultan-Dadon cited the attack by Hamas against humanitarian aid headed to the territories, which killed two foreign aid workers. She said they would rather attack Israelis and endanger the welfare of their own people.
Messaging by protestors Tuesday largely focused on ending violence against Palestinians, although many signs and some chants directly targeted Israel. One particular chant, repeated throughout the demonstration, was “We do not want two states, we want ’48.” A protestor clarified for the AJT that the chant meant the group did not support the United Nations agreement for two states in 1948, but rather what existed prior to the creation of the state of Israel May 14, 1948.
Numerous signs of protest also compared the Israeli government to the Nazis and the Holocaust, with one sign repeating an anti-Semitic mantra that “Israel = the root of all evil.” A vast majority of the protestors, and their messaging, specifically targeted recent violence in the Palestinian territories and the Israeli response, although one sign had a boot next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Middle Eastern insult symbolizing throwing dirt on someone. In 2008, an Iraqi journalist threw both of his shoes at then U.S. President George W. Bush during a press conference in Iraq.