Demonstrators call for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, during a protest organized by Jewish Voice for Peace at Grand Central Station in New York City on October 27, 2023.
Hundreds of people were arrested Friday when police broke up a large demonstration of mostly Jewish New Yorkers who had taken over the main hall of Grand Central station in protest of Israel’s war with Hamas, police and organizers said, ‘Times of Israel’ informs.
Wearing black T-shirts saying “Jews say cease-fire now” and “Not in our name,” at least 200 of the demonstrators were detained by New York Police Department officers and led out of the train station, their hands zip-tied behind their backs. The NYPD said the protesters were taken briefly into custody, issued summonses and released, and that a more exact number of detentions would be available Saturday morning.
The massive sit-in was called by the group Jewish Voice for Peace-New York City, an anti-Zionist group, which said thousands of its members had attended the protest, blocking the main concourse of the city’s central rail station.
Pictures showed the terminal packed with protesters who held up banners reading “Palestinians should be free” and “Mourn the dead, fight like hell for the living.”
Organizers called the peaceful sit-in “the largest civil disobedience New York City has seen in 20 years.”
NYPD officers arrest protesters during a demonstration calling for a ceasefire amid war between Israel and Hamas, at Grand Central Station in New York City on October 27, 2023.
Hamas launched this war with a specific political aim: to prevent peace. After signing peace treaties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Israel was on the verge of signing a historic peace treaty with Saudi Arabia. That agreement would have been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s biggest achievement in his entire career. It would have normalized relations between Israel and much of the Arab world. At the insistence of the Saudis and Americans, the treaty’s conditions were expected to include significant concessions to the Palestinians, aimed to immediately alleviate the suffering of millions of them in the occupied territories, and restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The prospect of peace and normalization was a deadly threat to Hamas, Yuval Noah Harari, a professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem writes at ‘The Washington Post’.
From its founding in 1987, Hamas fundamentalist Islamist organization never recognized Israel’s right to exist and committed itself to uncompromising armed struggle. In the 1990s, Hamas did everything in its power to disrupt the Oslo peace process and all subsequent peace efforts.
For more than a decade, Israeli governments led by Netanyahu abandoned all serious attempts to make peace with more moderate Palestinian forces, adopted an increasingly hawkish policy regarding the occupation of disputed territory and even embraced the right-wing messianic ideas of Jewish supremacy.
During that period, Hamas showed surprising restraint in its dealings with Israel, and the two sides seemed to adopt an uneasy but functional policy of violent coexistence. But on Oct. 7, just when Netanyahu’s government was on the cusp of a major breakthrough for regional peace, Hamas struck with all its force.
Hamas knew its attack would make Israelis livid, distraught with pain and anger, and the terrorists counted on Israel to retaliate with massive force, inflicting enormous pain on Palestinians. The codename Hamas gave its operation is telling: al-Aqsa Tufan. The word “tufan” means flood. Like the biblical flood intended to cleanse the world of sin even at the cost of nearly wiping out humanity, Hamas’s attack aimed to create devastation on a biblical scale.
If Hamas’s war aims are indeed to derail the Israeli-Saudi peace treaty and to destroy all chance for normalization and peace, it is winning this war by a knockout. And Israel is helping Hamas, largely because Netanyahu’s government seems to be conducting this war without clear political goals of its own.
Israel says it wants to disarm Hamas, and it has every right to do so in protecting its citizens. Disarming Hamas is vital also for any chance of future peace, because as long as Hamas remains armed, it will continue to derail any such efforts. But even if Israel succeeds in disarming Hamas, that’s just a military achievement, not a political plan. In the short term, does Israel have any plan to rescue the Israeli-Saudi peace deal? In the long term, does Israel have any plan to reach a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians and normalize its relations with the Arab world?
All concerned parties must stop the flood released by Hamas from drowning Israel and the Palestinians, and from devastating the wider region, too. Note that nuclear war is, theoretically, perhaps just 24 hours away — if Hezbollah and other Iranian allies hit Israel with tens of thousands of missiles, as they are threatening to do, Israel might resort to nuclear weapons for self-preservation. All sides should therefore abandon biblical fantasies and demands for absolute justice, and focus on concrete steps to de-escalate the immediate conflict and to sow seeds for peace and reconciliation.
A war is the continuation of politics by other means, that Hamas’s political aim is to destroy any chance for peace and normalization, and that Israel’s aim should be to preserve the chance for peace, professor Yuval Noah Harari stresses.
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