Monday, October 8, 2007

Hecklers Abuse Genocide Survivors, October 7, 2007


This past Sunday, I went down to the plaza outside Boston City Hall to attend a rally protesting the targeting of the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit ethnic groups by the Sudanese military and Janjaweed militias that receive weapons from the Sudanese government and with whom they often coordinate attacks. Though the United Nations has yet to do so, this human rights disaster, which has taken between 200,000 and 450,000 lives depending on who is doing the counting, is recognized by the United States and other governments and NGOs as genocide,.

The rally, organized by a coalition of groups including Dream for Darfur and Save Darfur was one of those few instances of an event that made my normally cynical self feel hope for humanity. The main part of the rally included speakers representing genocide survivors ranging from a 95 year old Armenian man, to Rosian Zerner, (a Holocaust survivor whom I have mentioned elsewhere), to a survivor of the Khmer Rouge's Killing Fields, to a young Bosnian Muslim survivor of the Srebrenica massacre, to a Tutsi survivor of the Rwandan genocide, to a Darfurian refugee currently attending Brandeis University, each passing a torch to one another and finally lighting an eternal flame for Darfur to bring to the 2008 Chinese Olympics to protest the People's Republic's financial, diplomatic and military backing of the Sudanese government.

However, every one of the speakers had to endure heckling from a tiny group of counter-protesters on the fringe of the rally. This group was identified by the
Boston Globe representing Boston Anti-Zionist Action and the Troops Out Now Coalition. These hecklers spouted verbal abuse at the survivors regardless of the survivors' native lands, skin colors, mother tongue, or religious belief. A quick check of the Boston Anti-Zionist Action blog shows them misrepresenting a protest that was calling for non-violent action as "a racist pro-war rally against Sudan organized by the [...] Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston." Leaving aside the general anti-Semitic tone of the slur, this sort of disinformation leads one to wonder how much else on their blog is false-- including which groups they are allied with. Does the Green party really want to be identified with people who abuse survivors of genocide? I suspect not-- but BAZA clearly wants to identify with the Green Party.

Needless to say, the six survivors on stage were unfazed, they had suffered and survived far worse than crypto-fascists posing as hippies, shouting slogans like "from Kabul to Jenin, victory to the mujahideen" and "From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free!"



BAZA protesting the Dream for Darfur rally on October 7, 2007. Note the anti-Semitic cartoon claiming Israel engineered the attacks on the World Trade Center.

At one point I noticed a young man standing to the right of the BAZA activists with a sign that read "<--- I'M w/ STUPID" and later a young woman walk up to them with a sign that read "Zionism is not murder." After signing a petition to the Chinese government and having my photo taken I approached the young woman and told her that the BAZA activists were likely a lost cause for persuasion.


Banner held by BAZA activists supporting the Sudanese government's atrocities in Sudan. Note the horrible grammar and the absurd claim that the United Nations is Zionist-- which it is only in the sense that it established a Jewish homeland in 1948.


One of the BAZA activists, a rotund bespectacled man with a sign reading "DIVEST FROM ISRAEL NOT SUDAN" yelled at me, "Stop denying the Zionist genocide!"

I responded with, "What Zionist genocide?"

"The one against the Palestinians!"

"For something to be a genocide, a people must be decimated. Where are the corpses?"

I started loudly talking to the young woman so that the BAZA activist could hear us, "Genocide is a clearly defined crime under international law and so there needs to be evidence before charges are brought."

The woman smiled and asked rhetorically "Oh, you mean that 'Genocide' is a word with an actual definition?"

"Yes!" so I turned to the BAZA activist, "So what evidence have you? Did you know that the GDP of the West Bank has increased since the building of the West Bank Wall? Did you listen to the speakers? Did it sound like their annual income increased while they were suffering?"

The BAZA people shut their traps, and I noted to my new friend, "These people live in an alternate reality where facts are trifles."

More seriously: falsely charging genocide is almost as trivializing of the crime as genocide denial and it abuses real victims of genocide. The BAZA activists could not accuse Israel of wrong-doing without compulsively attempting to denigrate every survivor who stepped to the podium, whether he or she was a European, an Asian, or an African, whether he or she was a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or an Animist
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