IMAGE: chris lydgate
Under a forbidding sky, approximately 500 Portlanders converged on Pioneer Square for the protest, chanting "End the occupation now!" and "Israel is a terrorist state."
"We are all kinds of people," said organizer Mazen Mali, a Palestinian-American economist. "Palestinians, Arabs, Jews, Christians, Muslims, whites, blacks, you name it. What's happening is a question of human dignity. This has gone beyond what humanity can tolerate."
If democracy is indeed a marketplace of ideas, Friday's protest was a political bazaar, where a dizzying profusion of viewpoints was ventilated.
One of the day's most effective actions was conducted by Jews for Global Justice to protest Israeli checkpoints--roadblocks set up in the West Bank at which Palestinians must routinely wait for hours at a time. Israeli citizens are not inconvenienced by checkpoints, because they travel on special highways reserved for Israelis.
When the traffic light turned red, the protesters, clad in white hazmat coveralls, dashed into the crosswalk and set down a temporary barricade. "You are now at an Israeli checkpoint," protester Staci Cotler shouted through a megaphone. "If you protest, you will be killed. Expect to be blindfolded and beaten." As the light turned back to green, the protesters dashed back out of the intersection, allowing traffic to resume.
"We really want to make sure another voice is heard," said protester Laurie King. "We do not all agree with the Israeli government."
Other opinions were, perhaps, more predictable. "The Arabs are out to destroy us!" shouted Inez Weissman, the Oregon chairwoman for Americans for a Safe Israel. Diminutive in her mirrored shades and Hebrew-language ballcap, Weissman approached a burly pro-Palestine demonstrator, jabbed her finger at his chest, and continued, "Every Arab nation supported Hitler! What more need I say?"
Meanwhile, a close-cropped Arab-American boy of 12 or 13 waved a scrap of cardboard on which he had scrawled "SHARON= HITLER," illustrated by a Star of David and a swastika.
"Nice sign," said a passing skate punk, displaced from his usual haunts. "But your swastika is backwards."