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Hoekstra and other Zionists speak at Pro-Israel Rally in Grand Rapids

August 26, 2011

Last night in downtown Grand Rapids several hundred people gathered for a rally in support of Israel. The Stand With Israel rally was one of many happening across the US, rallies that were coordinated with Glen Beck’s visit to Israel.

Last Saturday, the Grand Rapids Press announced this rally and cited one of the organizers as saying, “Israel tends to garner much negative press in the U.S.” Neither the organizer or the Press reporter verify such a claim. This is not the conclusion that Richard Falk and Howard Friel come to in their book Israel-Palestine on Record: How the New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East. In fact, Israel tends to receive favorable coverage in the US media, which is the conclusion we made in a GRIID report entitled Roadmap to Nowhere.

The rally took place in Rosa Parks Circle and included music and singing of both US patriotic music and the Israeli national anthem. The MC for the event was retired military officer and radio show host Denny Gillem. Gillem was himself a US military analyst on the Middle East and has harassed anti-war protestors in Grand Rapids during Iraq war protests in recent years.

In addition to introducing speakers, Gillem made his own observations about the US and Israel. Gillem said that only England and Israel have been “dependable allies of the US since WWII.” Gillem also said at one point that “this rally was like a Tea Party event, because it focused on an issue not on partisan politics.”

Such a statement flies in the face of what we know about the Tea Party’s endorsement of purely Republican candidates and it ignores the fact that virtually every member of the US Congress votes in favor of continued US military, economic and diplomatic support. In fact, Gillem himself said there was a petition that people could sign at this event, which would deny the Palestinians desire to be recognized as a state at next month’s United Nations meeting in New York.

The first speaker of the evening was former Congressman Pete Hoekstra. Hoekstra was an ardent supporter of Israel during his time in Congress and he made that clear in his comments, which we filmed.

After Hoekstra spoke, Gillem invited to the stand State Representative Dave Agema. Agema spoke about being a military veteran and how in 1973, while in the Air Force, his squadron was asked to loan their fighter planes to the Israelis in their war against Egypt and the Palestinians. Agema also mentioned that he has introduced legislation in Michigan (House Bill 4769), which he said was to deny foreign laws to be introduced into US law. Critics of this legislation are saying that it is really a veiled attempt to marginalize and attack Muslims in the US.

Following Agema was Rabbi Schadick, a local Rabbi who is a member of the Grand Rapids chapter of the Zionist group the Jewish Federation. Schadick spoke in mostly theological terms, but at one point he said, “the US and Israel has each others’ back.” He acknowledged the fact that the US and Israel share weaponry, intelligence and training of troops. Schadick also quoted President Obama who said, “Israel is the best friend the US has in the world.”

Before the featured speaker stepped up to the stage, a local African American minister addressed the crowd. Pastor Thomas Wilson of the Word of Faith Christian Center said he supports Israel because it was the only nation founded “as a sovereign act of God.” It should be noted that Wilson’s church hosted another Stand with Israel event last year at his church where Israeli soldiers spoke.

The featured speaker for this event was Elliot Chodoff, a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces and now a military analyst. As a was making my way to this event I saw Chodoff being escorted by 2 body guards, which stood at the stage the who night.

Chodoff, like the rest of the speakers, did not source his claims about Israel or Palestinians. He said that 9/11 has its origins in the ideology of groups like Hamas. In fact, Chodoff spent most of the time talking about Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al Qaeda and Hezbollah. In many ways what Chodoff had to say was very similar to the argument made in the documentary Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.

Chodoff went on to say that some of the “terrorist tactics being used in Afghanistan today were developed by Hamas.” In fact, Chodoff’s assessment of the countries that border Israeli were such that it was like “being in a room filled with gunpowder and the only light was from candles placed throughout the room. You never knew when there was going to be an explosion.”

Chodoff also continued many Israeli talking points, such as they only respond to attacks and that “since 2001 there have been 10,000 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza.” If this was indeed the case, why does the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem document that there have been a grossly disproportionate amount of Palestinians killed since 2000 compared to Israelis killed.

By the end of the rally it was clear that this event was nothing short of a propaganda event, filled with lies and half-truths. There were numerous information tables set up around Rosa Parks Circle with information such as a booklet entitled Israel 101, published by Stand With US. Another table, featured information by the group Christians United for Israel, the Christian Zionist group founded by Pastor John Hagee. Hagee is such an ardent supporter of Israel that he was quoted as saying in 2006 that Israel should have dropped a nuclear bomb on Lebanon after the 33-day Israeli assault on that country. Hagee and Chodoff were two of the many speakers that headlined the Christians United for Israel summit last month in DC.

There were some people who were opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land who came with posters and handouts, but their views were not heard from the stage. The only commercial media we saw at the event was the Grand Rapids Press, which ran a short article about the rally.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Terrence permalink
    August 28, 2011 4:32 am

    Its not that I regret the virtual or relative demise of anti- Semitism in this country, but how did a virulently anti- Semitic country become so “pro- Semitic”, that the slightest criticism of Zionism is now universally deemed, anti-semitic? Am I anti- semitic if I even ask the question, “could there be a conspiracy”? Or similarly, is one a racist for asking, “Is Obama a (house)slave”?


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