The tension between Israel and Palestine are reflected in the streets of San Francisco this week.
The Palestinian Action Network (PAN), Jewish Voice for Peace-Bay Area and A.N.S.W.E.R Bay Coalition have urged people to confront former-Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak Wednesday night about war crimes and human rights violations they claim Barak inflicted upon Palestine.
Barak will be promoting his memoir, My Country, My Life: Fighting for Israel, Searching for Peace tonight at 6 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center on California Street. Barak served as the Defense Minister of Israel from 2007 to 2013, and as Prime Minister from 1999 to 2001.
The rally is being organized by PAN, and is endorsed by 23 other advocacy and human rights groups, according to the Facebook event page.
Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center Lara Kiswani said people are angered at Barak’s presence in S.F. because his former roles in Israel’s government represent attacks on a “besieged community.”
“He is a symbol of ethnic cleansing and apartheid Israel,” Kiswani said.
The Jewish Community Center stated that it will add a metal detector today in anticipation of the protest. Security will also be increased. Marci Glazer, CEO of JCCSF, said she hoped the protest tonight will remain peaceful and respectful.
“We know that people that disagree with the policies of the government of Israel are planning to protest this appearance,” Glazer said. “Our safety and security team is working closely with SFPD to ensure that Ehud Barak, our audience and all other participants of the JCCSF feel safe and welcome.”
Although tonight’s protest is meant to bring awareness to Palestinian human rights, Kiswani said she hopes it will bring about other changes. Kiswani said she wants government officials in San Francisco and the United States to change their behavior in this enduring conflict and proposed that the United States place sanctions on Israel.
She said that some past mayors and supervisors in San Francisco possess pro-Israel stances.
“This is a story of massacres and bombing,” Kiswani said. “We think San Francisco should not be celebrating this. We would hope San Francisco would take action for its Palestinian community, which is in the thousands.”
Just yesterday, PAN — in particular the Palestinian Youth Movement — led hundreds of protesters from the Israeli Consulate in the Financial District to the Federal Building for the 70th anniversary of Nakba, the day Palestinians associate with being displaced from their homes to facilitate the creation of Israel.
However, as SF Gate reported, the march was not unmet by a sizable group of pro-Israel defenders.
PAN protesters utilized yesterday’s demonstration as an opportunity to address current tensions in Palestine as well, such as protesting the violent protests that broke out this week. Israeli troops fired on Palestinians who protested the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Monday, resulting in 58 deaths.
While tonight’s protest is the latest act of local opposition to Israel, PAN has been organizing activities and events for the duration of this week, such as an art exhibit on Valencia, in remembrance of Nakba.
Despite the mounting criticism from advocacy groups, Glazer said anyone is still invited to engage in dialogue with the former Prime Minister tonight.
“At the JCCSF, we provide a forum to share diverse points of view and a platform for our community members to ask questions on many issues,” Glazer said. “We are proud to bring prominent leaders, scholars, artists and journalists to speak with our community about Israel in an up close and personal way.”