By COLlive reporter
Photos by Mendi Toledano
New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton, a Democrat who represents the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, says the decision to protest the nuclear deal with Iran originated in Israel.
The African-American lawmaker said that he was inspired to sponsor Wednesday’s rally protesting the deal led by the Obama Administration during a recent legislative trip to the Holy Land.
“I just came back from Israel and said, ‘I need to do more,'” he told a crowd of 400. “I saw young boys and girls fighting for their country. I saw people that have 15 seconds to run for safety. I told myself I must make a change.”
Standing on Eastern Parkway, he made it clear that opposition to the Iran accords is far from a partisan issue, championed only by Republicans. In fact, most of the speakers during the event were members of the Democratic party.
“We must do everything in our power to protect Israel and their G-d given borders,” Hamilton stated. “People should not have to live in fear. And this is just the beginning.”
It was a clear message to fellow New York Democrats whose vote will be crucial in a September vote on the Iran deal. Among those on the sidelines are Representatives Yvette Clarke, Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney.
“My problem with the Iran deal is simple: it’s a bad deal,” said NYC Councilman David Greenfield who served as emcee of the event. “I am proud of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and other members of New York’s Congressional delegation for standing up for the Jewish community, Israel and America’s security,” he said.
Greenfield called on his fellow Democrats to follow Senator Schumer’s opposition and “let Obama know that we can negotiate a better deal for America.”
Recent polling indicates that a growing majority of Americans oppose the Iran deal. According to a CNN/ORC poll released on August 20, 56% of Americans think Congress should reject the deal with Iran — up from 52% less than a month ago.
As reported on COLlive.com, a grassroots effort has mobilized hundreds of Jewish community members to reach out to their representatives urging them to vote against the deal. Many of them were there for the rally on Wednesday evening.
Activist Yaacov Behrman, who helped coordinate the rally on behalf of Hamilton’s office, said he was pleased with the turn-out. “The event was a success, and we hope our Congressional leaders will do the right thing,” he told COLlive.com.
Not seeing eye-to-eye with those gathered were a small group of chassidic Jews identified with the Neturei Karta philosophy of opposing the State of Israel and Zionism. They held up signs condemning “Zionist impeding world peace and their abhorrent behavior towards President Obama.”
Ignoring their disruptions, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind pointed an accusatory finger to another segment of the Jewish community: the leadership of Jewish organizations and Federations across the country.
He cited an op-ed written by philanthropist Michael Steinhardt accusing most of Jewish communal leaders of being “too scared to come out and oppose” the deal although they “believe the Iran deal is bad.”
Hikind, who earlier in the day protested against the Jewish Congressman Jerry Nadler for supporting the deal, said that “many Jewish leaders are not doing anything (about the deal) because they still want to be on the list” of invitees for the annual Chanukah reception at the White House.
The rally opened by Cantor Shlomie Rabin reciting a prayer in memory of all those lost in terror attacks worldwide.
Zaki Tamir, Chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, reminded participants to keep spreading the truth against the “deal with the devil.”
Community activist Devorah Halberstam, whose son Ari was killed in the terrorist shooting on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994, said she opposes war, yet called on elected officials to “Look into your hearts and the eyes of the children of the world and vote with your conscience.”
Participants were encouraged to keep contacting their local representatives to vote against the deal which both Israeli coalition and opposition leaders say endangers the safety and security of its citizens.
Protest ends in Chassidic dance to song of faith in G-d: