May 14, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
A pro-Palestinian event titled “Palestinian Expulsion and Resistance: The Nakba, BDS and the Great Return March,” was scheduled to take place in Astoria Tuesday night but was canceled due to objections by the Jewish community.
The event, which was to be a panel discussion taking place at Redeemer Episcopal Church at 30-18 Crescent St, was going to focus on the plight of Palestinians and include the well-known BDS leaders Raja Abdulhaq, the executive director of Majlis Ash-Shura Islamic Leadership Council of New York, and Nerdeen Kiswani, founder and chair of Within our Lifetime United for Palestine.
The Democratic Socialists of America were the event organizers, which was going to include a prayer session, food from a Palestinian restaurant, and a discussion on how DSA members “can become involved in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.”
The speakers planned to “discuss their activist work in the Palestinian community,” according to the event announcement. The discussion was timed to coincide with the commemoration of Nakba, when the Palestinians say they were expelled from their ancestral home when Israel was founded in 1948.
But the church faced strong criticism for renting out its space for the event, despite distancing itself from the actual discussion. Jewish groups said that the panelists were known for legitimizing terrorist acts and supporting the armed resistance against Israel.
Members of the board of the Redeemer Episcopal Church said they began receiving threats via email and on the phone accusing them of being anti-Semitic for allowing the event to take place in their venue.
As a result of the controversy, the board decided to cancel the event.
“The Church was receiving threats and online groups were writing untrue things about the nature of the event that caused concern and fear that led to the cancelation of the event,” said Caleb DeJong, a DSA member.
A protest rally had been planned by Jewish groups in opposition to the event. However, tonight rally organizers said they would celebrate instead.
Many planned to show up at the church Tuesday night to thank it for canceling the event, according to a rally organizer and local Astoria high school teacher Zelig Krymko.
Krymko said he also wanted to thank those people who spoke out in opposition to it. He said the event essentially provided “a platform to those who praise the murder of Jews in the Holy Land” and “Jihad supporters.”
He referred to the event as a “BDS anti-Israel hate fest.”