News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
A passionate march and rally unfolded in downtown Chappaqua on Saturday as more than 100 protestors, including students from Horace Greeley High School, demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Some tense moments arose during the event with counter-protestors.
Organized by a pair of Horace Greeley High School students and titled “March for Peace,” many carried signs and waved the Palestinian flag, calling on Israel to immediately end its offensive by agreeing to a ceasefire with Hamas.
They also pressed the U.S. government to stop providing weapons to Israel.
Fighting has raged since Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took more than 230 hostages in a series of unprovoked civilian attacks on Oct. 7. An estimated 132 hostages remain in captivity.
The Gaza Health Ministry has recently approximated its death toll at more than 27,000 since Israel launched its response to the attacks.
“How many more have to die before the United States stops supplying Israel with an endless stream of weapons,” Cass Sandt, one of the co-organizers, said during the roughly 90-minute event.
But Deborah Katchko-Gray, a longtime cantor and supporter of Israel, said she worries whether events like Saturday’s might further fuel incidents of antisemitism.
She stressed how citizens have a right to be critical of Israeli policies, but for anyone protesting, she would like to know whether they believe Israel has a right to exist. She wondered whether critics focused concern on nations that have a long record of human rights abuses, such as Syria, China and North Korea.
“If you want to be critical of Israel’s policies, what exactly are you being critical of?” said Katchko-Gray, who has led synagogue congregations in Westchester and Connecticut for more than 40 years. “Are you going to take that same criticism and apply it to other nations? If you’re not willing to do that, then I believe it is antisemitic.”
She also expressed concerns about organizations that seem to be involved, such as WESPAC, the White Plains-based nonprofit, and Jewish Voice for Peace, which she said might be influencing high school and college students when they don’t possess all the facts.
Yet Chappaqua resident Randa Sauerborn, who is of Palestinian descent, said there can be no justification for Israel’s response following the Oct. 7 massacre. She decried a lack of humanitarian aid as well.
“They are innocent civilians,” Sauerborn said. “What are they doing? What is Israel doing?”
The protestors gathered near the Chappaqua train station and then made the five-minute walk to the gazebo on South Greeley Avenue. When they arrived a group of about a dozen counter-protestors were waiting, some carrying Israeli flags.
New Castle police kept most of the counter-protestors across the street from the gazebo, but that didn’t stop periodic shouting at one another.
In one instance shortly before the end of the rally, a counter-protestor holding an Israeli flag crossed South Greeley Avenue and shouted obscenities at the protestors. Police quickly stepped between him and the protestors.
Golan Bramli, an Israeli who now lives in Chappaqua, said he was angered at the lies and misrepresentations voiced at the rally and felt compelled to stand in opposition. Bramli was especially outraged at the use of the word genocide.
Despite being highly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he believed should have already been replaced, Bramli said Israel needs to defeat Hamas. He also pointed out how many Palestinians live peacefully together with Israelis in his homeland.
“They say Israel is committing genocide of Palestinians? How many Arab civilians do we have? How many Arabs live in Israel?” Bramli said. “You have Palestinians in the Israeli government. We let them vote. You say we (commit) genocide? We have two million Palestinians who live in Israel.”
Several speakers during the protest pointed out that their supporters included a fair number of American Jews, who are distressed at the level of death. One of those was co-organizer Millie Schwartz, also a student at Horace Greeley High School, who said the incessant bombing of Gaza by Israel goes against her faith.
“A lot of us here are Jewish,” Schwartz said. “It’s within Jewish values of teaching Tikun Olam, to try and repair the genocide and realize that’s happening in Gaza right now, and try to bring peace to the world.”
In an interview with The Examiner before the march and rally, Sandt said she condemned Hamas for its attacks, but rejects the notion that the attacks justify the response.
Another participant, Tim Klem of Chappaqua, had some harsh words for the New Castle Town Board. He believes the board is sowing division in town.
The decision to fly the Israeli flag outside of Town Hall was offensive to many in the town’s fairly sizable Muslim and Palestinian communities, Klem added.
He also said he was forwarded social media posts from Supervisor Victoria Tipp who he claimed unsuccessfully sought ways to quash granting the permit to authorize the march and the rally to be held. Barriers were placed to prevent more movement around the gazebo, he said.
“They have done everything today to block this event from happening,” Klem remarked. “I wanted (the Town Board) to join us today. They’re not here. They didn’t want to listen to us. They don’t want to hear what we had to say. They can’t face the truth and they will not listen to us; they will not listen to me even before I speak.”
Reached after the rally, Tipp told The Examiner that the concern expressed to the group centered around safety, not an attempt to deny a permit.
“The police chief was mostly concerned about safety,” Tipp said. “Their original request to walk down (South) Greeley (Avenue) across the state roadway could be unsafe. Some people had expressed a worry for safety of the students, and the train station circle and gazebo seemed a better and safer option.”
Tipp also said the barriers that were erected were to protect the town’s Holocaust memorial, including lanterns placed there to represent the hostages. The town was also protecting the covered natural turf field, she said.
The original date for the protest was Saturday, Jan. 27, but Klem said the organizers had inadvertently scheduled it for International Holocaust Remembrance Day and sought to reschedule.
Sandt denied that the student organizers are being manipulated and they invited WESPAC and Jewish Voice for Peace to participate.
“We are all here on our own terms,” Sandt said.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/