Protesters rally for jailed Berkeley radical, condemn security fence

About 50 protesters gathered outside the Consulate General of Israel in San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon on behalf of a Berkeley activist who, as of Wednesday, remained in an Israeli jail in Hadera, awaiting deportation.

Kate Raphael, 44, is a longtime Berkeley radical. A Jewish lesbian, she is one of the founders of QUIT, Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism, and has been active with Women in Black, a feminist anti-occupation group.

Protesters chanted “Israel, Israel, free our friend, the occupation’s got to end!” as they circled with candles in front of the consulate on Montgomery Street.

Signs called for an end to aid to Israel and to “Stop the Apartheid Wall.” Although Israel says a security fence is needed to protect its citizens from suicide bombings, Palestinians oppose it, saying that it is confiscating their land and making life more difficult for them.

The rally attracted those drawn to other radical causes. Representatives of the International Action Center handed out pamphlets on an upcoming forum on resisting imperialism in Latin America. But many of the signs called for Raphael’s release.

For the past four months, Raphael has been living in the West Bank village of Hares, under the auspices of the International Women’s Peace Service. She began Neighbor to Neighbor, a project to educate Israelis about the conditions in the West Bank.

Raphael was arrested Dec. 31, along with seven other activists, and charged with being in a closed military zone. Three of the activists are Israeli and four are internationals, including Gustav Fridolin, a Swedish member of parliament.

Deeg Gold of Oakland, a fellow member of QUIT, blasted the accusation as a phony charge “that [the Israelis] levy anytime they arrest someone.”

At the time of her arrest, Raphael was videotaping Israeli military actions in the Palestinian village of Budrus, where activists have been gathering to demonstrate against the security fence.

According to demonstrators, many olive trees have had to be uprooted and houses demolished to clear way for the building of the fence. She has had limited access to her lawyer since her arrest.

“The building of this wall is devastating so many Palestinian communities,” said Jennifer Beach, a Women in Black member from San Francisco. “Kate didn’t want all the attention; the wall is the greater issue.”

Omer Caspi, vice consul general of Israel, defended the security fence Wednesday as necessary to prevent attacks against Israeli civilians.

Both he and Steve Berley, director of Israel programs at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, did not want to comment on the charges against Raphael.

But Berley, who came to the protest as an observer, pointed out that the IWPS is closely linked to the International Solidarity Movement. The ISM sends mostly international volunteers to act as “human shields” against the Israeli army, and furthermore, “openly condones and advocates for violence at same time,” Berley said.

j. staff writer Joe Eskenazi contributed to this report.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."