How does it feel to be a Jewish advocate for Israel amidst pro-Palestinian protests? Isidore Karten, a real estate entrepreneur from New York and a pro-Israel activist, fearlessly engages with these demonstrations, even when surrounded by hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters.
In an interview with Ynet, he asserts, "Many Israelis and Jews are afraid of these people, but we must always take pride in who we are and what we stand for, and that's what we do. We join the protests and try to show that we're here and speaking the truth."
Surely clashes arise with the protesters. "Yes, but thank God, we have the NYPD with us; the police are with us and keep us safe. We need to emphasize our freedom of expression and say that we are for Israel. We're not afraid, even if it's one against a thousand or if I am alone. If I see people supporting terrorists in Times Square in the heart of New York, I will respond."
What kind of threats do you face during these protests when you carry the Israeli flag, and what do protestors say to you? "They say everything – that we kill babies, that we're terrorists, and many other things. It hurts a lot when people accuse you of crimes they committed themselves. There are also numerous antisemitic remarks. People there try to do everything in the name of Palestine, but the truth is they're in favor of Hamas. They don't want both Palestine and Israel – they want it all. Many of them shout and say, 'We don't want two states; we want everything.' It's truly antisemitism, not just anti-Zionism or anti-Israel."
As a young Jewish man who grew up in the United States, are you surprised by the amount of support Hamas receives in New York and other cities in the country? "Truth be told, I do. In my opinion, 70% of them don't really understand what they're shouting and the significance of 'intifada.' There's a small portion that does understand, and it's even more infuriating and disheartening in those cases."
You're not afraid, but most Jews don't attend these protests or confront pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Do you feel like they're afraid? "Yes, especially in universities like Harvard or Columbia, where I studied. People there are genuinely afraid. Most of the people there are the type of Jews who sit quietly, but it shouldn't be like that anymore. We need to stand up, take pride in who we are, and also influence others to show them that they need to be brave about who they are."
You have strong ties with Israel, and unfortunately, you're also a member of a bereaved family after your uncle, Sharon Edri, was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas as an IDF soldier in 1996. Does this also drive you not to be afraid during the protests? "I was born and raised in New York, and at the age of 19, I went to Israel, enlisted in the IDF, and served as a lone soldier in the same unit as my late uncle. It's something that has been with me my entire life, and we always thought about it. I feel that if he were here, he would be really proud of me."