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Friday, May 24, 2024
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Chalkings supporting Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis are pictured on the State Street intersection of Capitol Square in Madison, WI on Saturday, May 4, 2023. The individual in the photo declined to provide their name.

Antisemitic chalkings promoting Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis found at Dane County Farmers Market alongside rhetoric endorsing violence

Hezbollah, the Houthis and Hamas are designated as terror groups by the United States.

Antisemitic chalk messages endorsing Hezbollah, the Houthis and the military wing of Hamas — all of which are designated as terror groups by the United States — were found at the Dane County Farmers Market on Saturday alongside messages endorsing violence against Israelis and Zionists.

The chalkings, located on the corner of State, Mifflin and Carroll Streets in downtown Madison, contained messages praising Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

Chalkings included “Al-Qassam you make us proud, kill another soldier now,” “Power to Al-Qassam'' and “Al-Qassam show us how, kill another soldier now.” Other chalkings said “Power to Hezbollah,” “Power to Ansrallah [Houthis] Seize them All,” “Down with ‘Israel’ down with ‘USA’” and “All cops are Zionists.”

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Chalking supporting Hezbollah is pictured on the State Street intersection of Capitol Square in Madison, WI on Saturday, May 4, 2023.

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Chalkings supporting Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis are pictured on the State Street intersection of Capitol Square in Madison, WI on Saturday, May 4, 2023.

Hamas is the militant ruling group of Gaza that Israel declared war on following Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel. Hamas fighters during the attacks killed at least 1,200 civilians, took more than 230 hostages and led to dozens of reports of sexual violence, according to a United Nations report.

Hezbollah is a political party and militant group in Lebanon. The group called for the destruction of the Israeli state as part of its first 1985 manifesto and is responsible for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people, Argentina’s highest criminal court declared in April.

The Houthis are a U.S. Specially Designated Global Terrorist group and militant political group based in Yemen. In the wake of the American invasion of Iraq, the Houthis adopted the slogan: “God is great, death to the U.S., death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam,” according to the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy group.

“I can't believe this was something I was seeing in a city that I call home,” said Libby Cohen, a University of Wisconsin-Madison senior who passed the chalkings Saturday morning. “It makes me feel like I'm not wanted in Wisconsin or on earth.”

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Two individuals seen chalking messages in support of Al-Qassam told a reporter from The Daily Cardinal they were not part of any group and declined to give their names.

After the reporter took photos of the chalkings, which were located on a public street, an individual chalking the messages approached the reporter and asked, “Why are you such a f—ing p—y?”

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Chalkings supporting Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis are pictured on the State Street intersection of Capitol Square in Madison, WI on Saturday, May 4, 2023. The individual pictured declined to provide their name.

The chalkings come as a coalition of local groups, including Mecha de UW-Madison, Madison for Palestine and Anticolonial UW, held events in Madison this week as part of Week4Palestine, an annual, weeklong event advocating for Palestinian liberation.

One of the scheduled Week4Palestine events was a chalking event at the Dane County Farmers Market scheduled from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday, according to a Tuesday post on Instagram from Madison for Palestine.

The Cardinal first found chalkings endorsing Al-Qassam at 10:17 a.m. and found more chalkings endorsing Al-Qassam, Hezbollah and the Houthis throughout Saturday afternoon.

When asked by a Cardinal reporter for comment about the chalkings, both Anticolonial and Mecha said they do not talk to the press.

Week4Palestine was handing out flyers at the chalking event around 12:15 p.m.

A Madison Police Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking if the department was investigating the chalkings. 

Banner picturing a Hamas spokesperson paraded in downtown Madison

The chalkings come amid an earlier incident of pro-Hamas rhetoric near the Capitol and on the UW-Madison campus.

On Thursday, two people marching as part of a group from Capitol Square to Library Mall were pictured carrying a “Glory to the Resistance” banner. The banner depicted the green headbands worn by Hamas, and the group later entered the encampment space on Library Mall and chanted “Zionists are Nazis,” “Israel is not real” and “USA is not real,” according to photos and videos obtained by the Cardinal.

The image portrayed a widely circulated photo of Abu Obeida, the spokesperson of Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas militant group. 

Pro-Palestine protesters march down State Street on May 2, 2024 in Madison, Wis.

(Note: the tweet embedded below is for comparative purposes only and does not reflect the views of The Daily Cardinal.)

In a statement to the Cardinal, Anti-Defamation League Midwest Regional Director David Goldenberg said that regardless of who committed the incidents, it makes Jewish people feel unsafe.

“It’s obvious through the messages and signage of what these protesters are celebrating and calling for,” Goldenberg said. “For them, this is about violence towards Jews, the elimination of Jews from campus and the celebration of violence against Jews.”

Pro-Palestine Jake Piper Day 4 -04.jpg

A number of local groups, including Madison for Palestine, Mecha de UW-Madison and Anticolonial UW, collaboratively posted a photo at the Capitol building with the banner visible on Thursday, calling it a “beautiful scene” in the Instagram post. 

When asked by a Cardinal reporter for press comment over Instagram direct message, Anticolonial UW and Mecha blocked the reporter’s account. Madison for Palestine did not respond.

The Thursday demonstration took place at the same time as an annual May Day rally for immigrants’ rights at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Immigrants’ rights advocacy group Voces de la Frontera Action hosted the May Day event, and student demonstrators from Madison East and Madison West high schools participated, as they have in previous years.

It's unclear which group made the banner. It was first spotted midday Thursday by a Cardinal staffer. 

A Madison Metropolitan School District spokesperson said the district did not organize nor sponsor the event at the Capitol, and Voces de la Frontera Action President Christine Neumann-Ortiz said the banner was “absolutely inappropriate” in an email statement to the Cardinal.

She said it was not made by anyone involved in the May Day event and that an unknown individual concealed by a scarf carrying the banner joined the event during the event. Additionally, Neumann-Ortiz said she was unaware of its significance until the Cardinal approached Voces de la Frontera Action.

“Voces de la Frontera Action and partner student organizations have no association, support for, or endorsement of the statement made on the banner linked to Hamas,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “Our organization is committed to defending the rights of immigrant workers, families, and multiracial youth through peaceful and inclusive means.”

Encampment organizers say they ‘can’t control’ who enters Library Mall space

SJP organizers said they cannot control which other organizations come into the Library Mall space, but said those who choose to be part of the encampment must abide by their community guidelines and be in line with their demands. 

“We can't control their actions and can't limit them from coming to the space because, again, this is a community space,” said SJP organizer Alivia, who only provided their first name. “This is Ho-Chunk land first, so we are all technically colonizers on this land.”

When asked about the Hamas rhetoric in the banner, Alivia said they can’t account for everyone’s perspective, but that “so many people are here at very different stages and learning about what a free Palestine means.”

Alivia said what’s “most important” about the encampment’s mission were teach-in events, community dialogues and community meals.

“This is not about Hamas,” said another SJP student organizer Abbie Klein, who is Jewish. “This is about the genocide of Palestinians, and that's what our encampment is focused on.”

Jewish senior Ben Newman, who passed the banner on the way to class, said Obeida’s (the Hamas spokesperson) face and characteristic stance where he has his finger pointing to the sky were “immediately” recognizable. Newman said it looked like the outside group was “welcomed by the people there” and said he saw student protesters taking part in the chants, calling the sights “chilling.”

“Hamas are, by every measure, an antisemitic organization, and frankly, with fascist tendencies, and it's horrifying to see people supporting the organization,” Newman said. 

Another video captured by Newman shows a student wrapping Tefillin — a ritual act performed by Jewish men — while the group walks down State Street, and a later clip depicts the “Zionists are Nazis” chant. Multiple members of the encampment met up with the outside protesters at the intersection of State and Lake Street in video footage.

Newman said he strongly supports the freedom of speech of pro-Palestine protesters, but said it was “very upsetting” when he saw classmates reciting the chant in the crowd. He felt Jewish groups get gaslit in ways other minorities don’t when it comes to defining hatred.

“I don't expect you to agree with my politics as a Jewish student, but I do expect you to respect my humanity,” Newman said. “Listen to us when we say something is antisemitic or something is rhetoric that is actually calling for something really dangerous.”

Pro-Palestine Jewish protester Mia Kurzer, who was in the encampment Thursday morning, said she advocated for the chant not to be used and said it hasn’t been used since. In conversations afterward, she said most people disagreed with its use.

“A lot of people agreed that it would put us at risk to use that chant because we can understand how it would give people a reason to be against us, even if a minor few agree with the chant,” Kurzer said.

The SJP organizers reiterated they can’t speak for everyone on Library Mall. 

“This isn’t about dissonance or lack thereof between different groups because obviously, groups of people are going to have expansive different ideologies,” Klein said. “This isn't about various pieces of imagery that may or may not appear here, because again, this is a community space that we're building for a wide variety of people.”

Other recent incidents of pro-Hamas and pro-Hezbollah protests have been reported on college campuses, though such incidents have been rare.

Stanford University forwarded an encampment photo of an unidentified individual to the FBI after he wore a green headband also worn by Hamas combatants, according to the Stanford Daily. The flag of southern Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah was spotted at the encampment sit-in at Princeton University, according to the Daily Princetonian.

Sophia Vento of The Daily Cardinal contributed to this report.

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Jasper Bernstein

Jasper Bernstein is the Associate News Editor for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @jasperberns.

Rachel Hale

Rachel Hale is a senior staff writer who covers state politics and campus events. Before getting involved with The Daily Cardinal, she was a culture editor at Moda Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @rachelleighhale.

Tyler Katzenberger

Tyler Katzenberger is the managing editor at The Daily Cardinal. As a former state news editor, he covered numerous protests and wrote state politics, healthcare, business and in-depth stories. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerKatzen.

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