Rafaella Gunz
Queer, Jewish Social Worker and Writer

Dispatches from the Sticker Wars

Some stickers I put up over hateful blood libels about the war in Gaza. Featuring stickers by Queers Against Antisemitism and FCKHMS.
Some stickers I put up over hateful blood libels about the war in Gaza. Featuring stickers by Queers Against Antisemitism and FCKHMS.

It started with the Hostage Poster Project. Shortly following the October 7th massacre of 1,200 Israelis at the hands of Hamas, with over 300 being taken hostage in the Gaza Strip, Israeli artists created the campaign to raise awareness for those who were in captivity by the terrorist organization. The campaign quickly went viral, with posters of the missing people hanging up in the streets of cities across the globe. 

However, with that, came another phenomenon: the one of anti-Israel “activists,” particularly college students, callously tearing down the posters. When confronted about this behavior by Jews and our allies (as can be seen in videos around social media), many of these poster-rippers justified their behavior, deeming the photos of missing people “propaganda” and accusing those who put them up of “supporting genocide.” 

In addition to tearing down the hostage posters, other signage began popping up: stickers in a similar format as the hostage posters, but of Palestinian children allegedly killed in Israeli airstrikes, with the words “MURDERED BY ISRAEL” in big red letters. Stickers from notoriously radical anti-Israel organization Within Our Lifetime, declaring the current Israel-Hamas war a “genocide” of Palestinians. Even hand-written stickers on USPS postage labels with slogans such as “from the river to the sea” scrawled on them. In my own New York City neighborhood, just about a mile down the road from the hospital where I was born, I tore down a sticker that stated “Zionist trash out of our city.”

Sticker I found in my neighborhood demanding that “Zionist trash” get out of the city.

To combat this rampant modern-day blood libel that began to make me feel unwelcome in the city I was born and raised in, I (like many other Jews) began posting stickers to cover up the hate I saw, especially on stickers and posters that couldn’t easily be torn down. I purchased a massive roll of “I Stand With Israel” stickers, featuring the Israeli flag. I ordered FCKHMS stickers so I could support the victims of October 7th while also fighting antisemitism in the diaspora. I even got a mini thermal printer and started to create my own stickers, consisting mainly of memes about the war and people’s responses to it.

A bunch of FCKHMS stickers I ordered from Israel

While checking signs and stickers I’d pass while walking down the street became a compulsion, putting up my stickers was my own little act of rebellion against the Jew-hatred that was becoming the status quo. I carried these stickers around with me in both my work bag and purse, along with Sharpies just in case. I started to see the posting of my stickers on the streets I would frequent as a traveling mezuzah of sorts, announcing to the world that a Jew was there and helping to ward off any evil forces that might wish me or any other Jew harm. Sometimes, when I’d pass by stickers I previously posted, I’d pat them down to ensure they remained stuck. This too began to remind me of the custom of Jews touching the mezuzah of a home or a room before entering.

Some stickers I made using memes about people’s reactions to the war

It stung extra when I noticed my stickers had been torn down or covered up. One time, I was even assaulted during a confrontation after a Queers Against Antisemitism sticker I had put up in Times Square was immediately ripped down by an onlooker. After emerging from the subway on 40th Street and 7th Avenue, on my way to meet friends at Dave & Buster’s one evening, I noticed one of the Within Our Lifetime stickers accusing Israel of committing genocide, partially torn down, on a street sign. I saw a couple of guys who were loitering on the street outside the subway entrance looking at me as I posted my sticker. I didn’t think anything of it and started to walk away. I turned back and witnessed one of the two men tearing down my sticker. I quickly ran back to the spot and said, “Excuse me, I just put that up… why did you tear it down?” The man coldheartedly crumpled it up and tossed it away while mocking me and laughing with his friend, never giving me a solid answer. I still had the little piece of backing paper from the sticker in hand and, out of frustration, threw it at him. This led him to kick me in my upper thigh violently. When I asked him why he had just assaulted me, he said “You’re lucky you’re a female or I would have punched you.” The mocking and jeering by these two men continued as I put up more stickers. During this, an elderly man passed by and called me a Nazi. When I yelled back, “I’m a Jew and today is Yom HaShoah… how am I a Nazi?” the man responded saying, “If you support Israel, you’re a Nazi” before continuing on his way. Reminder: the sticker that started this argument had nothing to do with Israel. It was about being LGBTQ+ and fighting antisemitism. This interaction caused the original two men to howl in laughter. They labeled me a “Karen” and kept heckling me, recording on their phones this time, hoping to get a reaction out of me. Although I felt angry tears well up in my eyes and I didn’t want to move from that spot yet out of fear they’d just tear down my stickers again, I did my best to ignore the taunts. Eventually, the men got bored and I soon felt okay to walk away, although shaken up.

Stickers by Queers Against Antisemitism. I was assaulted in Times Square for putting up one of these.

Despite instances like this, where my physical safety in my city could be at risk, I continue to put up my stickers over hateful graffiti. I continue to let the world know that I am a proud Jew with thousands of years of history behind me. And I will continue to advocate for the unconditional release of the hostages and for Hamas to disband as a just outcome of this war — both for the sake of Israelis and of the Palestinian civilians, who have been abused for years by the kleptocratic terrorist organization running the Gaza Strip since the mid-2000s.

Now, more than at any other time in my life, I feel proud to be Jewish. And I feel proud to continue the Jewish tradition in remaining steadfast in my identity in the face of antisemitism. Bigots do not get to silence us, rewrite our history, or change our values. Jews have persisted for milennia, outliving all the brutal empires who have tried unsuccessfully to erase us. So today, and every day, it’s Am Yisrael Chai — the People of Israel Live.

About the Author
Rafaella Gunz is a writer/journalist and social worker living in NYC. She graduated with her BA from The New School in 2016 and her MSW from Wurzweiler School of Social Work in 2022. She is passionate about Jewish cultural identity, LGBTQ+ rights, and feminism. Her work has appeared in Bust Magazine, Hey Alma, Jewish Journal, Gay Star News, Deadstate, and more.
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