lucas - YouTube - June 17 2011
A screenshot of the YouTube video showing Koerner’s arrest last month. Photo by YouTube
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Since a video of his arrest at a Jerusalem Day parade garnered over a quarter of a million hits on YouTube in under a week, 19-year-old American Lucas Koerner has become an unwilling Internet darling. The Tufts University sophomore says he wishes it would all go away, but is still using his 15 minutes to draw attention to the plight of protesters and Palestinians.

"I never wanted this, I don't really want this, I kind of resent all this sudden surge of public attention," he says.

Koerner's arrest during a left wing Jerusalem Day demonstration was captured by an amateur videographer. In the four-and-a-half-minute clip Koerner is seen holding his American passport and discussing his views, while wearing both a Jewish skullcap and a Palestinian kafiyeh. Koerner, who is not religiously observant, says he doesn't see any dissonance in the juxtaposition of the two.

"My understanding of the Jewish ethical tradition comes primarily from my knowledge of the Jewish historical experience," he says. "I feel they are the principal determining factors: our ethical tradition, our struggles for justice, going back to the 19th-century shtetl, where my great-grandmother was hunted by the Cossacks, in pogroms."

"Every Jewish person has that memory at some point in their family. And he or she, in remaining faithful to that memory, must struggle against all forms of oppression and inequality," he adds. "That has informed my worldview, more than anything else."

Koerner, 19, says that he went to his first anti-war demonstration in Washington, D.C. on his 15th birthday, but says he remembers being against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, when he was in fourth grade.

Though disappointed that his time here was cut short by his arrest, his experiences haven't soured his belief in universal justice.

"Fundamentally, justice means solidarity with all human beings, period, and an identification with a necessity to protect them," he says. "And at the same time to fundamentally alter the circumstances which perpetuate oppression and situations that put them in harm's way."