Saturday Jan 3 Reports:US protests against Israels attacks on Gaza

New Reports on Sundays Protest at bottom of the page.

Saturdays protests

photo
Mike Kane / P-I
Supporters of Palestine march through downtown Seattle.

A supporter of Palestine waves a Palestinian flag at Westlake Plaza on Saturday after a march through downtown Seattle in protest of Israeli attacks against Hamas in Gaza.
(January 03, 2009)

Mike Kane/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Supporters of Palestine chant slogans at Westlake Plaza.
(January 03, 2009)

Mike Kane/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Two Jewish women from Seattle, Ronni Tartlet, left, and Wendy Somerson, stand with supporters of Palestine and in front of a group of Muslims lining up to pray at Westlake Plaza.
(January 03, 2009)

Mike Kane/Seattle Post-Intelligencer

· View a gallery of protest photos from Seattle

Hundreds march in Seattle to protest Israeli attacks on Gaza
By BRAD WONG
January 3 2009

Chanting “Free, free Palestine,” hundreds of people gathered in Seattle on Saturday to oppose the recent violence in the Middle East, mirroring protests worldwide that have drawn thousands as Israel has faced increasing criticism for its attacks on the Gaza Strip.

In Seattle, more than 500 people waved yellow-and-black placards and beat drums at Westlake Center to draw attention to the more than 400 Palestinians who have died from Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.

“We believe that even if a part of your body is injured, your whole body will ache from it,” said Maha Shabaneh, who has relatives in her homeland of Palestine.

Shabaneh, a 43-year-old who lives in Seattle, wants people in the United States to be more aware of the conflict in the Middle East and for President-elect Barack Obama to be bold in dealing with it.

“He won’t be successful until he tackles foreign issues,” she said. “He needs to stand on these issues and prove that he is different.”

In the crowd, Wendy Somerson, 40, a Jewish woman from Seattle, clutched a sign that read, “The State of Israel Betrays Jewish Values.”

“We don’t support collective punishment of the Palestinian people. All people are equal and all lives are equal,” said Somerson, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

“The 400 Palestinian lives. We’re mourning them just as we’re mourning the four Israeli lives,” she added, referring to those who have died recently.

Voices of Palestine and other groups, including The Church Council of Greater Seattle and Jewish Voice for Peace, organized the rally.

The protest drew a cross section of area residents, including Buddhists, Muslims, Latinos, Iraqis and U.S. military veterans.

Protesters marched northwest along Fourth Avenue to Denny Way, waving Palestinian flags and carrying mock coffins.

“Occupation is a crime,” many of them yelled before returning to Westlake Center along Fifth Avenue.

Leading the protesters was a group of Palestinian-American children, who had a makeshift stretcher with a doll splattered with red paint. Several wore bulls-eye targets that read, “Am I your next target?”

The protestors were angered by recent actions of Israel, which on Saturday sent military forces into the neighboring Gaza Strip. It was the Jewish state’s latest move in its eight-day offensive against Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, aimed at forcing the Islamist Palestinian group to stop firing rockets at Israel’s southern cities.

Israel began its aerial assault on Dec. 27, saying it wanted to halt rocket attacks after a six-month cease-fire with Hamas expired Dec. 19. The Israeli army contends that militants have launched more than 3,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israel since the beginning of 2008.

For their part, Hamas refused to renew the cease-fire because it says Israel had not eased its economic blockade of Gaza, and launched 70 rockets at Israel the day before the cease-fire ended.

Officials estimate more than 435 Palestinians died since Israel started its offensive. Four Israelis have also died in the violence. The United Nations estimates at least a quarter of the Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes on Hamas militants were civilians.

The Israeli government has rejected calls for a temporary cease-fire, saying it would be a “mistake” to give the movement time to rearm and regroup. Hamas, which denies Israel’s right to exist, seized control of Gaza in 2007 after a brief power-sharing arrangement with Abbas, of the rival Fatah movement.

In late December, the American Jewish Committee’s Greater Seattle Chapter released a statement, saying that Israel supports a two-state solution for coexistence but that Hamas “calls for Israel’s destruction.”

Before Israel launched its attacks, the group said, government leaders encouraged Hamas to stop its “reign of terror.”

“We mourn the loss of innocent lives, but it is important to understand that these tragic losses flow directly from Hamas’ reckless drive to undermine and destroy Israel — whatever the cost,” the statement reads. “We also hope and pray that Hamas and its supporters soon come to their senses and choose the path of peace.”

Although many people on Saturday applauded the protesters, Seattle resident Erin Lee, 30, walked by Westlake Center and questioned their actions.

“I’m definitely for Israel,” she said. “Palestine has done attacks in the past. It’s an ongoing fight.”

Throughout Saturday’s protest and during the march, Everett resident George Bentley, 46, waved an Israeli flag. At times, some protesters stood near him and tried to put their signs in front of him.

“I am here to support Israel while they defend themselves from a vicious series of attacks that have been going on since the day that Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip,” Bentley said.

Bentley is neither Jewish nor an Israeli citizen, but said he showed up because Israel is a U.S. ally. Israel, he added, has been doing its “best” to limit civilian casualties but injured and dead people are a risk of urban warfare.

Siraj Lala, a 35-year-old from India, stood at Westlake Center with a sign that read “End Israeli Apartheid.”

“I think the best resolution is a two-state resolution,” the Redmond resident said. “That Israel has it owns state and Palestinians have their own state.”

Source

In Boston
Jan 3 2009
(Stephen Iandoli, NECN) – As images of the violence in Gaza spread throughout the world, so, too, did the sounds of protest.

From the Middle East to Asia, Africa, South America and here in Boston, groups have gathered to express disdain at what they perceive to be a “U.S.-funded Israeli aggression in Gaza.”

Hundreds congregated on Copley Square on Saturday afternoon, waving signs and banners and wearing the names of those who have died in the Gaza Strip. Surrounded by about a dozen Boston Police officers, the large group marched down, and around, Boylston Street and Downtown Crossing.

“We are trying to tell America, ‘look at what’s happening, look at the carnage that’s happening to a tiny spit of land’,” President of Gaza Mental Health Foundation Nancy Murray said at the rally.

Consul General for Israel in New England, Nadav Tamir, has said all along that his country has the right to defend itself against Hamas — a militant group to some, terrorist to others.

The next step in the escalating conflict began late Saturday, when Israel unleashed its tanks and infantry in what it said would be a “lengthy” ground attack in Gaza.

There were reportedly 12 groups that helped organize Saturday’s protest in Boston. One of the last stops along the march route had them stopping at the Israeli Consulate.

Nadav Tamir, meanwhile, said several pro-Israel rallies were planned for the coming days. He planned on attending one such rally in Rhode Island on Sunday.

Source

In New York

By RAY RIVERA

January 3 2009

Anger over the Israeli assault on Gaza spilled into Times Square on Saturday, as hundreds of protesters condemned the attacks in a demonstration that stretched four blocks and clogged much of central tourist district for several hours.

The protest came as Israeli troops began a ground incursion into the Hamas-controlled territory in what officials described as an effort to end Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel. The land campaign follows eight days of Israeli airstrikes that have killed more than 430 Palestinians, many of them civilians.

News of the escalation came midway through the demonstration and cast a pall over the crowd as it was announced over loudspeakers and crept across the news tickers nearby. But many protesters said they were not surprised, and some sounded a defiant note.

“As organized as the Palestinian community is here in the United States, we already knew this was going to happen, and I think the Palestinian people in Gaza have expected it,” said Linda Sarsour, 28, a Palestinian-American social worker from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, home to one of the country’s oldest Arab communities. “Now it’s time for Israel to come in and face the people on the ground. It’s all-out war now, and we’ll see what happens.”

Demonstrators waved signs that read “Stop Massacres in Gaza” and “End the Siege.” Speakers led the crowd in chants of “Free, free Palestine.” The protest was made up predominantly of people of Middle Eastern or Arab descent, but also included Jewish groups, students and others who support an independent Palestinian state. Many, whether Palestinian or not, wore black-and-white kaffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian scarf, and waved Palestinian flags.

Police cordoned off part of the sidewalk and a lane and a half of Seventh Avenue from 42nd Street to 38th Street to accommodate the crowd. The demonstrators then marched in a slow procession along 42nd Street to the Israeli Consulate on Second Avenue.

The protesters drowned out a small counterdemonstration of a few dozen people who gathered across Seventh Avenue from the larger crowd before also moving to the Consulate. They waved Israeli and American flags, and carried banners condemning Hamas, one of the two main Palestinian political groups that since 2007 has been in control of the Gaza Strip.

“Blame Hamas; Destroy Hamas,” read a banner carried by Buddy Macy, a 52-year-old small-business owner from New Jersey who helped organize the counterprotest.

The two groups hurled insults — each calling the other racists and terrorists — but mostly kept their distance. The police said there were no arrests.

The anger mirrored tensions that have played on a global stage. The Arab world and several foreign leaders have condemned the attacks, and the United Nations has called for a cease-fire. Israel and the Bush administration have defended the attacks, saying Hamas provoked the airstrikes by firing rockets into southern Israel. At least four Israelis had died from Hamas rockets before the ground assault began.

“They may say, sure, this is disproportional and only a few Israelis have died,” Mr. Macy said. “Why is this disproportional? You have to protect yourselves. If you and your family lived in a home and there was a rocket within a hundred meters of you, wouldn’t you call the National Guard? Wouldn’t you call everyone you could?”

Many in the pro-Palestinian crowd brought their children, and came from towns and mosques across the region to be there. Ned Abu Irsid, 40, a gas station owner in Monroe, in Orange County, drove his wife and three children two hours to join the demonstration. His children, ages 10, 8, and 5, were bundled up in down jackets to protect them from the winter chill. Two of them waved small American flags, the other a Palestinian flag.

“The massacre of the Palestinian people is really a horrible thing,” Mr. Irsid said, “and that’s the least we can do, is to come down and make our voices heard a little bit.”

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.

Source

Protesters here implore Israel to halt bombing

ST. LOUIS

“We want to talk. Interview us.”

The three little girls were too adorable to resist. Their olive-colored skin accented their deep chocolate eyes and dark hair. Ayah, 8, the leader of the group, tapped me on the leg with a pink gloved hand. Her companions, Juhaina, 9, and Asalla, 7, stood with her, nervously bouncing on tiptoe at the idea of being interviewed.

It was cold Thursday, the first day of the new year. I had driven to the corner of Lindell and Grand boulevards to attend the Instead of War Coalition’s demonstration in “solidarity with the people of Gaza.”

It was the seventh day of the military blitz Israeli officials say they launched in retaliation of rockets fired by the militant group Hamas. The tally that evening left 420 dead and more than 2,000 wounded, according to Palestinian emergency services. United Nations officials said about 25 percent of the dead are civilians. According to international aid agencies, hundreds of homes have been obliterated, and food, fuel and medical supplies are all running short.

“We want all them to stop the bombing now,” said Ayah. “We don’t want any more Palestinian people to die.”

Juhaina was a bit more shy. After I asked why she had attended the demonstration, the girl struggled for words before settling on a somewhat lyrical response:

“Um, ’cause we’re from Palestine, too, and ’cause, um, we just want to say… Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry, Palestine will never die.”

A wave of shame rushed over me. I had no intention of using Juhaina’s poem. Her words indicate favoritism for the people of Gaza. Columns I have written in the past about the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis have received voluminous, angry responses. Critics claim that I’m not versed enough on the decades-long turmoil in the region to speak authoritatively. That may be true. But the columns certainly didn’t fit the “anti-Semitic” or “pro-Muslim” labels some had attached.

The responses are somewhat predictable. President George W. Bush has repeatedly stated unconditional support of Israel. Western media seem to side with the country, often citing the terrorists acts of groups like Hamas as precursors to retaliatory strikes. To many Americans, “Muslim” automatically equates with “terrorism.” They don’t consider the vast divide between violent extremists and innocent civilians.

Considering the passionate division regarding the conflict and the “with us or against us” rhetoric, I sometimes find myself hesitant to step into the fray.

However, it was the question of “loyalty” that drew me to the rally.

Local activist Hedy Epstein is part of the Instead of War group. Epstein, 84, is a Holocaust survivor who consistently speaks out against what she perceives as injustices afforded Palestinians by the Israeli government. The diminutive activist didn’t blanch when I asked if solidarity with Gaza meant automatic denouncement of Israel.

“No, it is not. I am not anti-Israel. I am anti-Israeli government policies and practices,” Epstein responded. “I know there have been rockets shot into Israel … that, too, must stop. But, in Leviticus it says you should not stand idly by when people are being hurt and killed. So standing with the Palestinians in Gaza is not anti-Semitic.”

The Rev. Elston K. McCowan, who’s running for mayor of St. Louis, also attended the rally. When asked the “solidarity” question, McCowan pointed to people in the crowd: “Jews, Christians and Muslims are among us,” he said. “This is not anti-Israeli, it’s anti-war.”

McCowan asked whether it’s “anti-American” when United States citizens protest against their government. His campaign, he added, is a protest of sorts against Mayor Francis Slay’s administration, McCowan said: “We’re not anti-St. Louis. It’s just something we ought to do.”

The little girls I met Thursday brought me face-to-face with my own cowardice and what I “ought to do.” How dare I fret about angry readers when innocent children who look like Ayah, Juhaina and Asalla are losing their lives?

No matter how uninformed I may be about the nuances of tyranny in Gaza and Israel, I instinctively know that bombing kills, not only the “bad guys” but innocent men, women and children, too.

It’s a point Faten Salem, another local Palestinian-American at the rally, graciously articulated:

“I’m a mother of four. I hate to see any mother — no matter race, religion, color, background or culture — go through this. In Gaza, there’s no medicine and no food. It breaks my heart as a mother,” Salem said.

Official versions of Salem’s observations have been echoed by spokesmen for the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League, the European Union and other international voices calling for a cease-fire.

That night, I also met sisters Banan and Badia Ead. Both were born in the United States but lived in Ramallah in the West Bank during heavily restricted, but less deadly, times. Banan, 30, and Badia, 24, described the bombings as “a completely disproportionate use of force against a civilian population.”

“The people dying over there are not Hamas, they’re Palestinians, and they’re human beings,” Banan explained. “I can’t imagine how the people feel right now to have bombs dropped on them and then to be blamed for those bombs.”

Badia is aware and empathizes with the fear Israelis experience from Hamas-launched rockets. However, she said “We always hear that Israelis are living in fear and want security, but we never hear that the Palestinians are living in fear, too, and our greatest fears are coming to fruition. We actually are dying, and our buildings are being destroyed.”

Bombing Gaza or Israel will not bring about peace, the sisters insist. Badia prays that “voices of reason” from U.S. leaders will help stem the violence. Banan wants both the bombings and rocket attacks that are “killing children, killing people, human beings … to just stop.”

The sisters’ plea matched comments from others I met Thursday night, including an 84-year-old activist and Holocaust survivor, a grieving Palestinian mother and three, dark-eyed, precious little girls.

Their innocent faces override my petty concerns about misplaced loyalty and vicious reader response. I don’t need a depth of understanding to confidently repeat Ayah’s wish:

“Stop the bombing now.”

To view interviews with
Ayah, Juhaina, Asalla and
others in this column go to:
http://qik.com/stltoday.
Source

Gaza protests in St. Petersburg

By Keith Baker
January 3 2009

Protests about conflict in Gaza

Protests about conflict in Gaza

ST. PETERSBURG, FL

The conflict in the Gaza strip brought out loud opinions in Pinellas County.  About 100 people showed up in support of the Palestinian view while a smaller group stood across the Baywalk area holding signs supporting Israel.

St. Petersburg Police were on hand to keep the protest peaceful but it didn’t prevent the shouting and the expressing of opinions.

Nothing in the demonstration resulted in arrests.  Both sides agreed peace is necessary and the fighting needs to end.

The protest was organized by groups called ANSWER, Rise up Tampa Bay and St. Pete for Peace while counter protests showed up after publicity of the protest became known.

Source

In San Francisco

– Since the Israeli offensive against Gaza began a week ago, 18-year-old San Francisco City College student Ahmed Alkhatib can check in with his family only once a day – and that’s if the phones work.

Demonstrators march through downtown San Francisco to protest Israel’s military action in Gaza. (Kim Komenich / The Chronicle)

Demonstrators march through downtown San Francisco to pro... (Kim Komenich / The Chronicle)

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Otherwise, Alkhatib can only hope that his parents, two brothers and two sisters will stay safe in their Gaza home as they watch bombs fall around them. And, much like tens of thousands of people around the world did Saturday, he can protest.

Alkhatib and hundreds of others who flocked to San Francisco’s Market Street on Saturday evening said they were there to protest the Israeli ground invasion, which began earlier that day. But they also had their sights set closer to home: Many said they want to urge American leaders and citizens to oppose any financial support of the Israeli government by boycotting and divesting from companies that support the Middle East state.

“I do feel powerless and guilty, because I am part of the (American) establishment that is financing and supplying the occupation,” said Alkhatib, a Pacifica resident who came to the United States three years ago as an exchange student and was unable to return to Gaza because of the violence.

“But I also feel powerful,” he said. “If I wasn’t here, there would be nobody to talk about my family, nobody to tell, through my family’s story, that the violence is not just compromising one family, it is compromising thousands.”

The San Francisco rally began with several hundred demonstrators gathering around 5 p.m. at Market and Powell streets. By 6 p.m., the crowd – many of them waving Palestinian flags and wearing head scarves – had swelled to about 500, and marched up Market Street to City Hall. There were no counterprotests, as there have been in days past.

Many protesters, such as San Francisco resident Ateyeh Ateyeh, were Palestinian.

“This is the least we could do to protest our government’s action,” said the U.S. citizen who fled the West Bank in 1989 and brought his wife and four children to the rally. “We don’t want to say, ‘Support the Palestinians.’ … We just want to say, ‘Stay neutral, stop sending American planes and our tax dollars.’ ”

Many simply urged peace.

Francesca Rosa, a 54-year-old San Francisco resident, held an olive branch in one hand and a Palestinian flag in the other. And Natalie Hrizi, also of San Francisco, garnered loud cheers as she spoke to the crowd through a bullhorn.

“Palestine isn’t just about Palestine – it’s about all of us who stand for peace,” she said. “It’s about all of us who stand against racism and for justice.”

The San Francisco rally – the fifth of the week – was small and peaceful compared to many elsewhere in the world.

In Europe, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in major cities Saturday against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

In London, at least 10,000 people marched past Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Downing Street residence to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Outside Downing Street, hundreds of protesters threw shoes at the gates that block entry to the narrow road.

Shoe-throwing has become a popular way to express protest and contempt since an Iraqi journalist pelted President Bush with a pair in Baghdad last month.

Rallies also were held in other British cities – including Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Elsewhere in Europe, protests in Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Berlin all drew big crowds.

In Paris, police said 21,000 marched through the streets, shouting “We are all Palestinians” and “Israel assassin.” Later, about 500 protesters threw objects at police, burned Israeli flags, overturned and torched cars, and vandalized several shops, police said.

Angry protests continued for a second day in Turkey, where about 5,000 demonstrators in Ankara shouted “killer Israel.”

In the Netherlands, thousands of people marched through Amsterdam. One banner declared: “Anne Frank is turning in her grave. Oh Israel!”

In Athens, a few of the 5,000 protesters threw stones and gasoline bombs at police outside the Israeli Embassy. Riot police retaliated with tear gas and stun grenades.

More protests are planned, including another in San Francisco at noon today at Powell and Market streets. On Saturday, there is an 11 a.m. event in San Francisco’s Civic Center.

Source

Just Added January 5 2009

Sunday Jan 4 Report: Protests in Canada against Attack in Gaza

Sunday Jan 4  Reports: US protests against Attack in Gaza

Sunday Jan 4 Reports: Protests around the World Against Gaza assault

Reports From Jan 4 2009

Saturday Jan 3 Reports:Canadian Protesters march in support of Palestinians

Saturday  Reports on: Demonstrations Against Israels attacks on Gaza, January 3, 2009 London Paris etc

Friday Jan 2 Reports:Muslims around the world protest Gaza assault

December Reports

December 29 Reports:Global protests against Israel

Published in: on January 4, 2009 at 2:47 am  Comments Off on Saturday Jan 3 Reports:US protests against Israels attacks on Gaza  
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