Gaza kindles rallies on opposing sides

By Chris Erspamer
Published: February 2009

Boston’s pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian communities mobilized during the 22 days of heavy fighting in Gaza from December 27 to January 18.

Even though the fighting in Gaza has died down and Israeli troops are withdrawing, some protesters remain dissatisfied, believing that Israel’s blockade of Gaza serves as an obstacle to the people’s recovery, and pro-Israel groups remain adamant that Israel’s actions were justified.

Pro-Israeli associations such as the Boston Israeli Action Committee, several synagogues, and the Boston chapter of the Anti-Defamation League began sponsoring several counter-protests to rallies by pro-Palestinian groups.

“We consider the blockade itself to be a war, pro-Palestinian activist and rally organizer Ahmad Kawash said. “As long as Israel is depriving people of food and infrastructure and basic needs, it is still killing civilians.

At a rally in Copley Square, over 500 people, listening to various speakers, maintained that Israel was acting in self-defense and claimed that many leaders of the peace movement were openly biased against Israel.

According to Dexter Van Zile, a media analyst of the pro-Israeli CAMERA organization and one of the main speakers at the event, demonstrators were concerned not only at the conflict itself but also at how it was being portrayed in the US.

“Since 2001, Palestinian terrorists have been launching rockets and killing hundreds of Israelis civilians, and no one condemned these attacks, Zile said. “Yet, as soon as Israel acts to protect its citizens, the antiwar groups start calling the conflict a genocide.

John Harris, co-founder of the Stop the Wars Coalition, believes the worldwide protest greatly contributed to bringing about the ceasefire last month and also helped put pressure on the United States to cut back on its support for Israel.

“The US is a main cause of the instability of Gaza, so if we manage to have an impact on its policies in the region, Israel will probably be forced to end its oppression of the Palestinians. he said.

Likewise, Zile feels that the Israeli rallies have “alerted many people to the clear hostility that the so-called peace movement has against the state of Israel.

At least twenty demonstrations took place throughout the end of December and the first half of January, some involving nearly 1,000 people, with the last protest being held on January 16, just two days before a cease-fire suspended the conflict. Although no protests are currently taking place, representatives of different antiwar groups continue to meet every Tuesday, and an pro-Palestinian march in front of the Pentagon is scheduled to take place on March 21.

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