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August 12 demonstrations against U.S.-Israeli wars
New step for the antiwar struggle

By John Coursey | August 25, 2006 | Page 11

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Some 15,000 people converged on the White House to protest the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Lebanon in one of several actions across the country on August 12.

The fact that Arabs and Muslims mobilized to attend this march is an important step for the antiwar movement. Ten buses came from Dearborn, Mich., and seven from New York City, but many people organized themselves to get there.

The demonstration was called by the ANSWER Coalition, the National Council of Arab-Americans (NCA) and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation (MAS Freedom). The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) also mobilized.

Many Lebanese Christians turned out--some carrying signs that said, "Christian, Druze, Muslim--all Lebanese." Palestinians also had a large showing and enthusiastically repeated the chant, "Free, free Palestine!"

Many people carried signs displaying pictures of dead Lebanese. An Arab-American girl's sign asked, "Is killing children self-defense?" "That's not called self-defense, that's called terrorism," argued Elissar Adul-Kahlek, a Lebanese-American woman who attended the protest with her family from Maryland.

U.S. support for Israel received much attention from speakers. "This mass killing by Israeli war criminals could not have happened without U.S. complicity," argued the NCA's Dr. Mounzer Sleiman. Dr. Sleiman received great applause after adding, "the aid the U.S. gives to Israel should be given to Lebanon to rebuild their homes."

The "right to resist" was a central theme of rally speakers and signs. Chants such as "Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, people have the right to fight back" echoed through the streets.

"Hezbollah is the only group that has challenged the U.S. and Israel. The Arab governments haven't," said Walid Zeidan, a Palestinian-American. "If they really want peace and not to create dozens of Hezbollah, first there needs to be justice."

Jafar Jafari of the NCA added from the rally stage, "We must extend our salute and solidarity with the resistance fighters who are fighting for our generation's freedom and the next generation's freedom in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine...So long as there's occupation throughout history, resistance is always the answer."

Many noted how the ceasefire announced the day before unfairly favored Israel. "The ceasefire should call for Israeli forces to disarm," argued Osia Rizvi, an Arab-American activist from New York. "It's not Hezbollah that should disarm when Israel is occupying their country."

The August 12 demonstration was a coming-out for Arabs and Muslims who the U.S. government has tried to intimidate into silence. Arabs and Muslims, who face racial profiling and attacks on their civil liberties here at home, should play a key role in any movement to stop U.S. from waging war abroad. And the antiwar movement will be stronger for putting their struggle at the center of it.

-- In San Francisco, about 5,000 people marched on August 12. Speakers included the NCA's Jess Ghannam; Hatem Baziam, a Palestinian and Islamic Studies professor at the University of California-Berkeley; and the Green Party's Todd Chretien and Krissy Keefer. "The invasion of Lebanon is not a second war, but a second front in the U.S. war in the Middle East," said Chretien.

The Break the Siege coalition is planning a "Live from Lebanon and Palestine" meeting on August 29. Go to breakthesiege.net for more information.

-- In Los Angeles, a pair of tennis court-sized flags, one Lebanese and one Palestinian, were carried along the 1,000-person march in Los Angeles on August 12. Protesters chanted, "From Beirut to Jenin, stop the Israeli war machine!" A range of antiwar organizations, Arab-American organizations and local mosques, turned out.

The fact that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa didn't attend wasn't lost on protesters. The Democrat had found time to show his support, alongside Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for Israel's war at a rally last month.

-- In San Diego, more than 300 protesters marched on August 12 in a protest initiated by the NCA and Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition.

Rick, a 56-year-old Argentine, said he was there to support "the struggle of the Lebanese people to free themselves from Israeli occupation. You don't have to be from the Middle Ease to help." A Mexican-American woman carried a sign that read "Arabes y Mexicanos, unidos por la justicia" (Arabs and Mexicans, united for justice).

-- In Burlington, Vt., 100 people protested at City Hall on August 12. Jamie Brooks from Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel told the crowd, "The new UN resolution will not stop the war in Lebanon. In fact, Israel got exactly what they wanted."

-- In Santa Cruz, Calif., 30 people held a "Shame on Israel" protest, despite the 100 pro-Israel protesters chanting "Keep the bombs dropping." The next week, 45 people turned out for a forum on "Why does the U.S. support Israeli terror?" including speakers from ANSWER, Students Against War and the ISO.

Owen Goodwin, Steve Ramey, David Russitano and Robert Skeels contributed to this report.

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