Wednesday, July 19, 2006

10,000 People March in Dearborn Against Israeli Aggression in Lebanon & Palestine

10,000 People March in Dearborn Against Israeli Aggression in Lebanon and Palestine

US foreign policy criticized for pro-Israeli bias against Arabs, Muslims

By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

DEARBORN, July 18, 2006 (PANW)--Thousands of Arab-Americans marched through the center of Dearborn on Tuesday demonstrating the Israeli bombing of Lebanon which was in its seventh day.

Banners and signs calling for the end to the Israeli aggression and the occupation of Lebanon and Palestine were in evidence. There were hundreds of Lebanese flags on display in the march and on car caravans which drove along Schaefer, a business strip in the heart of the largest Arab community in the United States.

The demonstration represented the broad sentiment among the Arab community in Dearborn who see the role of the United States as directly responsible for the military action of the Israeli government. The speakers who address the rally called on the immediate cessation of hostilities and for a rapid end to United States support for Israel.

People began to gather for this march at the corner of Warren Avenue and Oakman Blvd. on the border between Dearborn and Detroit. When the crowd began to march toward Schaefer Road, the group had swelled to over 10,000 people, most of whom were from the Arab-American community. All along Schaefer and Warren, people lined the streets holding Lebanese and Palestinian flags in front of many small businesses that had closed in solidarity with the Lebanese people inside the country.

As the crowd marched south on Schaefer, the crowd was diverted near Ford Road towards Hemlock Park. It had been initially announced that the demonstration would go down Schaefer to Michigan Avenue where the Dearborn City Hall is located. Dearborn Police and plainclothes security personnel blocked the street under the bridge approaching Ford Road and directed the crowd east towards Hemlock Park.

At the rally, Osama Siblani, the publisher of the Arab American News, a leading journal in the area, said that "we made a decision to bring the rally here. No one told us to do anything. The City Hall is under construction and it would not be appropriate to go there." Siblani, who is Lebanese-American, deplored the conditions people in Beirut and other cities are suffering. He severely criticized the foreign policy of the United States for giving unconditional support to Israel.

Other speakers at the rally in Hemlock Park included Rana Abbas of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Abbas said that "The sad reality is that the United States and Israel have decided that they are at liberty to determine the value of human life based on what side of the border you fall. The U.S. is just as guilty as Israel is. History will not forgive, nor will it ever forget, these crimes."

The Reverend Rani Abdulmasih, the Pastor of the Abuddant Life Arabic Church in Dearborn also address the crowd as a Christian who is totally opposed to Israeli and US policy in the region.

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the Neturei Karta International and the "Jews United Against Zionism", told the crowd that the religion of Judaism forbides the creation of a political state and he was therefore opposed to the existence of the State of Israel. Rabbi Weiss expressed his solidarity with the Palestinian and Lebanese people and asked for people to "pray for the speedy peaceful dismantling of the Zionist State."

All of the speakers at the rally condemned the corporate media coverage of the current escalation in the fighting. They all agreed that the news reporting was slated heavily in support of Israel in an attempt to justify Israeli and United States military policy towards the Palestinians and Lebanese.

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DEARBORN ANTIWAR PROTEST: 10,000 unite for Lebanon

Violence called 'appalling'; Israeli backers to rally today

BY NIRAJ WARIKOO and BEN SCHMITT
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS
July 19, 2006

Dearborn residents Nadeen Hasan and her mother, Mona Hasan, were among those marching in Dearborn in support of Lebanon on Tuesday. About 225 people have been killed in Lebanon, and 25 have died in Israel

To help Lebanon
To help people in Lebanon affected by the fighting in the Middle East, contact the Dearborn office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee at 313-581-1201 or go to http://www.adc.org

Carrying banners saying "Stop Israeli Terrorism" and chanting antiwar slogans, some 10,000 people rallied in the center of metro Detroit's Arab-American community in Dearborn on Tuesday, demanding that the U.S. government put pressure on Israel to halt attacks in Lebanon.

Although the protesters were peaceful, their message was strong, representing a profound difference of opinion between two of metro Detroit's most vital communities.

Arab-American marchers carried signs saying "Down, down Israel" and chanted, "One, two, three, four. Stop the bombing. Stop the war."

Meanwhile, members of the Jewish community -- who have a rally scheduled for 7 tonight at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield -- have repeatedly said that Israel's air strikes on Lebanese targets have been intended to protect Israel from the militant group Hizballah, which is strong in southern Lebanon. Hizballah also has sent rockets and bombs into northern Israel.

Israel's attacks on Lebanon began about a week ago after Hizballah guerrillas attacked a patrol on the border in northern Israel and captured two soldiers.

As many as 226 people have been killed in Lebanon. About 25 have been killed in Israel.

Police estimated the crowd in Dearborn at more than 10,000. Protesters, some draped in the Lebanese flag, marched to Hemlock Park. There, speakers shouted their message to crowds in hopes of getting the Bush administration's attention.

Saying that Israel is killing children and bombing innocent citizens, one of the speakers, Osama Siblani of the Congress of Arab-American Organizations, said, "This is terror." The crowd cheered loudly in response. "They are cowards."

"We know that the president is being bought by the Zionist lobby. We know that the (U.S.) Congress is being bought by the Zionist lobby. ... But we know that the American people are a great people," he said.

Some of those views concern many in the Jewish communities of metro Detroit.

"No one wanted this war," said Wendy Wagenheim, president of the Jewish Community Council, a coalition of about 200 Jewish groups in Michigan. "And certainly, emotions are running very high at this point. But there is nothing that will be served by importing the tensions apparently in the Middle East to metropolitan Detroit.

"Unfortunately, there are innocent victims on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, and we pray that peace is restored as soon as possible."

For days, reports have been coming to southeast Michigan's Arab-American community of family and friends trapped in Lebanon.

At one point, a speaker held a portrait of Hassan Nasrallah, Hizballah's secretary-general. The crowd burst into applause.

Rana Abbas-Chami, deputy director of the Michigan Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called Israel's violence "appalling, unfathomable and unforgivable."

Many people among metro Detroit's Arab-American population say they believe Hizballah -- considered a terrorist group by the U.S. government -- helped end Israel's occupation of Lebanon six years ago.

The United Nations said about half a million Lebanese have fled southern Lebanon since the recent fighting began.

Bilal Amen, 24, of Dearborn said he's been unable to contact aunts and uncles in the region.

"It's heartbreaking," he said. "Whole villages are leveled. Everything is ruined."

Wajih Hakim, 51, also of Dearborn, said his wife and four children went to Lebanon to visit family two weeks ago and have been unable to leave.

"They're seeing hell over there," he said. "I've been on the phone with them and they want to come home, but they can't find a way out."

Hakim was carrying a large American flag.

"I'm an American first," he said, "but this is a very important cause to me."

Danielle Caltoum, 19, of Sterling Heights walked with a sign that said, "Israel = Terrorism. Get out of Lebanon." She said she has relatives in Lebanon.

"America needs to stop supporting Israel," she said. "Maybe our demonstrating can make it stop."

Contact NIRAJ WARIKOO at 248-351-2998 or warikoo@freepress.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report


Community reacts to Mideast violence

By Aatif Ali Bokhari
The Arab American News

DEARBORN – In the wake of Hizbullah's capture of Israeli soldiers and Israel's subsequent crippling attack on Lebanese infrastructure, the local Arab American community here mobilized to take a stand against what it sees as Israeli state terrorism.

At presstime, Israel had launched an all-out land, air and naval bombardment of Lebanon, destroying the airport, infrastructure such as bridges, highways and power plants and attacking the headquarters of Hizbullah and the home of its leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah.

The Congress of Arab-American Organizations issued a press release at an emergency meeting Thursday in response to the serious escalation of Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. They called for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon and Palestine.

"CAAO members strongly condemn the indiscriminate killing of civilians, especially of children," said CAAO Chair Abed Hammoud.
"Over the past few days, the Israeli Army has launched an aggressive campaign in Gaza, then expanded this campaign of terror on a more severe level into Lebanon. So far, the U.S government has justified and supported the Israeli crimes under the guise of 'self defense', although Israeli leaders have bluntly stated that the objective of their bombings by air, land, and sea is to destroy the country of Lebanon and its infrastructure and collectively punish its people."

"CAAO members are appalled that, while the international community has condemned the Israeli actions and called for a cessation of its criminal behavior, our own government is not only supporting the killing of hundreds of civilians, but it is also encouraging the systematic destruction of two blooming democracies in the Middle East," said Osama Siblani, head of media relations for CAAO. "U.S. officials also do not seem to care that tens of thousands of the civilians under attack by Israel are U.S. citizens currently visiting Lebanon on vacation."

CAAO called on the U.S. government to intervene immediately to broker a ceasefire by all parties in an effort to stop the escalation of violence and make room for a strong, U.S.-led diplomatic action to resolve all outstanding issues, including the rescue of the thousands of U.S. citizens trapped in the cross-fire.

On Friday, the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR – Michigan) held a press conference at the Islamic House of Wisdom at 10:30 a.m. In a prepared statement, Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR-Michigan said, "Our concern is not only based upon the increasing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the deaths of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.

"Our concern also resides with the thousands of American citizens, a large portion of them being Metro Detroit residents, that are in the region on vacation whose lives are in jeopardy as we speak. …

"It is our hope that the Israeli government discontinues their assaults on the civilian populations of Palestine and Lebanon and accepts their calls [for a ceasefire] that have been made by the legitimate governments of Palestine and Lebanon."

Alluding to an incorrect version of an eye for an eye, Imam Mohamed Ali Elahi said that the Israelis are "making millions blind, just for two Israeli eyes."

He added that the conflict seems to be spiraling and that "it looks like the Israelis are planning a bigger mess for the region."

Imam Abdullah El-Amin, Executive Director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) said, "The CIOM has a long history and excellent reputation as an organization dedicated to interfaith and intercultural respect and cooperation. … But never in the nearly 20 years of its existence, have we seen such wanton disregard for human life and dignity as we are witnessing in this current situation of attacks in Palestine and Lebanon.

"We call upon the leaders of our country to stop using its veto power in the United Nations to only help one side and allow the continued slaughter of many human beings," said El-Amin.

More than 500 people showed up at an afternoon press conference and rally at the Islamic Center of Detroit. A number of speakers came up and gave passionate speeches. Members of the crowd had brought signs and flags showing their solidarity with the Palestinian people.

"Bombing water supplies is not defense. Silence is complicity. It is important to let our government know that they are not doing this in our name. Enough is enough!" said moderator Hassan Newash, Director of the Palestine Office-Michigan.

"This is not the way to win the the hearts and minds of Muslims Arabs, to give Israel the green light to kill innocent people and destroy the only democracies in the Middle East, the Palestinian democracy and the Lebanese democracy," said Osama Siblani.

Siblani told the crowd, "I know you are afraid, and you have been subjected to a great deal of harassment in an attempt to silence you and send you into hiding. I know you are terrorized, afraid for yourselves and your family here in America, but you have a duty now to be brave and stand up against tyranny and terror," he added, calling Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert the leader of a bunch of "terrorist criminals."

"Stop the killing, stop the war," thundered the crowd. "Stop aid to Israel now."

"I am a lawyer, I know the law, when a person backs a criminal, they are a criminal. The president is a criminal!" said Hammoud.

Hammoud, like many Lebanese Americans in Metro Detroit, has kids currently visiting their grandparents for the summer in Lebanon and they are trapped in the crossfire.

"[The pro-Israeli lobby says] the Palestinian Christians are leaving the land because of Muslim oppression. I am a Christian. I say it now, we never had any problem with our Muslim brothers, our problems were always with the Zionist movement," said George Khoury to strong applause.

A severe thunderstorm in the evening threatened to rain out a "Hands Across Warren Avenue" demonstration organized by the Congress of Arab American Organizations in Michigan. The human chain attracted more than 1500, according to Dearborn police. The demonstrators stood shoulder to shoulder under the rain to show soliderity with their brethren in Lebanon and Palestine. They came with short notice from all walks of life, old and young men and women to express their anger at the terror that the Lebanese and Palestinians have been subjected to in the last few days at the hand of the Israelis.

Cars passing by honked their horns and waved fists at the crowd in encouragement as the crowed defied the storm.

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