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L.A. Protest Against the Siege of Gaza

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On Thurs., Dec. 4th, a rally was held outside the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles to protest the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip, which has cut off supplies to the impoverished population of 1.5 million Palestinians who live there. On the same day as the protest, the Arab League called on the UN Security Council to try to end the siege.

Although Israel’s siege of Gaza had eased under a five-month truce, on Nov. 4th Israel re-instated a severe blockade, putting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who depend on humanitarian aid at risk of starvation. Not even UN agencies have been allowed through, despite entreaties from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Israel has also barred European Union diplomats and foreign journalists from Gaza, over the objections of Reuters, the BBC, the Associated Press, and CNN.http://1158munich.blogspot.com/2008/11/israel-continues-starvation-of-gazans.html

Even Israeli journalist Amira Hass, correspondent for Israel’s oldest paper, Haaretz, has had trouble reporting on the situation in Gaza, and was detained by Israeli police upon her return. Hass had previously written, among other pieces, an oped about the siege of Gaza which asked: "Is Israel deliberately strengthening Hamas?"

So at noon on Thurs., on the one month anniversary of the renewal of the siege, dozens of activists gathered on the sidewalk on the main Los Angeles thoroughfare, Wilshire Blvd., to protest the siege and the ongoing Israeli Occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htLuBEIGQvI

The rally was organized by ANSWER-LA and Al-Awda (which means "Return" and advocates for a Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees), working closely with local groups such as the International Action Center. The protest lasted two and a half hours outside the Israeli Consulate.

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Some of the participants came from outside of L.A. to participate, such as Richard Herman, a member of the Cousins Club of Orange County, which he explained is made up of Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Gews, and "Gentiles like myself" working for peace in the Middle East. Herman says he has studied the Arab-Israeli conflict for 40 years, and since retirement, has made "justice for Palestinians [his] main hobby." He lived in the Middle East from 1968 to 1984 and is amazed that he did "not find much animosity towards Jews in Palestine," considering the injustices that have been going on. As an American, he is very concerned that: "The U.S. is party to the crimes of Israel. We support Israel militarily, monetarily, and diplomatically. I’m part of a regime that is supporting horrible crime."

Other protesters who drove up from Orange County included Chuck Anderson, a KPFK-Radio volunteer, who came "because I’m a great-grandfather and I want Palestine to be free" and brought five car-loads of people from Anaheim, and Reza Pour, with the Union of Progressive Iranians, who said "we are here in solidarity with the Palestinian people because their land is being stolen and occupied by Israelis with the help of the U.S." He added that "the majority of people in the Middle East have a common struggle to defeat all these reactionary governments and build a unity for the common interest of the people there", citing Syria and Egypt as examples of other oppressive governments in the region. Pour believed the task of those who seek justice in the Middle East is to "unite the many to defeat the few."

Carlos Hernandez, an organizer with
ANSWER-LA (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), called the protest "particularly important because of the siege, but also because little victories are important: a 100-person demo in front of the Israeli consulate is a little victory in the longer struggle". One of the longer-term goals of that struggle, he said, is "to stop U.S. aid to Israel. Without that aid, they would not be able to continue the Occupation."

He also defined ANSWER’s objectives as "not just a struggle to free Palestine, but a struggle against U.S. Imperialism." Hernandez pointed out that "the U.S. uses Israel as a watchdog state against the Arab nations", especially Lebanon and Syria. "The U.S. uses Israel to bring down any kind of movement to help the needs of working people."

Hernandez also gave a brief speech to the assembly from the street corner:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TFf0nL_ebc

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One of the initiators of the Dec. 4th event, Mazen Almoukdad, said the organization he represents, Al-Awda, felt a street protest was "the least we could do to inform the public" that "the siege in Gaza has gone too long". He deplored the privations Palestinians are going through as a result of the siege: no electricity in cold weather, no suitable drinking water, and so on. He described their plight as "so serious right now". Al-Awda issued a
press release in Nov., during the siege’s second week. The grassroots coalition’s release calls on the public to write to the media and to their congressional representatives, and to get involved in street demonstrations, to end the siege.

Almoukdad wants to see "this immoral, illegal occupation" end, but he believes "Americans are really busy right now worrying about the economy", and have also been overwhelmed by the recent election, "which cost 5 billion dollars while people are hungry all over the world."

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Jennifer Epps is a peace, social justice, pro-democracy, environmentalist and animal activist in L.A. She has also been a scriptwriter, stage director, actor, puppeteer, and film critic. Her political film reviews are collected at: (more...)
 

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