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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 1/4/09

U.S. Voices Oppose Gaza 'Massacre', Obama's low profile

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Message Jennifer Epps

Like they did for the Iraq War, the corporate media has grossly under-represented this week's U.S. peace protests against Israel's assault on Gaza. A Dec. 31st Associated Press story on the protests reported that "hundreds" of people had participated in "pro-Palestinian protests" on Tues., Dec. 30th, and made it seem as if these protests had only occurred in five cities: N.Y.C, L.A., Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, and Dearborn, Michigan.

Now, having attended two different, overlapping protests in L.A. that day, I know that there were already many "hundreds" of anti-war protesters demonstrating in L.A. alone, and probably a couple of thousand (in L.A. alone). I also know that anti-war protests and peace vigils were called in cities from east to west and from north to south, and not just in the Continental U.S., either. That AP article did not even mention the protest in Washington, D.C., which one would think would be the most obvious location to report. (The ANSWER Coalition, which was one of the initiating organizations behind the National Day of Action on Dec. 30th, estimates there were 5,000 protesters in D.C. on Tues., and "tens of thousands" nation-wide.)

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Here is a list of cities the AP managed to leave out of its coverage. According to ANSWER and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, they all announced specific protests or vigils for Dec. 30th: Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, Atlanta, Sioux Falls, SD, Knoxville, TN, Norfolk, VA, Louisville, KY, Cedar Rapids, IA, Portland, OR, Dallas, Houston, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson, Seattle, Ann Arbor, St. Paul-Minneapolis, Denver, Colorado Springs, as well as Flint and Kalamazoo, MI, Concord and Portsmouth, NH, Burlington and Montpelier, VT, Youngston, OH, Ocala, FL, and New Brunswick, NJ. In California, the AP ignored San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Sonoma, Modesto, San Mateo, Santa Rosa. In New York, they overlooked Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Ithaca. In Washington, they forgot Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and Bellingham.

And even Anchorage, Alaska, Honolulu, Hawaii, and Kailua, where President-elect Obama is vacationing, demonstrated their dissent. (The small protest outside Obama's compound was noted here and here

Respected activist Col. Ann Wright was present. According to Politico, Obama did not bother to look at the protesters as he drove past.)

And protests were also called on other days this week, despite the distraction of the holidays, in at least 19 American cities. The most diligent seem to be St. Louis, MO, and Houston, TX which have called protests daily so far since Dec. 28th. See Protesters in Westwood (Los Angeles) Dec. 30th photos.

In L.A., I talked to protesters in front of the Federal Building in Westwood on Tues. That protest had been called by L.A. Jews for Peace. Jeff Warner, the action co-ordinator for L.A. Jews for Peace, declared "we think that this is a massacre", and lamented that the assault on Gaza "doesn't bring the parties closer". L.A. Jews for Peace calls for "an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and equal rights for all citizens of Israel," and supports "a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that adheres to International Law and applicable U.N. Resolutions." Warner wrote the group's statement on the crisis, calling it "appalling", "an unbelievable humanitarian catastrophe" since, after weeks of a blockade which kept most food and medicine out of Gaza, "now all medical facilities have been completely overwhelmed by this onslaught."

Warner insisted: "The siege has to end. If that ends, the rockets will stop, and the parties can talk." The group also wants Obama "to withdraw American military forces from the Middle East" since the presence of the U.S. there is "a barrier to peace." The group calls on Obama to "make clear that as President he will quickly assert US leadership to achieve a comprehensive diplomatic resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts." While L.A. Jews for Peace condemns the Hamas rockets and "deplores all loss of life and human suffering on both sides," they believe Israel's "massive response represents a huge escalation of the conflict that may lead to a wider war." Moreover, "the cycle of violence, which is spiraling out of control, runs counter to Israeli and Palestinian security" and "breeds anti-American terrorism." See Mike Farrell in L.A. Jews for Peace protest vigil photos.

Also at the Westwood protest was well-known actor Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H), standing among the protesters who were holding up anti-war placards for the passing motorists along busy Wilshire Boulevard. A dedicated progressive activist, Farrell told me that he had already been strongly opposed to the siege of Gaza, which he called "inexcusable," but that now "the situation in Gaza is intolerable. It would not exist if the U.S. had been an honest broker to lead an international effort toward resolving the issues between Israel and the occupied territories." Farrell added "I of course do not support Hamas firing missiles into Israel," but unfortunately, the recent events are part of "a context that has existed for far too long. And all that it does is put power in the hands of the most extreme elements on both sides."

"While I strongly oppose Israel's over-reaction and Israel's siege of Gaza and continued occupation of the West Bank, I believe the signal failure is on the part of the United States, failing to provide real leadership." Farrell thinks former President Carter "is a hero" who really did try to succeed at brokering a peaceful solution in the Middle East, but "Clinton's attempts were not strenuous enough" and the Bush Administration has been "a dismal failure."

Farrell would like to see Obama "make a statement about the intolerable humanitarian conditions being created." He does not accept Obama's statement that 'there is one president at a time', because with Bush, Farrell says, "we have at best half a president."

Another protester in Westwood who was unhappy with Obama's laissez-faire attitude was Gustavo Yanez, a former Obama volunteer. Yanez had "worked very hard" to get Obama elected, campaigning for him door-to-door and even traveling to New Hampshire and Nevada to help. But now "fed up", Yanez had painted a huge banner with his mother, Marta Yoshimura, which said: "Obama We Voted for Change, Stop the Genocide." Yanez decried our foreign policy as "not in the interests of the United States. We need to be honest brokers for peace, we need to be even-handed. Instead, Obama's quietly on vacation. He needs to say something." Yanez did not think a desire not to contradict Bush was any excuse: "Since he opposed the war in Iraq, which Bush was for, why can't he oppose this? He needs to be vocal about what he believes in."

Jodie Evans, co-founder of the very serious but also very playful women's peace group CODEPINK (, was likewise "disgusted that Obama didn't make a statement. He's had an opinion about everything else. This is an atrocity and if he doesn't call it an atrocity, it's shameful." He should "use his place of leadership to clarify things." Evans said that CODEPINK is "outraged" by the assault on Gaza, which is the "result of the violation of human rights for far too long", and will be delivering a petition to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice next week.

They will also be present in D.C. during Obama's inauguration, doing the cancan outside the balls to remind the glitterrati that "yes we cancan end the war."

CODEPINK member Edie Pistolesi added "art can be very powerful, that's why I love CODEPINK." Pistolesi, an art education instructor, had brought a collage she had made, 'Collateral Damage', which featured dozens of toy soldiers and a doll-baby covered in red paint, to remind people that "it's babies, it's innocent people dying", in this "massacre."

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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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