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.)
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.
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 (http://www.codepink4peace.org/), 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.”
Pistolesi exclaimed: “there’s a terrible urgency about this; everybody needs to get out and stand up against this horrible thing.”
Eighty-nine-year old Esther Cicconi, a longtime peace activist, was among those standing up against it, even from her wheelchair. Set to turn 90 this summer, she was proud “I’m still raising hell.” But at the same time, she said, because of the events in Gaza, “I’m ashamed to be an American and I’m ashamed to be Jewish.”
A few miles across town, a very animated protest initiated by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and Palestinian and Arab organizations was also in full-swing Tues. evening on the sidewalk outside the Israeli Consulate of L.A. There were so many people, it was extremely difficult to push through the crowd, and very hard to converse with all the chanting and drumming.
Muna Coobtee, long-time ANSWER-LA activist, said that the ANSWER Coalition demands “an end to the bombardment and the blockade of Gaza”. Coobtee called the air strikes on Gaza “a massacre” and “completely outrageous”. She was also very critical of the U.S.’ role in the assault, saying that it’s “clear” that Israel has “U.S. approval” or it would not proceed. She called the U.S. “entirely complicit” and urged Obama “to come out strongly against this.” The ANSWER Coalition is also one of a number of organizations calling for an end to US aid to Israel.
During the demonstration, one of the protesters against the air strikes on Gaza was arrested. An eye-witness reported that police had pushed his wife backwards by pushing on her chest, so the man responded by shoving the police officer back and was handcuffed and led across the street. The crowd was unified, however, and persisted in chanting “Let him go.” As a result, the man was released.
9/11 truth activist Katy Kurtzman was there representing We Are Change L.A. (www.WACLA.org), and told me “we’re here to support the truth. Governments lie to their people. Israel is lying to their people.”
Kurtzman was handing out flyers for the group’s upcoming screening of the Alex Jones’ documentary “Terrorstorm: A History of Government Sponsored Terrorism”, a film which lists Nazi Germany, Italy, Britain, and the U.S. among governments which have mounted false flag operations (acts of terror attributed to another entity for political purposes). One of the movie’s claims is that Israel’s sustained bombardment of the U.S.S. Liberty during the Six-Day War of 1967 was no accident, but the result of a deal between President Lyndon Johnson and Israel – an attempted false flag operation intended to cast blame on Egypt and thereby justify the U.S. joining the war in the Middle East. Different sides of the U.S.S. Liberty controversy are presented here.
Further down the block, a music student visiting from CSU-Fresno who said his name was Javiera El Cantara, had a contrasting take on 9/11 and doesn’t support people “who say 9/11 was an inside job.” He was holding a hand-lettered sign that warned: “9/11 – The Result of U.S. Support of Israel”. He called the Israeli government “fascist” and said “we shouldn’t support a fascist regime that treats people as sub-humans”, largely because “U.S. support for Israel endangers all Americans.”
He explained his sign’s reference to “p.163 of the 9/11 Commission Report”: his sign cites Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whom the 9/11 Commission Report called “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks,” and his confession that U.S. support for Israel was the motive for 9/11. (Human rights advocates have alleged that Mohammed was tortured, and Pulitzer-winning national security reporter James Risen wrote in a 2006 book that a source told him Mohammed recanted some of what he told the CIA. Yet last month Mohammed, whom the U.S. charged with murder and war crimes, indicated to a judge that he wanted to plead guilty.)
Another student at the protest, Aneeta Mitha, studies social psychology and public policy at SMC and blogs at www.rise2peace.blogspot.com. She came out because she feels “what’s going on is an atrocity, it’s genocide” – both the air strikes and the occupation of Palestine where life is “like an open-air prison”. She called Israel’s assault on Gaza “collective punishment” and “disproportionate”, and noted: “the U.S. is alone in saying that it’s the Palestinians’ fault what’s going on.”
Across the street from the Israeli consulate, a small counter-demonstration stared at the vociferous and much larger anti-war assembly. The 100 or so Israel-supporters (about the same number as police officers on the scene) held a banner that said “Stop using Gaza as a Base for Terrorism”, waved Israeli and American flags, and held up professionally-printed, black-and-white signs that did not credit any identifying organization and which had slogans such as: “Hamas Stop Using Children as Human Shields”, “Israel left Gaza for Peace and is Being Attacked from Gaza”, and “Israel is Doing the World’s Work.”