WBUR

Boston Activists Voice Concerns Over Gaza Conflict

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march in front of Boston Public Library on Thursday (Jack Lepiarz/WBUR)

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march in front of Boston Public Library on Thursday (Jack Lepiarz/WBUR)

BOSTON — As the conflict in Israel and Gaza wages on, supporters on both sides in Massachusetts are expressing their solidarity with Palestine and Israel.

And at two rallies in the Boston area late Thursday, there were calls for peace.

The hundreds of people who gathered at the temple Mishkan Tefila as a sign of solidarity were greeted by the sound of a rocket siren — a grim reminder of the violence in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“If that siren was real, we’d have 40 seconds to take cover from a rocket fired from Hopkinton toward Chestnut Hill,” said Jeremy Burton, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Burton admits there are no easy answers into how to solve a conflict that’s effectively been going on since the 1960s.

“What would you do? What would I do? I don’t know,” he said. “I know I wouldn’t tolerate my country being under attack like this.”

But Burton does know that he and the more than 700 who attended the rally want to send a message of support to those in southern Israel facing the prospect of rocket attacks.

There’s also support for the Palestinian side. About 200 people gathered in Copley Square as a sign of solidarity for Palestinian civilians, calling for Israel to end military action in Gaza.

Labib Nasir, a Palestinian from Jerusalem, says he’s angry with Israel, but also the United States government, which provides billions of dollars in military assistance to Israel.

“Most Americans have a limited view of it,” Nasir said. “I’m 100 percent confident that Americans, had they know the truth and seen the truth, that they would not stand for this.”

And Nasir points out almost all the casualties have been on the Palestinian side, most of them civilians.

“Just Google the Hamas charter,” said Barry Shrage, the president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “The Hamas charter is crystal-clear, and it’s not a joke. It’s a deep, religious faith that Israel must be destroyed.”

Demonstrators on both sides in Boston agree on one thing: that the fighting needs to stop. Neither side is optimistic though that any long lasting peace can come in the near future.

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  • Jeanne

    There is a deep religious belief among fundamentalist Jews (and fundamentalist Christians) that all of ancient Israel must be in Jewish control for some messianic event to happen. the rest of us are being held captive by two groups that are willing to kill for religious mythology. This mythology appears to be driving the present Israeli government, otherwise why are they so unwilling to make any concessions to Palestine in the name of peace. Palestine now possesses less than 22% of its original territory and has actual control of none of what it does posses.

    • A in Sharon

      Again, a western, simplistic and naive view of the conflict. Please research the history in more detail. The religious issues are evident but not the primary force. The conflict is regional, not just between Israelis and Palestinians. The number of players in the region affecting what happens on the ground are complex and far-reaching. A driving force now is the regional battle for dominance between Sunni-dominated and pro-western regimes like Saudi Arabia (have you heard even a peep from any country on the Arabian peninsula about Gaza?) and those Shia-dominated forces centered in Iran and Syria. For a hundred years the Palestinians have been used as a pawn by other regional players. By example, the latest violence by Hamas was initiated because of the collapse of the relationship with Egypt. Egypt’s military cracked down on Hamas’s main benefactor the Muslim Brotherhood.

      Also, I assume you live in the US. How exactly are you “held captive”?

      • Geheran1958

        Excellent point. Unfortunately neither US political elites, mainstream media nor the electorate in general have a sense for either the historical or contemporary dynamics of what is going-on in the ME.

        • Jeanne

          Kindly see my reply to A in Sharon.

          • Geheran1958

            As it nearly always is, the blame for much of the world’s ills is placed at America’s doorstep. To infer that the US “spawned” al-Qaeda is beyond absurd. Any nine year old who can read Arabic will tell you that Al-Qaeda’s reason for being is embedded in Islamic sacred texts, ahadith and reinforced by the preachings of many contemporary Muslim clerics, namely that every able-bodied Adult Muslim male is obligated to wage jihad (not the “inner struggle” variety). While it is true that my interaction with Muslims is virtually nil, I recognize that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful. The problem is a totalitarian belief system that is “misunderstood” by a “tiny” minority. While a relatively small %, in absolute numbers, it amounts to tens-of-millions who are eithe active jihadis or on the cusp of being radicalized.

          • Jeanne

            What causes that radicalization? What caused Osama Bin Ladin’s radicalization? What part do our “good friends” the Saudis play in this drama? What of the Saudis’ devil’s pact with the Wahabis? What do you know of this? How do the majority of Muslims feel about the Saudis?

          • Geheran1958

            The Al-Qaeda literature (translated from the Arabic by Raymond Ibrahim “The Al-Qaeda Reader”) co-authored by bin-Laden and al-Zawahiri, you will see that their fundamental ideology has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood founded in 1928 by Hassan Al-Banna and strengthened by the preachings of Sayyid Qutb, the revered MB ideologue. Underlying its basic philosophy is a strong anti-Western, anti-Jewish bent coupled with a fundamental conviction in the supremacy of Islam and Muslim society. All this occurred well before the founding of Israel and US “meddling” in the ME. You might try reading the epic work of Professor Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations”. His bottom line observation: The underlying problem is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture”. – Samuel Huntington 1996

      • Jeanne

        My tax dollars, in the billions, are the ransom we pay being spent in defense of a plan out of 1948 which, while altruistic, was and has proven to be, unworkable.
        As to the Shia/Sunni divide, Sadam Hussein was our buffer and, ogre that he might have been, should have been left in place instead of putting us into the middle of an Islamic civil war. US actions spawned ISIS and Al Qaeda. My view may see the entire forest, instead of the few trees that you apparently see. I live part of the year in Morocco and probably have more interactions with Muslims than either you, A in Sharon, or Geheran do.

  • A in Sharon

    Just returned from Israel a week ago after a first-time visit. Anyone that really wants to know what is happening should go there. It is easy for Israel’s critics here in the US to sit safe and sound griping about human rights. Israel lives in a tough neighborhood. The world view of Islamic extremists is entirely foreign to our quaint, naive and simplistic view here. Don’t believe me. Look at what is happening in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, etc. etc. There is only one thing the players in that part of the world understand and respect: power. We look at the picture of a soldier smiling and handing out candy to kids as so heartwarming and humane. The fighters on the ground in that region see that as weakness.

    The strange thing is, you would think after 9/11 and the Marathon bombing, in our own backyard, the truth would start to sink in. Israel has known and understood this for as long as they have been in existence. 150 people in front of the Boston library are not going to change that any time soon.

    PS…I suggest everyone look at the photo carefully. Front and center is a demonstrator holding a Free Gaza sign. Sounds reasonable, yes? Look at the poster being held in the upper left of the photo. It says Palestine will be free “from the river to the sea” That is preferred statement of those wishing to see Israel destroyed.

    History of Arab strategies for destroying Israel:
    1948-1967 Traditional Warfare-strategy failed
    1967-1981 Terrorist attacks worldwide-strategy failed
    1981-present Propaganda war-ongoing

    • SteveTheTeacher

      “Just returned from Israel a week ago after a first-time visit. Anyone that really wants to know what is happening should go there.”

      Try visiting Gaza.

      • A in Sharon

        A hollow and inconsistent statement. Hillel Neuer, head of UN Watch, said it best.

        “If in the past year you didn’t CRY OUT when thousands of protesters were killed and injured by Turkey, Egypt and Libya, when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran, women and children in Afghanistan were bombed, whole communities were massacred in South Sudan, 1800 Palestinians were starved and murdered by Assad in Syria, hundreds in Pakistan were killed by jihadist terror attacks, 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists, villagers were slaughtered in Nigeria, but you ONLY cry out for GAZA, then you are not pro HUMAN RIGHTS, you are only ANTI-ISRAEL.”

        Please inform us when you plan to hit the streets protesting these events.

        • SteveTheTeacher

          “‘If in the past year you didn’t CRY OUT when thousands of protesters were killed and injured by Turkey, Egypt and Libya, when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran, women and children in Afghanistan . . .’ Please inform us when you plan to hit the streets protesting these events.”

          This is a nice example of a dicto simpliciter fallacious argument. Failure to protest all human rights violations does not negate the validity of protests against some human rights violations.

          Personally, since I live in the US in a “democracy”, I direct my energies towards the human rights violations of the US and the allies to whom the US gives most support.

          I encourage you to join me in attending demonstrations against the crimes against humanity of the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somali, Lybia and the crimes against humanity of its major allies such as Israel, Egypt, etc.

          You can find info on dates, times, and locations of upcoming demonstrations at:

          http://www.indymedia.org/or/index.shtml

  • Geheran1958

    Those critics of the unintentional casualties in the Gaza conflict need to contrast their perspective with the “collateral damage” inflicted by US drone and bomber attacks against terrorists. “Intent” and “malice with forethought” also need to be part of the debate equation regarding “fairness” and “disproportionality” when Hamas, a terrorist group, fires lethal rockets from playgrounds, school yards, libraries and hospitals indiscriminately into the Israeli homeland – not to mention placing women and children as human shields on rooftops of targeted buildings. It would appear that Western political elites and mainstream media have their respective heads in the dirt when distinguishing between savages and civilized men.

  • Geheran1958

    Critics of Israel’s foray into Gaza need to be reminded of the respective charters of Hamas and the PLO that essentially call for the eradication of Jews from the Middle East. These charters are consistent with commands embedded in Islamic sacred texts, ahadith and underscored in the contemporary preachings of many Muslim clerics to wage violent jihad against Jews and “infidels” “until there is no God but Allah….”. Absent fundamental changes in these two areas, there is virtually no hope of achieving sustained peace in the ME.

  • Geheran1958

    NPR readers and listeners need to be reminded that “Free Gaza” is a hollow protest at best. Conveniently swept under the propaganda rug is the fact that Gaza is not occupied and has not been since the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from it eight years ago. That withdrawal was supposed to “bring normal life to the Gaza Strip.” Instead, it brought more and more violent jihad. The so-called “blockade” is really a restriction on the importation of material that can – and will – be used to fabricate tools and weapons to support jihad.

    • SteveTheTeacher

      “NPR listeners need to be reminded that “Free Gaza” is a hollow protest at best. ”

      Geheran, you may disagree with the Free Gaza protest, but digressing to ad hominem attacks / name-calling, for the protest, is childish.

      Many of us, who attend such protests, do so out, not out of support Hamas, but in an effort to demonstrate support for the Palestinians suffering from the over 300 killed, 3000 wounded, and thousands made homeless.

      Many at these protests believe that the Hamas government deserves condemnation for terrorizing the population of Israel with its campaign of indiscriminately fired missiles aimed at Israel. One of these rockets murdered of Dror Khenin and, as a result, left his family without a husband and father, another killed a Bedouin man and severely injured his 3 month old daughter. These are war crime.

      The fact that Hamas leaders are guilty of war crimes, however, does not justify the crimes against humanity of the Israeli government against the Palestinian’s in Gaza.

      Furthermore, those who truly support social justice, understand that the Israeli government deserves condemnation for its unconscionable occupation of Palestine, its expropriation of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements and the separation wall, its arrest of masses of Palestinians on questionable grounds, its demolition of homes of Palestinians, its destruction infrastructure for water and electricity, its diversion of fresh water resources flowing into Gaza, its destruction of Palestinian olive groves, its disruption of the Palestinian fishing industry, its blockade and many materials that the Palestinians need for infrastructure, and its murder of hundreds of Palestinian civilians including over 50 children.

      • Geheran1958

        “Occupation” of their homeland for 5000 years is hardly a crime against humanity. Arabs occupy over 90% of the land mass in the ME; any reasonable person would agree that Jews are entitled to their tiny sliver of desert sand, which, unlike their neighbors, has been transformed into a functioning democratic society.That “wall” has saved thousands of Israeli lives (or is your memory so short that it needs to be reminded of the frequent terrorist and suicide bomber attacks against civilians in cafés, shopping malls, public buses, et al before the “wall” put a stop to it.) The so-called “blockade” is more like a filter designed to keep the likes of Hamas and the PLO from having unfettered access to tools and material that can be used for waging jihad (building tunnels under the “walls” etc.). Bottom line, most Arabs have an obsessive, centuries long hatred of Jews. As the respective charters of Hamas and the PLO make crystal clear “eradication” of Jews from the ME is their goal. Until that can be changed there is virtually no hope for sustained peace in the ME.

        • SteveTheTeacher

          “Jews are entitled to their tiny sliver of desert sand, which, unlike their neighbors, has been transformed into a functioning democratic society.”

          Israel is a “democratic society” for white Jews. Through Israeli law, and Israeli societal practice, there is is a high degree of racism present, against African Jews, Arabs, Beduoins, Druze, etc.

          • Geheran1958

            Last I checked, the non-Jewish minority (Arab, Christians, Bedouin, Druze, Baha’i and others) enjoy full citizenship with voting rights and representation in the government. Israel’s Declaration of Independence specifically encourages the Arab inhabitants of Israel “to participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.” The Arab minority comprises about 20% of Israel’s population. It is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race; Arab citizens of Israel are represented in all walks of Israeli life. Arabs have served in diplomatic and government positions; an Arab – Salim Joubran – current serves as a justice on the Supreme Court.

            Name one Arab state that even comes close to Israel’s policy on discrimination.

          • SteveTheTeacher

            Yes other countries in the Middle East exhibit racist/discriminatory policy and practice. The question of which country is better that which on this matter is immaterial. All must improve greatly.

            The inability of many supporters of Israel to accept any shortcomings of the state of Israeli reflects disingenuousness.
            Israeli law includes many discriminatory laws. Additionally, despite legislation against discrimination, those who are not Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews, particularly those of African or Arab heritage, still suffer from racist discrimination.

            http://www.itisapartheid.org/laws.html

            https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/9952-israeli-knesset-passes-discriminatory-bill-against-arab-citizens

            http://adalah.org/eng/Israeli-Discriminatory-Law-Database

            http://forward.com/articles/182171/israels-everyday-racism-and-how-american-jews-tu/

            http://forward.com/articles/196719/israel-s-uncomfortable-history-of-racist-enginee/

            http://www.irinnews.org/report/94819/israel-the-tribulations-of-being-an-ethiopian-jew

            http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/10/israel-amend-anti-infiltration-law

          • Geheran1958

            No country is perfect. But to equate “discrimination” in Israel, or the US for that matter, with the obsessive, centuries-long hatred and persecution of Jews and other non-believers embedded in Islamic sacred texts and ahadith is, to be charitable, a stretch. Perhaps Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, got it right when he observed: “This is Islam, an absurd ideology of an immoral Bedouin, a rotting corpse that poisons our lives”. That about sums it up. A more appropriate quote would have been Sir Winston Churchill’s apt description of Islam but that would only ignite cries of “Islamophobia”.

          • SteveTheTeacher

            “No country is perfect.”

            Exactly. I suggest that rather than excusing the flaws of Israel/Palestine based on comparison to examples of worse conduct, we support efforts of those Israelis and Palestinians who have rejected the negativity and nihilism of their governments and are working together for justice and peace. The success of these such efforts has the potential to provide the world with an example for how to ensure that all children are born into a world which holds them in equally high regard.

            “. . . obsessive, centuries-long hatred and persecution of Jews and other non-believers embedded in Islamic sacred texts and ahadith is . . .”

            It is important to distinguish between what is written and how what is written is interpreted. Many progressive Islamic scholars take strong opposition to the hate filled interpretations of Islam promulgated by extremists. It is also important to acknowledge that all religions are capable of growth. For example, Jewish children are not expected to be stoned for disobedience:

            “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, that will not hearken to the voice of his father and [not "or"] the voice of his mother and though they chasten him, will not hearken unto them, then shall his father and his mother lay hold of him and bring him out unto the elders of his city… They shall say unto the elders of his city: This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he doth not hearken to our voice, he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones that he die; so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee; and all Israel shall hear, and fear” (Deut. 21:18–21).

          • Geheran1958

            Point taken. The issue with “interpretation” and “evolution” of a belief system in Islam is numbers, I.e., even if one accepts the conservative estimates of Muslims who justify violent jihadism using the more than 100 references contained in the Quran and those who are on the cusp of being radicalized, this equates to tens-of-millions of jihadis. Mercifully, the majority of the 1.5B adherents to Islam are peace-loving.
            Another totalitarian belief system created by a man, who like the Prophet, never held a job his entire life cane very close to their goal of world domination with far fewer numbers.

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