WASHINGTON – Chanting “End the occupation now,” 3,000 protesters of many faiths and backgrounds rallied in Freedom Plaza here Mar. 30, Palestinian “Land Day,” to demand that President Bush give strong backing to the Arab League’s plan for a Palestinian-Israeli peace.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of cities around the world to express outrage that Bush endorsed Sharon’s self-declared “war” on the Palestinian people. Peace advocates came here from New York City, Baltimore and other cities to protest the dangerous violence in the Middle East. There were also rallies of 4,000 in Los Angeles, 800 Seattle, 2,000 in Chicago and 3,000 Detroit, among other U.S. cities.
Ziad Asali, president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), told the rally, “The killing, the occupation, the torment and the grief have gone on far too long. We must all come to our senses before it is too late and agree that a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem must live side by side in equality with a secure and peaceful Israel.”
Asali urged Bush to support this vision, saying Bush “must act now to stop Sharon’s new escalation and the attack on President Arafat. He must stop putting the onus on the beseiged and occupied Palestinians only and start to hold Israel accountable for its behavior, too. Too much is at stake to allow this conflict to spiral out of control.”
The ADC, he concluded, welcomes “the Arab League’s unanimous endorsement of a proposal for full normalization of relations with Israel” in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Arab lands it occupied in 1967 and the creation of a Palestinian state.
Hasan A. Rahman, the Chief Representative of the Palestine National Authority (PNA) in Washington said Sharon’s assault “is destroying the foundation of a possible peace between Israel and the Palestinians. How can the United States support the military assault on Arafat and claim to be supporting the peace process? I take this opportunity to tell Mr. [Colin] Powell, ‘Supporting Sharon’s attack on the Palestine National Authority is a disaster for United States interests in the region.’”
Rahman called on the crowd to “take the high moral ground and oppose killings of both Israeli and Palestinian people. We have the same respect for human life whether it is Israelis or Palestinians or any other nationality who are dying.”
Asked about Hamas’ terrorist attacks in which scores of innocent Israeli Jews and Arabs have died, Elizabeth Shanklin, chairperson of the Bronx County Green Party, told the World, “Whose interest did these bombings serve? It serves the interests of those who want to annihilate the Palestinian people.”
Shanklin also urged a big turnout for the April 20 March on Washington to Stop the War. “The Arab League offered peace, offered recognition for Israel. Sharon spurned that offer. He couldn’t do that without the complicity of the Bush administration.”
Jean Snyder, of Greenbelt, Md., told the World of a petition being circulated by Churches for Middle East Peace in support of statehood for the Palestinian people and an end to the violence. “I think the churches have to stand up and speak out for justice in the Middle East,” she said. “Its just a few rich, powerful people who stand in the way of peace. We need to write to Bush and our Representatives demanding peace. If they don’t listen, vote them out of office.”
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