Accessibility links

Pro-Israeli Rally Underscores Strong Emotions Over Mideast Conflict


While President Bush tries to strike a compromise in the Middle East, there is strong support for Israel's current uncompromising policy, as demonstrated at a recent massive rally in Washington.

Alan Berkowitz said he knows how an Israeli survivor of a suicide bomber feels. He is a survivor of ground zero, the destruction of the New York City trade center. "I understand something about what Israelis must feel like every day. When I ran for my life, that lingering feeling is with me, and I can empathize with living in a country where it is a daily threat to your very existence," Mr. Berkowitz said.

Attending a Washington rally in support of Israel, Mr. Berkowitz said deaths in combat are one thing; murder of civilians quite another. Terrorism is to be condemned, no matter who commits it.

"I think it is very important that both Jews and Americans who are against terrorism and support President Bush come in huge numbers, and show that they are united in our battle against terrorism, wherever it happens," Mr. Berkowitz said.

People came to the rally in huge numbers, as Mr. Berkowitz wished, but most did not appear to share his balanced view of terrorism. The emphasis understandably was on terror against Israel. The hostility toward Yasser Araft was demonstrated by a variety of placards.

They read, "Arafat Nobel Prize for Terror", "Arafat Your 72 virgins are waiting", "Arafat's Murderous Mobs Give 'em a state, Give 'em Iraq."

When Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Palestinians are also victims of terrorism, he was booed and heckled. People cheered former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Israel did not seek this war. It was forced on us by a savage enemy that glories in a culture of death, a culture where murderers are called martyrs, where suicide is sanctified. An enemy that openly preaches the destruction of our state - is not a partner for peace. With such evil, there can be no negotiations and no concessions," Mr. Netanyahu said.

Mr. Netanyahu said the United States and Israel share the same war against terrorism, a theme that was echoed by many in attendance, like high school teacher Gary Katz.

"It is all one big picture, the whole war on terrorism. We know that America will do the right thing and obviously help Israel in its war, in our war, against terrorism," Mr. Katz said.

Or Miriam Pomerance from New York, she said, "We are all fighting terror. The terror that Israel is facing is something that will happen here, too, if we allow it to," she said.

Some people expressed displeasure with the media. One sign read: "The New York Times-al-Qaida press."

The Times probably caused further consternation the next day when one of its columnists noted even larger pro-Palestinian rallies in various Arab capitals.

Also in the Times, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden called for an international conference bringing together Israelis and Palestinians, moderate Arab leaders, and Europeans.

That is the answer, said General William Odum, former director of the National Security Agency. "If the United States can form some linkages with Europe on this issue, and lock arms with Europe rather than allowing the Palestinians and the Israelis to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States, there is a prospect to join together and set terms that world opinion can support and are just for both parties," General Odum said.

This would come close to an imposed settlement, said General Odum, but neither side is in any mood to compromise, and the dying and destruction must stop.

XS
SM
MD
LG