Revolution #155, February 8, 2009
Letters from Readers on:
Protests Against U.S.-Backed Israeli Massacre of Gaza
From a reader in LA —Protests in the LA Area
On Friday night, January 16, 100 people demonstrated in response to a call from Libros Revolución and readers of Revolution to protest an announced special citywide Jewish Shabbat service at the Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hills which featured the Israeli Consul General and which aimed to come out with a “four-point program” to build support for Israel —a brazen rally supporting the escalating massacre - under the guise of a religious service. The call for the protest had 3 main slogans which appeared as huge banners that night:
- “Stop the US-backed Israeli Massacre of Gaza!
- “After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel” —Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA”
- Stop thinking like Americans and start thinking about humanity.”
Word of this protest was spread through emails and announcements on KPFK, the local Pacifica radio station. A young Palestinian from Anaheim in Orange County heard about it, put the word out on Facebook, and brought a carload of fellow students. Some who could not come still forwarded the call to their email contacts.
In addition to the Palestinian students, there were also people of many ages from Morocco, Pakistan, and Latin America. One woman from the U.S. drove from Ventura County (an hour and a half north of LA) and others came from Orange County. Some brought their own signs, and all brought a sense of urgency —and expressed the feeling that not enough was being done in the face of the thousands of Palestinians who have been killed and wounded. Chants included “Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry, Palestine will never die.” And a call and response: Massacre in Gaza? War crime! White phosphorus? War crime!
As people gathered for the protest across the street from the theater, a contingent of 15 to 20 young protestors, reflecting the anger and defiance against this brazen display of support for the Israeli massacre, grabbed some Palestinian and Lebanese flags and banners, including a large reproduction of the new Revolution newspaper masthead, and started marching around the block, stopping at the busy intersections, and going right in front of the Wilshire Theater and coming face to face with baton-carrying police lined in front to protect those inside. A group of about 25 protesters stayed until 10:30 pm, determined to make sure that when the attendees came out, they were met with shouts of “Shame!” and chants of “Free, free Palestine!” Many left with bundles of Revolution, and exchanged contact information.
In addition to this protest, the protests against the U.S.-backed Israeli massacre in Gaza have continued in Los Angeles and Orange County - with protests, acts of civil disobedience and other actions involving different sections of society, with several protests in front of the Israeli consulate, the U.S. Federal building and in Anaheim, which has a large Arab American population —including thousands who protested on January 10th, the national day of protest.
Early Wednesday morning, January 14, cars attempting to enter the building which houses the Israeli consulate in LA were stopped by activists including from a newly formed International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, who chained themselves together and lay across the driveway and walkway stopping people from entering the building. Eight men and women from different generations all wearing the sign “U.S. Jews Demand End the Siege on Gaza” laid down in the driveway chained together, supported by fifty other protestors. One of the demonstrators said, "We are shocked and outraged at Israel's latest act of violent aggression against the Palestinian people. Killing over 950 people, including 250 women and children, bombing schools and mosques and then calling it self-defense—that is the worst kind of hypocrisy. It also amounts to war crimes. We shut down the Israeli consulate today because as Jewish people we cannot allow business as usual while violence is being done in our name."
Although the chained protestors were prepared to be arrested, they decided to unchain themselves and leave after having disrupted business as usual at the consulate for over 3 hours.
Readers of the L.A. Weekly opened up this week’s issue to find a full page ad entitled “WHEN WILL WE SAY ‘ENOUGH’? AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA” from Teachers Against Occupation (www.teachersagainstoccupation.org). The ad begins: “You have not hesitated to identify with Israeli parents concerned about their children’s safety. But imagine, for a moment, that your daughters are Palestinian and live in Gaza. Picture their world.” It goes on to describe the horrific conditions in Gaza and the West Bank, which are routinely omitted from news accounts. It ends with a call for a “just and lasting peace,” adding, “Without justice there will be no peace.” Over 1000 teachers have signed this letter. In addition to this letter, the same website posts another open letter to Obama opposing the massacre of Gaza which has been signed by over 1000 primarily college professors from all across the country as well as some from around the world.
All this shows that there are many, many people who want to do more to support the people in Palestine and oppose the US/Israeli war crimes.
From Houston: Protesting at the Holocaust Museum
Last Friday there was a protest at the Holocaust Museum in Houston...probably a couple hundred. The pro-Palestinian side was forced to be across the street, while pro-Israeli forces were in front of the museum...both sides kept apart by a legion of police.
At one point about a half dozen Arabs dressed similarly to the striped prison-like uniforms worn by concentration camp victims stood silently facing the pro-Israel side, along with signs comparing the atrocities in Gaza to Nazi crimes against Jews. A REVOLUTION distributor held a sign with "Invoking the Holocaust to Silence Criticism of Israel's Crimes? Never Again!' in big letters, and the quote from Bob Avakian at the bottom in smaller letters: “After the holocaust, the worst thing to happen to Jewish people is the state of Israel."
Cleveland: Speaking About Gaza in Inner-City Schools
The staff of Revolution Books in Cleveland was very moved by the editorial in Revolution #152, "Crucial Challenges Posed by Israeli Attacks." Local protests were going on against the U.S. backed Israeli massacre in Gaza, but there were very few people participating outside the Palestinian and Arab community. We had to get to broader masses. As the editorial stated:.
"The level of ignorance among people in this country about Israel—about both the basic facts behind its founding and its ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people—is astounding and appalling."
One thing we thought we could do was try to get out in the superstructure- letters to the editor, getting on the radio, in classrooms, and more. So we put out a call for a local speakers’ bureau:
"...In the spirit of internationalism, Revolution Books in Cleveland calls on you to be part of a special effort--to form a speakers' bureau that can bring out the truth to broad sections of people in this country. This speakers' bureau would work together to get on the media, speak at high schools and colleges, to congregations and diverse communities in Northeast Ohio.
Each person in this bureau could focus on an area that they are familiar with, and be able to speak with real passion, appropriate gravitas, and meaningful political impact. We won't agree on many things, but that's ok...and actually it's an important part of getting the kind of discussion and critical thinking going that we need. We would all speak for ourselves, with our own opinions, but all agree that the Israeli massacre of Gaza must stop!
This would be both a challenge and opportunity to pierce that ignorance, and would be part of mobilizing many kinds of opposition to the massacre in Gaza. And we all have a role to play in that."
We’ve written letters to the Plain Dealer, but they were not printed. We’re still trying to get on the radio. But we had a very successful forum at Revolution Books (despite one of the coldest and snowiest days this winter). It drew a number of people who’ve never been to Revolution Books, including people who’d gone to the West Bank with the "Interfaith Peace-Builders."
But the most successful thing we’ve done so far is speaking at 2 inner city high schools, and I want to share some of that experience with the readers of Revolution. At one school, a number of the students read Revolution newspaper. In fact, a whole wall of the classroom was filled with front page and centerfolds from Revolution on the situation in Gaza!
A young Palestinian woman and her cousin spoke about the history of Israel and Palestine, and what is going on there right now. They also shared a lot of personal stories of how their family farm in the West Bank was divided by the huge wall that Israel built. She spoke to the devastation experienced by the Palestinians by saying "Oppression drive the wise man mad." She also talked about the history of resistance of the Palestinian people over decades.
Then, a staff member of Revolution Books projected a slide show. The narration started by saying: "You've heard about what's happening in Gaza, and some of the history. Now I want you to see it. To actually see what it means when people call what is happening a crime against humanity. To see what it looks like when over 900 people are killed, with 40% being children. This might be difficult, but it's real. Imagine this happening to your own family members, your neighbors, and friends. And then think if this was happening to you and people you loved. But actually, you don't have to imagine, becuasue the people of Palestine are our sisters and brothers." From there, it showed the role of the U.S. in all of this, including how it’s part of a larger strategic plan.
"As part of its so-called 'war on terror,' the U.S. wants to further undermine and push back Islamic fundamentalist forces that pose a challenge to the U.S. empire. And it wants to brutally put down the struggle of the Palestinian people and break their will to resist." The talk concluded with a call for people to Stop thinking like Americans and start thinking about Humanity, including taking up Revolution newspaper and joining people going to DC to challenge Obama-Mania at the Inauguration.
There was a wide variety of questions and observations after the presentations:
- Doesn’t Israel have the right to self-defense, just like the people of Iraq have the right to self-defense?
- Didn’t the Holocaust justify having the state of Israel?
- Why isn’t Palestine a country?
- How do you NOT think like an American- what does this mean?
- How did you all find out what the truth is?
- You talk about the U.S. a lot—what about Israel’s motives and what blame should it get?
- Are you saying that the hype about Obama is not worth it?
- What if the U.S. found a way to settle the conflict? Are any groups trying to end the slaughter? Can’t anyone try to make a treaty?
- Are all Americans monsters?
- Didn’t Israel expect resistance and retaliation?
- What was the reason that Palestine got split up- was it religious conflict?
- Palestine is so small—could it actually win a war against Israel? Should people fight and die or should they give up?
- Could Israel have been created some place else?
- Capitalism exists around the world and is the experience of this country. We just look to becoming a bigger and better superpower. The US plotted all of this—sending the Jews to control the land. The U.S. is paying for all this, but they’re in debt and still paying $3 billion a year to Israel (this from a student who has an e-sub to Revolution)
After we did these classes, we spoke with the teacher, who was really pleased with the days’ events. But he wanted to do more! I told him to look to the editorial in Revolution, and think about it, and we’ll be getting together to make more plans, including helping to fund Revolution. The Palestinians loved the interaction with the students! This was the first time they’ve done anything like this. They also had never seen Revolution newspaper before. There were lots of questions and interest in Bob Avakian and communism. One of them bought a sub to the paper.
PS- I forgot to mention that 85 papers got out at school that day.
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