Thursday, February 26, 2009

Denverites Protest Israel's Invasion, according to ME

Look who's talking! This has been distributed over town in print version too! The story was origionally published here, then updated right before press time.

Sunday, 15 February 2009 18:27

By Christian Wright

According to The Denver Post, which is not known for being an outspokenly pro-Palestinian journal, by Jan. 3rd, the state of Israel, in its bombardment of Gaza, had “killed more than 460 people and left 1,700 injured …” through air strikes alone. By the end of the month that number would rise to 1,334 killed – one-third of them children – and 5,450 injured.

Less widely reported was the fact that between the end of the cease-fire and the start of Israel’s ground invasion on Jan. 3rd, Palestinians’ notoriously inaccurate Quassam rockets had killed exactly four Israelis. Yet this was claimed by Israel to be sufficient justification for unleashing one of the world’s deadliest and best-equipped militaries upon the people of Gaza, who reside in one of the most densely populated areas of the planet.

Such a proportion of 115 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military for every one Israeli killed by Hamas’ generally ineffective, homemade rockets does not even tell the whole story, as absurd and enraging as that statistic alone may be. Almost entirely missing from every American account of the conflict is the fact that residents of Gaza have been living under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade for years. There is no convenient way to tabulate the deaths, not to mention the much more difficult to measure psychological trauma inflicted upon these people by Israel’s methodical destruction of their economy and infrastructure. The Israeli Navy’s decision on Dec. 30th to ram and threaten to sink a private ship, the Dignity, which was attempting to deliver medical supplies to Gaza, graphically illustrated the reality of this blockade. Were it not for that incident, millions of Americans who heard about it on the news might very well not have known that a blockade even exists at all, or that it has been the main reason cited by Hamas for its rocket attacks.

On Jan. 3rd, for the second time in less than a week, Denverites of conscience added their voices to the wave of worldwide protest that erupted in response to Israel’s recent escalation of aggression. Approximately 70 people assembled in front of the state capital from 2-4 p.m. to make their voices heard. The crowd was about 60 percent persons of Middle Eastern and Palestinian descent – the rest made up by members of Denver’s progressive and activist community. The political composition of the crowd was quite diverse. It seems every shade of ideological perspective, organization, and non-organization was represented, from anarchist vegetarians, to liberals and pacifists holding U.N. flags, to toddlers barely young enough to walk unassisted, and everything in-between. Clearly, it was the sign of a healthy and a broad movement, albeit of a rather modest size.

The fact that snow flurried intermittently throughout the day, and the temperature was a chilly 25-degrees at 2 p.m., seemed only to harden their resolve, and emphasize the seriousness of the situation. As one clearly underdressed protester put it, “We’re here to show solidarity with the people of Palestine. What’s going on over there is really fucked up. Holding a sign isn’t much, but it does say something when you’re out here in the cold.”

The solemnness of the occasion was broken by a series of chants projected from a megaphone. A young speaker in his teens led
the crowd:
“Free, Free, Palestine/End this Genocide!”
“Shame, Shame, Israel/Shame on Arab
“What do we want/Peace! – When do we want it?/Now!”

Cars passed, several honking their horns in support, to the welcome surprise of many protesters. While a video crew did show up to take pictures and conduct interviews, sadly neither of the city’s major dailies felt compelled to cover the demonstration in their Sunday issues.

This is of course not to say the crowd had nothing worthwhile to say, as I soon found out by taking the opportunity to speak with several of those demonstrating whom I did not recognize.

Adel, a Libyan by birth who has lived in Denver since 1983, took pains to express the fact that he was by no means an “activist,” or even a generally “political” person. In his words, “This is the first time I come to something like this, in my whole life. I used to be a regular guy, keep to myself, and not get involved. But I saw on the news … Yesterday I went to the mosque to pray, and heard about [the protest]. Coming here to stand with the people is the least I can do.”

Najah, a woman of Palestinian birth, who attended the rally with her husband, Hassan, and two children, was representative of much of the crowd. Like many others, she heard about the demonstration by word of mouth, and was determined to add her voice to those assembled.

“I’m here to say end the war in Gaza … and to demand protection for Palestinians in Gaza, especially for children and women, and to call for an intervention to stop [the war],” she said.

After being translated, her husband added, with more intelligence than any of the commentators on the major new networks:
“I believe the U.S. has the power to stop this. Unfortunately the American actions so far have been to support Israel, and to justify war crimes … it’s a one-sided, immoral, inhuman war. Even if we accept retaliation, it should be in equitable amounts. So far Palestinian rockets have killed four Israelis. Israel retaliates by dropping “bunker buster,” 2,000-lb bombs on a mosque and an orphanage. If this is the land of the free, all Palestinians have been supporting for years is their freedom! I wonder if Americans are truthful to their own principles, to their own moral imperatives.”

Protests returned to the Capital on Jan. 11th, when a Pro-Israel rally on the Capital-side of Lincoln Street was countered by a Pro-Palestinian one directly across from it. For this occasion, the media broke its silence, and at least one network covered both sides remarkably objectively on a nightly newscast.

Then on Feb. 2nd, as the Colorado Senate assembled to pass resolution SR 09-009, which expresses support for Israel, demonstrators standing about the entrances greeted them once more. It was unfortunate that despite the efforts of these activists, the resolution passed, as most protestors had feared.

Weaning American support for Israeli militarism will not be a short or simple process, though in the past few years the debate has shifted somewhat. Since the invasion of Lebanon in 2006 and the recent invasion of Gaza, Israel has found it harder to shake the image of occupation and present itself as a benevolent, besieged democracy.

Taxes collected from the people of the United States continue to provide billions of dollars worth of weapons to Israel every year, with a terrible civilian death toll to show for it. But as this past month’s protests have shown, not all these taxpayers are comfortable being complicit in the blockade and bombing of densely populated urban areas. The fact that mainstream news even reported “two sides” with their own arguments being heard in front of the capital on Jan. 11th is a tremendous step forward for this country, where Palestinian advocates have been marginalized and ignored for decades. If this month’s protests can tell us anything, it is that Americans of conscience are getting louder. -Insight

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