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Pioneer Local: Silent protesters show support for peace in Gaza

By Chris Lafortune

http://www.pioneerlocal.com/oakpark/news/1388638,op-protest-012009-s1.article

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Disappointed by the country’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a group of about 65 people stood in silent protest in Oak Park Monday (Jan. 19).

Their backgrounds were varied, with representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine.

But their cause was shared: a just peace in the Israeli region.

“Normally, what people do is put Jews on one side and Muslims on the other,” said Ahmed Rehab, an Oak Park resident with the Council for American-Islamic Relations.

But Rehab said he believes as much in prosperity for Israelis as he does for Palestinians.

“We don’t value the lives more in our tribe than we do the other tribe,” Oak Park resident Rebekah Levin with Jewish Voice for Peace and the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine.

Though the bombing has ended in the region, Levin said, trouble continues. Medical aid, food and fuel are not getting through to Palestinians in need. Israel has said it will not open borders to the West Bank, she said.

“We’re here to say it’s not acceptable,” Levin said.

The protest lined the sidewalk at the intersection of Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street Thursday (Jan. 15) at about 4 p.m. People stood in silent protest, holding signs that read “End the Siege of Gaza” and “Starving Palestinians is Not a Jewish Value.”

Occasionally, a passing car would honk in support and people in the group would wave back.

Similar protests were taking place throughout the Chicago area Monday, Levin said.

Rehab hoped bringing the issue to people’s attention would help them look at the conflict objectively. He has no argument with a country defending itself when threatened, he said. Many argue Israel is doing just that.

But in this case, Palestinians are being besieged and bombarded by air, land and sea, Rehab said.

“What’s going on now goes beyond self-defense,” he said.

Yet recent federal legislation blames Hamas for recent military action in the region. The United States sends billions in federal aid to Israel, Levin said.

Both sides need to be brought together to negotiate with an honest broker, Levin said. “There has to be somebody who can broker in an honest fashion.”

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