As Israeli troops and tanks drove farther into Lebanon on Saturday, at least 1,500 people gathered in Chicago's Pioneer Court to protest the incursion that they said was unjustified and unfair to Lebanon's civilian population.
"Racist state" and "terrorist state" were just two critiques lobbed at Israel by the chanting crowd during the rally, organized by eight Arab and Muslim organizations. Signs, in Arabic and English, also chastised Israel for its recent military actions in the Gaza Strip.
"We are American and Lebanese," said Salwa Adra of Naperville, who with her husband, sister and five children waved American and Lebanese flags at the rally in the 400 block of North Michigan Avenue. "The world is watching, but no one is doing anything."
Perceived inaction by the U.S. government was another frequently mentioned complaint during the two-hour rally that began at noon.
"I think the president should put pressure on Israel for a cease-fire," said Qadri Abdullah, a Palestinian-American from Mundelein. "You call yourself a Christian," Abdullah said of President Bush. "Well, what would Jesus do?"
Kifah Mustapha, an imam at Bridgeview's Mosque Foundation, whose two children had been summering in Lebanon until they fled to Jordan last week, advocated restraint.
"Listen to the concerns of the Lebanese people," he urged Israel and Hezbollah. "We don't want Lebanon destroyed after all these years of rebuilding."
Chicago police said about 1,500 were at the rally. Ahmed M. Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, placed the number at about 2,300.