Hundreds of demonstrators - estimated by some of the organizers at 2,300 - poured into Chicago's Pioneer Court to protest Israel's onslaught against Lebanon and Gaza Saturday July 22. Carrying Lebanese, Palestinian, and American flags, the demonstrators marched to the Israeli consulate to make their objections be known. They were also there to tell Palestinian and Lebanese civilians under siege that while the world has not sufficiently come to their aid, "We have not abandoned you," as one of the speakers at the rally emphasized.
Injustice was a central theme of the demonstration. "No justice, no peace" echoed off the surrounding skyscrapers as the protestors vented their frustration with the double-standards that enjoyed by Israel. Noting that while the world allows Israel to pound Lebanese cities, villages and civilian infrastructure on the pretext of recovering two captured Israeli soldiers, a sheikh from the local Bridgeview Mosque asked, "What about the 10,000 Palestinian prisoners? What about the Lebanese in Israeli prisons?"
The imbalance of power in the Middle East was represented on many demonstrators' signs, which compared the number of Lebanese civilian dead to that of Israel's. Also protested was the US' continued support of Israel despite the state's collective punishment of civilians in both Lebanon and the Palestinians under its occupation. "End US aid to Israel!" was chanted in front of the Israeli consulate.
Some speakers expressed fear that Israel's intentions may be to permanently displace thousands of Lebanese as it did Palestinians when it pushed out nearly a million Palestinians during the establishment of the state of Israel. Already, 500,000 Lebanese civilians are estimated to be displaced - mainly from the south - out of a population of less than four million.
The demonstration was organized by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the Council on American-Islamic Relations - Chicago, the Arab American Action Network, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Many of those who participated emphasized by carrying American flags that they too are American, and object to US foreign policy vis-a-vis the Middle East, where they have family and cultural ties. Registering to vote and making their voices heard through the US political system was encouraged by the rally's speakers.
Across the street from the rally were a handful of counter-demonstrators holding Israeli flags. Earlier this week, the Jewish United Fund of Chicago held a rally in downtown Chicago with the participation of politicking local politicians such as republicans U.S. Representative Mark Kirk, gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka and the democratic Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The organizers of the demonstration printed large quantities of several signs, including one that read, "Stop the Terror." Some participants in Saturday's rally for Lebanon and Palestine held those same signs, but amended to read "Stop the Israeli Terror."
Rallies denouncing Israel's unrestrained campaign of destruction in Lebanon and continued oppression of Palestinians were held around the world yesterday, including London, where some 10,000 were estimated to have participated.