Protesters debate road to Mideast peace

Two groups yearn for end to violence in Israel, clash over way to achieve it

April 22, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

BOTH GROUPS — Separated by police officers and orange traffic cones, two groups of impassioned Jewish protesters stood in the rain in Pikesville yesterday, shaking homemade signs at passing cars and yelling at each other, each side insisting its way is the only road to peace in an increasingly violent Israel.

Both groups -- Baltimore Area Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and Americans Combating Terrorism -- denounced terrorism and advocated a cease-fire, but fervently disagreed about how to achieve that end.

"They say you get three Jews in a room and you have three opinions," said Mike Bardoff, a Baltimore community organizer, who was holding a sign reading "Stop the Cycle of Violence" at Park Heights Avenue and Old Court Road.

Standing to the left of the orange cones with Bardoff were about 25 protesters for Baltimore Area Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, a group that believes Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his military forces are wrong to occupy Palestinian territory and should withdraw immediately.

On the right side of the cones, about 20 protesters with Americans Combating Terrorism said the only way to halt suicide bombers and stop Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from trying to take over Israel is to advance into Palestinian territory and destroy Arafat's power.

For about an hour and a half, both sides waved to passing cars, buoyed by honks and ignoring shouts such as "Go home, you idiots!" and "Are you all serious?"

Larry Marder, 46, a Pikesville lawyer, was driving by the rally and stopped because he said the Baltimore Area Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace made him angry. He walked past a sign reading "Arafat is Israel's bin Laden," held by a member of Americans Combating Terrorism, over to the Baltimore Area Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

There he got into a heated debate, and likened the Israeli advancement into Palestinian areas to "keeping someone out of your house who wants to kill you."

"The Palestinians rejected the peace process and waged a war of terror," Marder argued. "Israel finally responded. They finally had enough violence within their borders. Arafat doesn't want a state next to Israel, he wants all of Israel."

But Bardoff, who said his group represents a minority of the Jewish population in Baltimore, said violence won't solve the problem.

"You can't occupy someone's land without doing harm to them," said Bardoff, 49, who lives in Lauraville. "What Israel is doing is hurting Palestinians, but it's also hurting Israelis. Violence brings violence. We have to say, `How do we de-escalate this?'"

Standing near him was Rolande Glicenstein, a Holocaust survivor who has lived in Baltimore for 34 years. She was holding a sign with the map of occupied territories and the words, "Do we Jews want real estate more than we want justice?"

"As a Jew and a survivor of the Holocaust I am outraged to see my people oppress, humiliate and destroy the Palestinians. I believe they have a right to a piece of land," said Glicenstein, 58, who lives in Oakenshaw and designs costumes for films. "Some people believe the Jews are entitled to the land for biblical reasons. Others are traumatized by the Holocaust and believe anything that is critical of Israel is anti-Semitic."

Some people at yesterday's rally believe Palestinians should not be in Israel at all.

"Sharon should not withdraw until the whole terror network is destroyed. Israel has a right to this land," said Rebecca Chesner, 43, a Pikesville psychologist. "There are 22 other wealthy Arab nations with a tremendous amount of land. Just like Israel absorbed Jewish refugees, these Arab nations need to accept Arab refugees. That is the only way to peace."

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