Pro-Israeli demonstrators rally downtown

About 75 wave signs and flags at an intersection defending Israel's attack

June 04, 2010|By Brent Jones, The Baltimore Sun

About 75 demonstrators waved Israeli flags at a downtown Baltimore intersection Friday in a show of support for this week's deadly attack by Israeli defense forces trying to prevent an aid flotilla from reaching the impoverished Gaza Strip.

The 90-minute rally, organized by Baltimore Zionist District, was held at Pratt and Light streets to raise awareness of what supporters called an act of self-defense by Israel against Hamas, the militant Palestinian movement that controls Gaza. Several drivers of cars and trucks honked their horns in support

Israel has faced international outrage in the aftermath of the attack, with demonstrations erupting worldwide as foreign leaders and humanitarian organizations have accused the government of using excessive force during a raid in international waters. At least nine were killed in the Monday attack, with dozens more wounded.

The pro-Palestinian flotilla, led by ships from Turkey, was attempting to bring food, medical supplies, clothing and construction supplies to the territory. But critics say the main intent was to provoke a confrontation with Israel and damage the standing of the Jewish state in the eyes of the world.

Jim Schiller, chairman of the Baltimore Zionist District, said he believes the flotilla was not on a humanitarian mission. Schiller said his organization put the rally together in about a day to combat growing anti-Israel sentiment.

"If it were on a mission, people would have responded and unloaded the supplies peacefully, which they did not do," Schiller said.

Jonathan Benedek, 22, a recent University of Maryland graduate, said he was motivated to attend the rally because of the media scrutinizing Israel's role in the conflict.

"Israel was not attacked by peaceful activists but by people trying to stir up trouble," Benedek said.

Jonathan Slevin, a spokesman for the California-based Free Palestine Movement, said he is not surprised some communities are holding rallies backing Israel's actions. "In the general sense, with any issue, there is always a battle for public opinion. But from all eyewitness accounts, those are inaccurate accounts. But people can have those points of view," Slevin said.

Slevin said the justification used by Israel will not be accepted, "and that's a good thing and could lead to better things for the people of Gaza."

Another aid ship is en route to Gaza, and organizers say they will make another attempt to break the blockade. Israeli officials have said they intend to block that vessel as well.

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