Protestors march against Israel again

January 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
In San Francisco, protestors took to the streets again Friday. A group of more than 200 people carrying Palestinian flags and protesting Israeli's military violence in the Gaza marched to the Israeli Consulate near Montgomery and California streets and continued marching for more than three hours.

Hundreds of protesters marched through downtown San Francisco on Friday in opposition to the Israeli offensive and in support of the Palestinians. Ultimately, they said they hope to wake up America's conscience.

This Palestinian solidarity march started at the Powell Street BART station and stopped on Montgomery at the Israeli Consulate, which closed down early to avoid a confrontation with demonstrators.

"We don't need permission to tell the American public and the American administration that support of Israel is not an American value," said Jess Ghannam, with the National Council of Arab Americans.

"It's the Palestinians who are speaking to all of us, they're speaking in Gaza, but they're speaking to everyone on the streets of San Francisco," said Hatem Bazian, from American Muslims for Palestine.

Dozens of police concentrated on crowd control.

"Free free Palestine, free Palestine," chanted the crowd.

Things escalated when four bystanders with Israeli flags faced off with the demonstrators. Police ushered the Israel supporters into an office building and kept the crowd moving.

The protest wound its way down Montgomery Street and then up Market Street, finally ending at San Francisco City Hall.

"We need an immediate cease fire to the massacre of innocent children, women and old people in Gaza. Those people need bread, they're running out of food, and they need water, fresh water. On top of all that, they need medicine, they need doctors, the Israelis bombed our hospital there," said Victor Fadayel, an activist.

"The Palestinians are the aggrieved party. That's the view in Europe, that's the view in a lot of the world press. The fact is there are grievances on both sides. And at the moment, it's a fight to the death," said Professor Michael Nacht, Ph.D., a U.C. Berkeley national security and foreign policy expert.

As Israel amasses troops on the Gaza border in preparation for a possible ground invasion, the Israeli consul general told ABC7 News they must force Hamas to stop firing rockets into southern Israel.

"I hope it won't happen, but we have to be willing to do it and able to do it in order to get to where we have to get. We probably also have to get to a situation where Harmas will be deterred, will not do it again," said Akiva Tor, from the Israel Consul General.

As tension builds in Gaza, protesters here say they are networking and building momentum. They plan to stage additional rallies over the weekend.

Most are mad at Israel, but some also at Egypt and other Arab countries that have not come to the aid of the Palestinians.

"You have even Mubarak of Egypt essentially blaming Hamas for provoking this, you have the Saudis being very quiet, you don't have anybody even coming to the rhetorical aide of Hamas," said Nacht.

Nacht says that is because secular Arab governments do not want a conservative religious fundamentalist Hamas to succeed.

"When push comes to shove here they're not there because none of the leadership of these other countries, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, doesn't have, Syria is an authoritarian state, but it doesn't have Islamic fundamentalists," said Nacht.

Nacht says Hamas represents a threat to many of the region's rulers.

"If Hamas can actually succeed it could be such a model, it could sweep throughout, remember most of the Arab world is Sunni, most of them are Sunni, so it could sweep the Arab world," said Nacht.

There is at least the possibility that Israel's attacks could be hardening support for Hamas among the Palestinians in Gaza; a similar situation happened with Hezbollah when Israel invaded Lebanon.

Bay City News contributed to this story.