Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Protesters Unhappy With Congressman's Support of Israel"


News Junkie, Connecticut

January 17, 2009 9:00 AM


Protesters Unhappy With Congressman's Support of Israel


by Christine Stuart


More than 40 people braved biting cold temperatures Friday afternoon

to protest Israel's offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers.


Shouting "Gaza, Gaza don't you cry. Palestine will never die," the

protesters waved a Palestinian flag as they paraded down Main Street

for a meeting with US Rep. John Larson's District Chief of Staff John Rossi.


Margaret P. Levy of West Hartford said the demonstration was planned

several days ago, despite the freezing cold temperatures. "People are

getting killed everyday. We don't want it to be said we stood silent."


About 12 of the protesters made their way up to Larson's Main Street

office a few blocks from where they started their protest and were

ushered into a conference room where they discussed their strategy

while they waited for Rossi to join them.


"It's so hard to get our voices heard," Liz Aaronsohn, the daughter of

a Rabbi, said as she turned to the lone reporter in the room.


When Rossi entered the room he apologized for keeping them waiting and

asked the one reporter in the room (me) to leave, but Aaronsohn argued

on our behalf and Rossi allowed us stay for the more than one hour meeting.


The group was upset by Larson's Jan. 9 vote in favor of a resolution

recognizing Israel's right to defend itself. Larson was joined by US

Reps. Joe Courtney, Chris Murphy, Rosa DeLauro, and Jim Himes in

supporting the resolution.


"When our entire Congressional delegation endorses the massacre, we

must refuse to be silent," a statement that the group distributed to

Rossi said.


Aaronsohn told Rossi that it was one thing to support the resolution,

but it was another thing to be the one of the co-sponsors of the

resolution. "Not just West Hartford Zionists are his constituents,"

she said. There are now 43 Islamic Centers in the state of Connecticut.


Before reading off a list of their demands for Larson the group went

around the conference room and talked for about two-minutes each about

why this issue was important to them.


David Amdur, from the American Friends Service Committee, told Rossi

he would like to see Larson support an investigation proposed by US

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. He said Kucinich is calling for an

investigation of the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, which says if the

United States is going to give arms to another country it must adhere

to specific conditions and use those weapons solely for defense— not

escalation of a conflict. He said he believes Israel is clearly

violating this act.


"America does not always have to fund Israel," Flo Woodiel of West

Hartford said. "It was shocking to so many people that John was a sponsor."


Youness Bakr, a member of the Palestinian American Congress, said the

occupation of Gaza was a well-calculated one and is "far worse than

any other crisis in the world." He said the United Nations has called

for a war crime probe and no journalists have been allowed in Gaza

since the offensive started more than three weeks ago, so it's

difficult to know what's going on. He said the Israel government has

said it will allow reporters into Gaza next week while the world is

preoccupied with the presidential inauguration.


According to the New York Times, the Israeli military recently gave a

small group of reporters a tour of Gaza.


"What more has to happen?" Bakr asked. "When you have the context it's

hard to make a decision against humanity."


"We are looking for some representatives with a moral backbone," he said.


Christopher Allen-Doucot, a Hartford Catholic Worker, said he knows

Larson is a moral man and was unequivocal in condemning the civilian

deaths in Darfur, so it's hard for him to understand how he could

support such a resolution.


In Gaza of the more than 1,100 killed at least 700 of them were

civilian, he said.


"Where is Mr. Larson's concern for those people?" he asked.


Levy told Rossi she was proud of Larson's early stance against the war

in Iraq. However, his support of Israel is unfounded, she opined. She

theorized that many people who come to hold positions of power support

Israel because they remember the Holocaust and therefore believe

Israel deserves special consideration.


"Israel does not have a monopoly on righteousness," she said. "And

yes, there's violence on both sides."


"The notion that the US has apparently never said to Israel you've got

to stop this makes no sense at all," she said.


Toward the end of the meeting, the group gave Rossi a list of their

demands, including a face-to-face meeting with the Congressman as soon

as he returns to the District and a public statement saying he

supports a bilateral cease fire.


Rossi told the group that Larson supported a cease fire based on a

statement he released Jan. 9 after a vote on the resolution. As copies

of Larson's statement were distributed the group read them and left

them on the conference table.


"I support a ceasefire that ends rocket attacks by Hamas, prevents

additional arms and explosives from entering Gaza, and jumpstarts a

diplomatic initiative in the region," Larson said in the statement.


"This is disgusting," Bakr said. "I'm going to leave it here."


Allen-Doucot got up from his chair in disgust and grabbed his jacket

as he prepared to make an exit. "What am I going to tell my sons when

they're old enough to vote?"


Dr. Jamshid A. Marvasti of Manchester said he was very disappointed in

Larson. "I hope he would not lose our trust, but honestly I cannot

defend him any more."




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