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O.C. Rally Calls for Halt in Lebanon

Hundreds of protesters line an Anaheim street to demand a cease-fire.

July 30, 2006|Christopher Goffard and Teresa Watanabe | Times Staff Writers

Rallying at an Anaheim shopping plaza Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators waving Lebanese and Palestinian flags condemned Israel's invasion of south Lebanon as an act of terrorism and demanded an immediate cease-fire.

Some protesters carried mock coffins made of cardboard and black cloth to symbolize the deaths resulting from Israel's military actions in Gaza and Lebanon. Others carried American flags and signs saying, "Israel out of Lebanon" and "Stop the U.S.-Israeli war on Palestine and Lebanon."

The protesters also decried what they described as a news media bias in favor of Israel. Their view countered a common criticism at pro-Israel demonstrations that the U.S. media is anti-Israel.

"I have family members who are facing death from Israeli fighter jets now," said Hussam Ayloush, 36, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on AmericanIslamic Relations, which helped organize the rally.

"It is hard for me to tell the Palestinian people or the Lebanese people not to resist the Israeli occupation," he said. "Israel's action is pushing people to the extreme."

The demonstration began early Saturday afternoon at Brookhurst Plaza in Anaheim, a mall filled with Middle Eastern bakeries, butcher shops and restaurants. Some of the stores sold Lebanese and Palestinian flags to demonstrators. The event lasted into the evening.

The Israelis "have targeted civilians, innocent kids and women," said Kamal Shamas, 50, of Los Angeles, a civil engineer of Lebanese descent.

Shamas defended Hezbollah, the militant Islamic organization that has been targeted by Israel for kidnapping two Israeli soldiers.

"It is not kidnapping; it is capturing," Shamas said. "Hezbollah did not attack Israel. They did not attack civilians."

During a speech at the demonstration, the Rev. Gwynne Guibord of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles urged combatants on both sides to throw down their weapons.

"With each passing day, more and more lives are lost to the unrelenting violence," Guibord said. "The tactic of meeting violence with violence is clearly not working."

The United States and Israel have continued to resist calls for a cease-fire, saying Hezbollah must disarm first.

Many U.S. Jewish organizations back that position and strongly support Israel's right to respond to what they see as continuous and unprovoked aggression by the Shiite militia. Moreover, they have argued that Hezbollah has placed civilians at risk by planting its fighters in residential neighborhoods.

John Fischel, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said Jewish support for Israel's actions was strong and growing, despite the widespread images of destruction and death. He said he did not support a cease-fire unless it resulted in "Israel's integrity being protected."

But as violence continues and the civilian death toll mounts, calls for a cease-fire are growing beyond the Arab and Muslim communities. Saturday's rally, for instance, was supported by some Latinos, African Americans and Jews, while the Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance helped organize a recent protest at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.

Latino, black and Asian American activists said they were alarmed at the civilian killings but also said they did not want to use their tax dollars to support the Israeli military or the rebuilding of Lebanon when social services in their own communities are being cut.

"Taxpayers don't want to foot the bill for what another country is destroying," said Zeke Hernandez of the Santa Ana chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a civil rights organization.

Hernandez, whose group has forged ties with Arab and Muslim groups in recent years, said he supported Saturday's rally because of his concern over "the killing and maiming of innocents" in Lebanon.

Times staff writer H.G. Reza contributed to this report.

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