SAN FRANCISCO – In a break with mainstream pro-Israel organizations, more than 100 Jews called on Israel to accept some responsibility for violence in the West Bank at a gathering outside the Israeli consulate here Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, in Orange County, pro-Palestinian demonstrators called for an end to the killing of children by Israeli forces.
Organizers of the San Francisco protest said that while they feel pressure not to criticize Israel during such a sensitive time, they could not stand silent.
So, for more than an hour Friday afternoon, they stated their case with speeches and chants, including “Hey ho, hey ho, the occupation has got to go.”
“We condemned the violence on both sides, but there has been a disproportionate use of force by the Israeli military,” said Rebecca Stein, a speaker and organizer of the just-formed Coalition of Jews for Justice in Israel and Palestine. “Many Jews have been concerned about standing up in protest. We’re encouraging Jews to have courage and to act out of a sense of moral obligation.”
The coalition includes several progressive Jewish groups in the San Francisco Bay area, Stein said.
One such group is A Jewish Voice for Peace. Representative Lincoln Shlensky said he joined the “ad hoc” coalition within the last week in reaction to the unconditional support many U.S.-based Jewish organizations have lent the Israeli government. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has blamed Palestinians for the violence.
“These organizations are really not speaking for many Jews in this area,” Shlensky said. “There’s no reason to reflexively support Israel for every wrong policy.”
Support for Israel was the last thing on the minds of more than 100 people gathered in front of the federal courthouse in Orange County at a rally sponsored by the Palestinian American Womens Association of Southern California.
Standing before the crowd, 11-year-old Dina Abdo held up a plastic baby doll covered in red ink — a baby bleeding, she said.
“Hey Barak, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide,” she led a group chant.
Mona Abdallah, 15, of Anaheim, carried a placard that read “Free Palestine” on one side and “Rocks don’t equal rockets” on the other.
Although the demonstration was peaceful, security at the federal courthouse was tightened. Metal barricades and police tape cordoned off the building and Santa Ana police officers were posted around the perimeter.
Associated Press Writer Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.