The sign Ramzi Obeid carried Tuesday afternoon at the downtown Berkeley BART station demonstration read: “Killing and destruction in Gaza—paid for by our taxes.”
The demonstration that attracted about 100 protesters and a dozen counter-demonstrators was aimed at making the public aware of the recent killings in the Gaza strip, Palestine, and was organized by the Berkeley-based Middle East Children’s Alliance and the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee.
Obeid—a Palestinian-American who says he cannot go to the family home his mother left in 1948 in Jaffa, Israel-Palestine, because “I am not Jewish”—condemns the Israeli shelling of Palestinians in Gaza.
Standing on a pick-up truck south of the BART station, Middle East Children’s Alliance Executive Director Barbara Lubin described the June 9 incident on a beach in Gaza when eight members of one family, including a six-month old infant, were killed while picnicking, allegedly a result of Israeli shelling.
Lubin read a statement from Mona Elfarra, a physician working in Gaza: “An Israeli gunship suddenly fired at random against the beach while army tanks fired artillery shells and Apache helicopters crossed the sky; 40 civilians were injured, 10 killed.” The picnickers were among them.
Counter-demonstrators flew Israeli flags and sported placards such as “Pro-Israel/Pro-Peace.” When Lubin addressed the rally from the truck, several pro-Israeli demonstrators moved from the north side of the BART station close to the demonstration, where picketers were circling as they listened to Lubin.
“You’re lying Barbara, you’re lying,” yelled a counter-demonstrator through a bullhorn as he approached the truck with several others carrying Israeli flags.
Lubin encouraged protesters to keep marching and ignore the other protestors as Berkeley police moved in to keep the pro-Israel group away from the pro-Palestine rally.
Sanne DeWitt, a spokesperson for the pro-Israel demonstrators from Stand With Us, San Francisco Voice for Israel and Israel Action Committee of the East Bay, told the Daily Planet: “A lot of lies have been told.”
Speaking to the protesters, Lubin contended that Palestinian functionaries have not been paid for months; the Israelis collect taxes and refuse to turn them over to the Palestinian Authority. “There’s no money to feed the children,” she said.
DeWitt defended the Israeli government’s refusal to relinquish the Palistinian funds. “I’m concerned that Hamas [the ruling party] will use the funds to buy weapons and fight,” she said.
After a few short speeches the protesters took their march to University Avenue down to Sacramento Street then back up to the BART station.