NW Marchers Rally Against Israeli Actions

By Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hundreds of protesters, many carrying antiwar signs and fake coffins, marched quietly in a mock funeral procession yesterday through upper Northwest Washington to the Israeli Embassy to protest the bombings in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and to urge the United States to broker a cease-fire.

"One, two, three, four, we don't want your racist war; five, six, seven, eight, Israel is a terrorist state," protesters chanted outside the embassy, off Van Ness Street. More than a dozen police and security officers stood outside the building.

"Israel out of Palestine, cease fire now," the crowd continued after speakers demanded an end to the killings of civilians and to U.S. support of the bombings.

The demonstration came as the United States and United Nations searched for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. It also came less than a week after hundreds of people, including Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), attended a rally in downtown Washington supporting Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and others maintain that the bombings are necessary to repel Hezbollah, root out terrorism and protect Israelis.

Hundreds of people -- Arabs and Americans, blacks and whites, Muslims, Christians and Jews -- began the 1 1/2 -mile procession to the embassy late yesterday afternoon by heading north on Connecticut Avenue. They passed a commercial stretch that included a gym, where customers on treadmills peered out the window at them.

Some motorists honked in support. But the driver of a Ford Mustang convertible yelled out, "Israel forever," prompting a protester to yell back, "Shame on you."

Emad Fraitekh, 44, a Palestinian born in Jerusalem who lives in the District, said he hoped the march would "deliver a message to the American people and the administration that what Israelis are doing right [now] in Lebanon and [the] Gaza Strip is far beyond Israel's right to exist or Israel's right to defend itself."

Jeff Mendez, 33, a D.C. peace activist who helped organize the protest, said: "The recent escalation in the Middle East is not only ungodly, it's inhumane and illegal. Now more than ever, there should be a citizen call for peace and nonviolence."

The march included some Jewish protesters. Members of an anti-Zionist sect of Hasidic Orthodox Jews, clad in black hats and long black coats, came from New York. Some carried miniature Lebanese flags, and all expressed support for the Palestinians and Lebanese.

"We believe that the whole existence of Israel, the Zionist state, is against the Jewish religion," said one of the Jews, Joel Wagschal, 25. "We are in pain for all the suffering of the people in the Middle East."

Another Jewish protester, Israel-born Alma Gottlieb-McHale, 24, carried a sign in Hebrew that read:

"Hundreds of innocent civilians killed, for what? Israel and Gaza, Israel and Lebanon. We've already been in this movie."

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