Oakland protesters rally for Palestinians against Israeli attacks in Gaza


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Protesters cradling sheets wrapped to look like dead children rallied in Oakland on Friday to call on the United States to withdraw financial support for Israel over that country‘‍s military assault in the Gaza Strip.

The group of about 100 protesters waved signs and Palestinian flags, and chanted slogans such as, “Make a choice, Obama, human rights or apartheid!” in front of the University of Pittsburgh’‍s Hillman Library on Forbes Avenue as evening traffic rushed by, with some cars honking in support. Holding the sheet-wrapped figures -- one of which included what looked like the dangling legs and shoes of a young girl -- the group then marched along Forbes and Fifth avenues to draw attention to their cause.

“Residents of Gaza have been under siege for such a long time, they‘‍re barely living to begin with,” said 21-year-old Pitt senior Hadeel Salameh, a native Palestinian who said she helped organize the protest. “We as humans, we have to speak out, it’‍s our responsibility, and as Americans have to speak out because our tax dollars are funding this.” 

Conditions in Gaza have deteriorated since Israel invaded the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday night after dropping bombs on the region for 10 days, even as militants continued to fire rockets deep into Israel. Israeli leaders have said they are targeting underground tunnels in which militants, and in particular the group Hamas, have hidden weapons and from which they are launching raids on Israel. 

But if the conditions for average Palestinians are inhumane, it is Hamas and not Israel that has brought them additional trouble, said Gregg Roman, spokesman for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. When Egypt proposed a cease-fire on Tuesday, Israel accepted the conditions but Hamas leaders rejected them, he noted. 

“When everyone who often criticizes Israel agrees with Israel that there should be a cease-fire, and Hamas refuses to sign a cease-fire, that‘‍s an inhumane action on Hamas’‍s part,” said Mr. Roman, who stopped by the protest. “The inhumane action is that Hamas is inviting conflict onto the average Palestinian.” 

But the human rights violations visited on Palestinians in the West Bank extend much deeper than Israel‘‍s most recent bombings and ground invasion, several protesters said. 

One of them, a Jew, said it was wrong to attack Palestinians in the name of creating and defending a homeland for the Jewish people.

“I understand people fear because of our history, because of the Holocaust, but when you’‍re saying the land is for one group of people and not for another group of people, the racism and violence you‘‍re seeing play out now is inevitable,” said 31-year-old Mk Davis of Bloomfield. 

For Edgewood resident Cindy Kirsch, the protest was about asking for a justice for a wronged people, the Palestinians. 

”The treatment of the Palestinians has been inhumane for so many years,” Ms. Kirsch said. “While the Jews were a people without a land, they went into a land with a people and pushed them out.”

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com. 


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