WASHINGTON (BP)–The violence may be thousands of miles away, but the tensions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were on display in Washington April 15 as more than 100,000 people jammed the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol to attend what organizers called the “largest rally ever in support of Israel,” CNSNews.com reported.
A much smaller counter-protest involved a group of Orthodox Jews and Muslims waving Palestinian flags and one Orthodox Jew saying the “bloodshed, whether it be Palestinians, whether it be Jewish, is totally a direct cause of Zionism.”
But the crowd that packed The Mall on an unusually warm spring day was overwhelmingly in support of Israel.
Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani told the gathering that “there is no moral equivalence between the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
“There is a difference between a nation based on law and democracy and one that harbors terrorism,” he said.
Giuliani reminded the gathering that Israel lowered its flags to half-staff after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and held a day of mourning for the Americans and others who lost their lives. He said the United States must now stand with Israel against Palestinian terrorists.
“We’re not afraid. We’re not going to cower. We are not going to back down. We are going to stand up for who we are and what we are,” Giuliani said.
“All of us yearn for peace. But peace must be based on realism, not romance. Peace must be based on security not terrorism. The desire for peace must not overwhelm our common sense. Otherwise we will fail to achieve peace,” Giuliani warned.
Sen. Harry Reid, D.-Nev., flanked by Republicans and Democrats from the Senate, emphasized that “America stands with Israel.”
“Once we identified those responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we sent our troops to Afghanistan to bring the terrorists to justice and end their ability to strike terror again,” Reid said of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington.
“How, then, can we, or anyone reasonably ask Israel to allow terrorists responsible for murdering innocent Israelis to remain free to continue to plan more attacks? We can’t!” Reid said to applause and shouts of “U.S.A.” from the crowd.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R.-Texas, said the United States “must stand solidly behind Israel in our common fight against terrorism.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m from Texas, and in Texas, we’ve got a reputation for straight talk,” Armey said. “Let me make this as clear as possible: A deliberate attack on innocent civilians is terrorism.
“If a person deliberately attacks innocent civilians, or if he actively supports deliberate attacks on innocent civilians, then he is, by definition, a terrorist,” Armey added in a thinly veiled reference to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the most vocal response from the audience when he compared Arafat to some of the world’s most notorious dictators.
“Totalitarianism has always been wedded to terrorism,” Netanyahu said, “from Lenin to Stalin to Hitler to the Ayatollahs, to Saddam Hussein, to Osama bin Laden, to Yasser Arafat.”
Netanyahu noted that a number of Arab nations are “genuinely interested in peace,” including Jordan and Egypt, with which Israel has lived amicably for years.
“But five Israeli prime ministers have been unable to make peace with Arafat. Do you know why?” Netanyahu asked the crowd. “For a simple reason: because Arafat does not want peace.”
He called the Palestinian leader “Osama bin Laden with good P.R.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the United Jewish Communities/The Federation of North America organized the rally. Additional information, photos and video of the rally can be found online at www.IsraelRally.org.
Johnson is the congressional bureau chief with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.