[sixties-l] 75,000 marched to free Palestine, but was anyone listening? (fwd)

From: sixties@lists.village.virginia.edu
Date: Sun Apr 28 2002 - 17:36:35 EDT

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    Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2002 11:52:36 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: 75,000 marched to free Palestine, but was anyone listening?

    Echo Chamber:


    75,000 marched to free Palestine, but was anyone listening?

    By Sasha Polakow-Suransky
    Web Exclusive: 4.22.02

    April 20 was a day of contrasts in the streets of Washington. Gigantic
    Maryland Terrapins mascots urging people to "Mobilize" commingled with
    Palestinian flags, massive street theater puppets, and the occasional
    Korean drumming circle. Though the causes ran the gamut from ending
    union-busting to lifting sanctions on Iraq, the demand for Israeli
    withdrawal from the occupied territories and the creation of a Palestinian
    state dominated the ethnically diverse crowd of more than 75,000 that
    converged on Pennsylvania Avenue to march toward the Capitol. Even some
    police motorcycles carried stickers reading "End the Israeli Occupation
    Now." Small children had stealthily placed them there while unsuspecting
    officers revved their engines.
    The message of the protesters was no more or less inflammatory than that of
    pro-Israel demonstrators last week. Indeed, the polarization of the
    conflict has led members of both camps to move to their respective
    extremes. "[Yasir] Arafat is a terrorist" signs last week were met with the
    rebuttal "[Ariel] Sharon is a war criminal" on the weekend; graphic
    pictures of the Israeli victims of Palestinian suicide attacks were
    answered by photos of Palestinian children maimed by Israeli shells.
    Some pro-Israel extremists at last week's rally declared "Kahane was
    right," referring to the right-wing rabbi who advocated forcibly expelling
    Arabs from the occupied territories and who is celebrated in Brooklyn
    graffiti and West Bank settler circles despite his classification as a
    "terrorist" by the Israeli government. Likewise, similarly hateful
    extremist groups chanted "Death to Israel" on the weekend. But
    interestingly, these inflammatory calls came not from the throngs of
    flag-waving Palestinians but rather a group of 10 to 20 "New Black
    Panthers," who joined the crowd of pro-Palestinian and anti-globalization
    These Panthers, with branches in several cities, bear little ideological
    resemblance to the original Black Panther Party and have in fact been
    denounced by the original Panthers and their heirs. The new Panthers
    marched with posters of Osama bin Laden and signs such as "The American
    Israeli white man is the devil." Entering the crowd, they provoked several
    arguments and one near-fight. Palestinian demonstrators largely ignored
    them and distanced themselves from the New Panthers' message, though one
    flag-waving youth joined their ranks.
    As the Panthers moved forward, the press descended upon them, snapping
    photos and digesting sound bites about "Jihad" and "destroying Israel." But
    their glory wouldn't last long. No sooner had they become the center of
    attention than an open-bed truck carrying 20 college students and blaring
    Beastie Boys music approached from behind. Suddenly hoarse calls for "Death
    to Israel" were drowned out by the shrill and annoying voice of a college
    student. "While you're shopping, bombs are dropping," she wailed from the
    truck. Incredulous, the Panthers looked up at their competition, a waifish
    college student barely five-feet tall. Frustrated, the Panthers ran forward
    along the sidewalk, visibly troubled that they had been drowned out.
    As the four separate rallies converged at 14th and Pennsylvania, the
    panthers disappeared into a sea of Palestinian flags, kaffiyeh-clad
    Palestinian youths ran past perplexed theatergoers, and the true flavor of
    the protest emerged. The rain did not hinder the procession of tens of
    thousands towards the mall. Half-naked headdress-and loincloth-wearing
    dancers got down to Arabic techno music while veiled women looked on
    curiously. A small group calling for peace on the Korean peninsula drew
    crowds of shirtless hippies with their drumming performance and an
    impromptu rock concert on the steps of the Justice Department took the time
    to denounce Attorney General John Ashcroft between acts.
    By the time the march came to a halt on the mall, many stragglers had
    already headed home or stopped to rest on the steps of the Canadian
    Embassy. Filling the grass from the Reflecting Pool to the Washington
    Monument, the remaining crowd listened to rally organizers and the renowned
    Egyptian feminist writer Nawal el-Sadawwi.
    A Palestinian flag hung from the stage decorated with a large anti-war
    banner. Variations on the theme "End the Israeli occupation of
    Washington/Congress/Capitol Hill" could be seen, a marked contrast to six
    days earlier when a pro-Israel rally drew similar crowds but also a sizable
    bipartisan congressional contingent. Yet at a rally defending Palestinian
    rights, only the ever-present Bush critic Democratic Representative Cynthia
    McKinney of Georgia chose to speak, a silent testament, perhaps, to the
    extraordinary influence of the pro-Israel lobby that so many here were
    speaking out against.
    Partisans of the Palestinian cause demonstrated that many people share
    their anger at the Sharon government and its American surrogates. But the
    weekend's demonstration also proved that simply matching the numbers of the
    pro-Israel lobby in the streets will never be enough to win the PR war for
    Arab-Americans. The distortion caused by the New Black Panthers didn't help
    matters. Until the message of the 75,000 gathered on the Mall reaches the
    halls of Congress, uncritical support of Israel, even when it makes the
    Bush administration look spineless, is likely to remain a fixture in the
    American political landscape.

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