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Four SCV residents attend protests in L.A.

In pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian demonstrations

Posted: December 31, 2008 6:03 p.m.
Updated: January 1, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Waseem Salahi, 19, of Newhall, makes a sign on the top of his car stating "We Stand With Gaza." Salahi, along with his brother and two friends, attended a protest in Los Angeles against Israel's attack on Palestine.

Four young Santa Clarita Valley residents marched down Wilshire Boulevard Tuesday evening, holding signs and shouting slogans along with hundreds of fellow Palestinian supporters.

Israel’s recent military strikes on the Gaza Strip prompted pro-Palestinian countered by Pro-Israel demonstrations in America, with marchers in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, New York City and Los Angeles denouncing the violence.

“You don’t go around and destroy everyone you disagree with,” said Yaman Salahi, a senior at Cal-Berkeley and a Stevenson Ranch resident. “Attacks only make people retaliate.”

But when Israel launched air strikes against Palestine on Dec. 27, Salahi’s view on the war changed. “[Israel] just keeps breeding the violence,” he said.

Salahi, along with his brother Waseem, a freshman at University of California, Berkeley, Kelli Crescenti and Pilar Kearney attended the protest outside the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles. The latter three were classmates at William S. Hart High School.

“There have been atrocities committed on both sides,” said Kearney, a Cal-Berkeley freshman and Newhall resident.  

While presidents of Hart’s humanitarian club, “We Hart Darfur,” Kearney and Cresenti attended protests in Washington, D.C.

“Regardless of your position, it’s wrong to kill 300 people,” said Cresenti, a freshman at Macalester University in Minneapolis and a Newhall resident. “It’s just common, everyday people who are dying.”

Using yardsticks, boards and markers, the four made signs that boldly stated their opinions and desires on the conflict in Gaza.

As night fell, the four protestors became a part of hundreds. Protesters held candles and waved Palestinian and American flags.

“[The protest] is not working toward a goal but to show solidarity with Palestine,” Kearney said. “I think it’s important in raising awareness.”

Since Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians died in the Israeli air onslaught against Gaza militants. Most of the dead were members of Hamas security forces, but the United Nations said at least 60 civilians died. Militant Palestinian rocket fire killed four Israelis, including three civilians.

Protesters on both sides of the issue stood on opposite sides of Wilshire Boulevard.

Some waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Free Palestine.”

One pro-Israel sign read, “Hamas, stop using children as human shields.”

A Palestinian supporter’s sign declared, “End the siege, end the bloodshed.”

Waseem Salahi held up a sign declaring “Obama stop the siege of Gaza,” as he entered the crush of people chanting as a protest leader passionately shouted accusatory rhymes.

“Wow, this is crazy,” Waseem said.

From three loud speakers set up along the sidewalk, the voices of the protest radiated throughout the crowd.

“Israel, Israel, what do you say?” they asked, with protestors echoing their sentiments. “How many kids have you killed today?”

Other slogans called Israel a terrorist state and blamed it for breaking the cease-fire between the two countries.

During the more derogatory phrases, Cresenti remained silent, looking straight ahead at the pro-Israeli protestors on the other side of Wilshire.

“I’m not going to say all of it,” she said.

Rabbi Ira Rosenfeld, of Congregation Beth Shalom in Santa Clarita, said some of his members attended the pro-Israel protest, but his temple did not experience any anti-Jewish retaliation since the violence in the Middle East escalated.

“We did have a general posting through the conservative movement, which our temple is part of, to tell people to be more aware and watch out for anything suspicious, but I don’t think we’re in any danger here in our area,” Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld said that protest for and against an issue can be peaceful.

“I am a peace-loving person and I believe there are people who want peace on both sides, but unfortunately there are fanatics on both sides,” Rosenfeld said.


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