Monday night, in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of Israel's Operation Cast Lead that killed 1,400 Gazans, and in solidarity with the 1,400 international peace pilgrims converging in Egypt from 42 countries for the planned Gaza Freedom March, Los Angelenos gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate for a solemn candlelight vigil.
In concert with Los Angeles' diverse population, attendees crossed boundaries of race, age and denomination. They shared a common purpose: to end Israel's blockade and occupation of Gaza that deprives 1.5 million people of their basic human rights. The incomprehensible manifestations of Israel's occupation are outlined here by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK, the coordinating organization for the Gaza Freedom March.
Disavowing the fact that most of the world, except Israel and the United States, believes Israel committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, many of Israel's supporters deny culpability on Israel's part. But their exoneration of Israel is in direct conflict with the findings of The Goldstone Report, commissioned by the United Nations to investigate Israel's 2008 incursion into Gaza.As stated in The Report:
"We came to the conclusion, on the basis of the facts we found, that there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza," the head of the mission, Justice Richard Goldstone, told a press briefing today.
"The mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF)."
Despite ample proof of Israel's guilt, some 50 die-hard supporters showed up to challenge Israel's dissenters on Monday. They stood on the opposite side of Wilshire Boulevard holding signs and banners. While the south-side Gaza sympathizers stood in quiet vigil, the north-side Israel supporters invited honks from passing motorists:
Like any metropolitan city, Los Angeles is host to a variety of people. Monday night there were Jews, Christians, Muslims and atheists on the pro-Palestinian side. The opposite side was mostly Jewish. Jewish people faced off against Jewish people to support or oppose Israel's policies. L.A. Jews For Peace was well represented on the free-Gaza side:
Those who conflate the United States with Israel supported the blockade:
I've attended many opposing sides events in Los Angeles between those who support Palestinian-occupation and those who support Palestinian-liberation. The occupation supporters are always wrapped in the American flag, championing U.S. government bias toward Israel. They have a swagger that the occupation protesters don't. They wear the American flag as a symbol of the government's allegiance to their cause - the imprisonment and deprivation of 1.5 million people.
As I write this in the wee hours on Wednesday morning at 4am PT, 7,500 miles away buses containing 100 peacemakers are en route from Cairo to Gaza to take part in the Freedom March. Egypt, which had closed its border with Gaza to the 1,400 pilgrims who had come to make the March, made a last minute strategic decision to splinter off the peacemakers and allow just 100 to enter Gaza, leaving 1,300 humanitarians behind. In typical government impropriety, those who sought justice were dealt with unjustly, and those who sought to liberate were suppressed.