Monday, May 5, 2008

Protest outside Zionist celebration:

Zionists deny that Israel Commits Genocide against the Palestinians

"Hundreds show up to Celebrate Israel:

"Meanwhile, about 15 protesters march outside the gates"

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Ann Arbor News (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

Full article on the Web at:

Article and photos at:

A celebration of Israel's independence on Sunday attracted 400 to 500 people to an Ann Arbor festival filled with children's games, ethnic food and music.

"We're here to celebrate 60 years of a vibrant, energetic democracy, and also the culture, the food, the society of Israel,'' said Eileen Freed, acting executive director of the Jewish Community Center, which hosted the festival.

But the fourth annual Celebrate Israel event also drew about 15 pro-Palestinian protesters outside the center on Birch Hollow Drive.

The protesters, who marched outside the center while chanting and holding Palestinian flags and protest signs, said the celebration is not one of Israeli independence but of Palestinians being forced from their homes after Israel's creation.

"To the Palestinians, it's the commemoration of a nakba,'' or catastrophe, said Ann Arbor resident Farouq Shafie, who fled the area with his wife in 1966.

"I remember the horrors of the exodus caused by the creation of Israel,'' Shafie said. " ... To me, it's the saddest day of my life. It's not a day for celebration, it's a day for mourning.''

The protesters chanted anti-Israeli sayings in front of a chain-link fence covered in painted panels, some of which showed Palestinian flags flying beside Israeli flags. Although the protesters sometimes exchanged heated barbs between passersby behind the fence, police stationed near the area said the demonstration remained peaceful. The protesters' chants couldn't be heard in the center's yard, where most of the festivities took place.

Freed said members of local Jewish organizations painted the murals on the fence under the theme "Peace in Israel.'' She said although the protesters have a right to be there, their charges that Israel commits genocide against the Palestinians isn't true.

"They think there should be peace, (but) the protesters are protesting Israel's very right to exist,'' she said. "They're in favor of there not being an Israel.''

Ann Arbor resident and festival attendee Uzi Sasson, who used to live in Israel, said he wants the protesters to understand both sides of the conflict.

"As someone who's served in the army and as an Israeli, I can assure you that those people only know part of the truth,'' he said. "I wish someone could sit with them and educate them with the big picture.''

Sasson said he hopes that there can be open dialogue between local Israelis and Palestinians, so that the two groups can achieve peace.

"I believe that individuals can change the big picture,'' he said.

Henry Herskovitz of the Middle East Task Force of Ann Arbor said he was protesting the mistreatment of Palestinians by Israelis.

"Everyone speaks of white supremacy in South Africa, but few dare call Israel what it is, which is a Jewish supremacy state,'' he said. "I'm a Jew and I'm appalled at the racist ideology that Zionism is, which resulted in the Jewish state of Israel.''

Protester Laura Hampton of Toledo said she often pickets area events because of what she calls the illegal occupation of Israelis in Palestine and human rights abuses against Palestinians.

"And the U.S. supports it, big time, with money,'' she said. "It makes me angry ... it's disgusting.''

Festival activities included a Middle Eastern lounge with percussion instruments, backgammon and belly-dancing, and a guided "tour of Israel,'' in which participants visited areas of the center that represented sites in Israel.

Boris Bondin of Ann Arbor said he brought his two children to the event so they could have fun in a family-friendly environment.

"I really enjoy this place and this event,'' he said. "I think it's a good idea to make it once a year.''

Freed said that although the protest at the annual festival draws attention, the family activities of the event should be the focus of the day. "This is what it's all about,'' she said, gesturing to the people milling about the tent-covered yard.

Amanda Hamon can be reached at 734-994-6852 or