View Full Version : Speakers, Backers Portray Conflict In Mideast as Part of Terror War

07-20-06, 08:21 AM
Speakers, Backers Portray Conflict In Mideast as Part of Terror War

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2006; B03

Hundreds of people stood in the midday heat yesterday to rally support for Israel, with speaker after prominent speaker characterizing current Israeli fighting as a small branch of the larger U.S.-led global war against Islamic terrorism.

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon and the Rev. John C. Hagee were among those who roused multiple rounds of applause by saying Israel's attacks against the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah were blows against those who have killed civilians from Bali to Bombay to Moscow.

"Hezbollah is just as much America's enemy as it is Israel's," said Ehrlich, who cited the 1983 bombing by Hezbollah of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut; the attack killed 241 Marines. "They haven't changed; they'll never change."

"This is not just about [Israel]. It's about where our world is going to be and the fate and security of our world. Israel is on the forefront," Ayalon said. "We will amputate these little arms of Iran," he said of Hezbollah.

Some 1,500 people, according to organizers, stood in Freedom Plaza, holding signs that read "Free Lebanon From Hizbollah" and "We Support Israel." The participants included seniors speaking in heavy Russian accents and carrying small Israeli flags, groups of twenty-somethings and Orthodox Jews who encouraged people to come pray. Neil Keller, a 46-year-old accountant from Rockville, took the afternoon off to attend the rally.

"I'm here to support Israel and to fight racism," he said. "That's what this is."

Also yesterday, the Arab American Institute held an emergency meeting in Washington of 100 leaders from across the country and issued a statement calling for an immediate cease-fire. Three Democratic Michigan lawmakers -- Reps. John D. Dingell, John Conyers Jr. and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick -- held a news conference calling for the same.

"The Bush administration has been slow to act, not only in trying to stem the violence and devastation of the Lebanese and Palestinian infrastructure but also in securing the safe evacuation and passage of thousands of American citizens caught in the fighting," the institute said in its statement.

With 268,000 Jews, the Washington area has the sixth-largest Jewish community in the country, according to a 2003 study. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington announced yesterday that it had sent $50,000 of a promised $150,000 to Israel for immediate humanitarian aid.

Although Jewish community groups called for the rally, one of the most active advocates for Israel was Hagee, televangelist and pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. His recently formed Christians United for Israel held an inaugural dinner Tuesday night that had been planned before violence broke out. At the rally, Hagee said the 3,500 people who attended the dinner planned to fan out and "see every congressman and every senator and tell them that millions of Christians stand with Israel."

Country music star Randy Travis, who is a family friend of Hagee's, attended the rally and sat on the speakers' stage.

"Israel withdrew unconditionally from Lebanon, and now 1,000 rockets have landed there," Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) told the gathering. "Israel has not only the right, it has the responsibility to protect its people."

Kevin Zeese, a Green Party hopeful for the U.S. Senate seat from Maryland, sent a letter challenging Cardin, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the race, for supporting what Zeese called Israel's "terror military policy."

"How many Bin Ladens is Israel, with U.S. acquiescence -- and the silence of U.S. politicians -- creating?" he wrote to Cardin in a letter dated Monday. "How many Americans will die because of the support of the United States for Israel in reaction to its abusive behavior?"