Posted 8:30 p.m. April 16
by Robbie Friedman
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – The Capitol was home to the largest reported support rally for Israel in America’s history Monday as nearly 200,000 pro-Israeli demonstrators filled the area surrounding the congressional headquarters. The immense crowds gathered for a solidarity meeting to voice their support for Israel in the wake of escalating violence in the Middle East.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY) and other American political figures were on hand to listen to speeches by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and author Elie Weisel.
The sound system used during the rally projected the speaker’s voices miles away to the Washington Monument.
The highlight of the hot and sunny afternoon was Netanyahu’s long-awaited speech.
“The attack of innocent people is never justified,” the former Israeli prime minister said. “It is always evil.”
Giuliani addressed the crowd while they chanted, “No double standard,” referring to President George W. Bush’s current “war on terrorism.” The former mayor appeased the crowd with firm, pro-Israeli language: “Peace must be based on security; not terrorism.”
The rally’s participants, including a large number of college students from across the country, erupted in applause every time a speaker uttered the word “freedom” and expressed their contempt for Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat by booing and hissing at the mention of his name.
The rally was preceded and followed by mass crowds of people singing and dancing in circles to traditional Israeli songs such as “Jerusalem of Gold” and “The Nation of Israel Lives.”
Like many of the protestors, Renee Gordon-Krause, a mother of two from Columbus, Ohio, traveled all night to attend the rally. Krause carried a quote from Golda Meir, a historical Israeli figure, that reads, “There can only be peace with the Palestinians when they love their children more than they hate the Jews.”
Krause said she made the eight-hour bus journey to Washington, D.C., for her children’s sake.
“I am here because I cannot bring my children into a world where they will have to second-guess a trip to the grocery-market,” she said.
Tali Fisher, a high school student from Toronto, Ontario, said, “It’s too early to tell if this rally will be a success.I hope it will be and I feel like it will be.”
Noah Tannenbaum, a friend and travel companion of Fisher, said he was in awe of the day’s events, standing simply with his hands in his pockets looking around and saying, “This is amazing. This is amazing.”
The rally, which began at 1 p.m. and lasted more than two hours, was peaceful with no incidents of violence reported. D.C. Metropolitan Police noted that besides the large crowds causing general traffic complications, the rally remained well under control.
A very small contingency of pro-Palestinian protestors showed up for the rally. They were isolated from the crowds and heavily guarded by police. The 10 pro-Palestinian protestors included Palestinian women and self-describes Orthodox Jewish males holding up signs saying, “Zionism is the opposite of Judaism.”
In honor of Israel’s day of remembrance, the demonstrators observed a moment of silence for all those who have been killed in Israel in the past 18 months of bloodshed.