Christina Abraham choked on her words and what she said was “a bit of rage and a lot of anger” Thursday while describing her family’s life in Lebanon.
Her aunt, uncle and their four children 16 years old and younger just fled to Syria after their Beirut neighborhood was bombed. Other relatives were holed up for days in bomb shelters they hope protect them from Israeli missiles.
When her family in Morton Grove tries to reach relatives overseas, often the phone just rings and rings.
She’s scared. And angry. And she’s speaking out about the recent barrage of Israeli bombs that have destroyed Lebanese roads, bridges and the airport and killed hundreds of civilians.
Israel’s bombing campaign started after Hezbollah, an anti-Israeli group the United States classifies as a terrorist organization, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. That led Israel to fight back. Hezbollah responded by launching missiles into Israel.
“There’s no way to say that Hezbollah is any more of a terrorist organization than the state of Israel,” Abraham said.
Abraham, a 27-year-old law student and civil rights coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, spoke Thursday with others from local Islamic rights organizations, saying Lebanese civilians are suffering and dying at the hands of Israel.
Their own government in the United States needs to ask Israel to stop, they said.
And while the United States government lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group, not everyone at the news conference described it as such.
“The council’s position is it’s not a terrorist organization,” said Janaan Hashim, spokeswoman for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. “If you look at the big picture, they offer a great deal of social services.”
She also questioned why the evacuation of Americans from Lebanon has been so difficult, comparing it to the United States’ flawed rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
The Islamic groups are planning to rally for the people of Lebanon and Palestine at noon Saturday at 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago.
Adam Schupack, an associate director of the pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League’s Chicago office who was not at the news conference, said the notion that Israel’s actions are racist was “preposterous and insulting.”
“I strongly disagree that (Hezbollah) is anything different than a terrorist organization dedicated to nothing other than wiping Israel off the map,” Schupack said.
He said Israel was forced to destroy Lebanese bridges and roads to stop the flow of foreign missiles to the group.
“We certainly regret the loss of innocent lives both in Lebanon and Israel as a result of this conflict,” he said.
Schupack said was unaware of any type of pro-Israel counterrally planned for Saturday.
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