Chicago Sun-Times: Area Islamic groups criticize U.S. response in Lebanon

A handful of Christina Abraham’s Lebanese relatives have been able to flee to Syria since Israeli airstrikes began pounding Lebanon a week ago, but most of the DePaul University law school student’s cousins are still trapped in an underground bomb shelter.

Tarek Zeidan’s wife, Nadine, safely returned to Evanston from her native Lebanon on July 12, hours before the first bombs dropped. His parents and two siblings, however, remain in Saida, a city 30 miles south of Beirut, where his father’s promising dairy business has been reduced to rubble.

Abraham, a Christian, and Zeidan, a Muslim, joined local Islamic groups Thursday in denouncing Israel’s military onslaught in retaliation of the kidnapping of two soldiers by Hezbollah and urged the Bush administration to demand the Jewish state cease fire.

‘Are they animals?’

The eight-day bombardment is akin to terrorism and the United States is aiding and abetting the “barbaric” acts by backing the Israelis, they said during a news conference at the downtown Islamic Center.

“Israel has a right to defend itself, but what are the Lebanese? Are they animals? It’s not about the two soldiers anymore,” said Zeidan, a 27-year-old post-doctorate organic chemistry fellow at Northwestern University.

“Israel justifies this attack by saying they are targeting Hezbollah. But the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport is not Hezbollah. The evacuation routes out of the country are not Hezbollah and medical supply trucks are not Hezbollah,” added an emotional Abraham, a civil rights coordinator for the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Double standard seen

CAIR-Chicago and Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago officials said the U.S. government, slow in its efforts to evacuate the 25,000 Americans from the Middle East, has a double standard when it comes to the safety of Arab Americans.

“The unwillingness to call for a cease-fire gives the impression that the administration places less value on the lives of American citizens of Arab descent and Islamic faith and are therefore not worthy of protection from Israeli state terrorism,” CAIR-Chicago executive director Ahmed Rehab said. “The administration should have one standard regarding the value of life and one definition regarding terrorism.”

Lonnie Nasatir, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was inaccurate to equate Israel’s actions to terrorist attacks. “The real answer to bring a cease-fire is to release the soldiers who have been held captive and to stop firing rockets into Israel, but they’ve shown no inclination to do that,” he said.

Chicago-area Muslim and Arab groups are planning a downtown rally in support of Lebanon and Palestine at noon on Saturday.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Sun-Times

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