Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs: Chicagoans Demand Cease-Fire in Israel-Lebanon War

MORE THAN 2,000 Arab Americans, Muslims and anti-war demonstrators rallied in front of Chicago’s Tribune Plaza July 22 to ask President George W. Bush to call for a cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Lebanon.

Thousands of protesters marched in downtown Chicago holding signs such as “Stand up against Israel’s terror” and shouting, “Free, free Palestine, free, free Lebanon.” The demonstration was sponsored by Islamic and Arab organizations throughout Chicago, such as the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGO), Council of American-Islamic Relations-Chicago, Arab American Action Network (AAAN) and American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). The mass rally was also endorsed by a number of anti-war and liberation organizations, including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Chicago’s Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER), and Not In My Name.

“The purpose of the protest is to show support for Lebanese and Palestinians, call for justice and ask for an immediate cease-fire,” said Ahmad Rehab, executive director of CAIR-Chicago, at a press conference two days before the event.

The rally included an hour and a half program of speakers protesting the U.S. government’s support of Israeli attacks on civilians in both Lebanon and Palestine. “We don’t support the U.S. support of that terror,” stated AAAN executive director Hatem Abudayyeh, who mourned the deaths of more than 300 Lebanese civilians.

According to Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president of the Mosque Foundation, the largest mosque in Illinois, there are now 700,000 new Lebanese refugees. “We demand a cease-fire now,” he insisted, to deafening applause.

Members of other communities also spoke up against the current war in Lebanon, as well as Israeli attacks on Gaza. “The only word that fits is ‘oppression,'” said Stephanie Weiner, a writer and photographer for the Socialist newspaper FightBack!. Said Weiner, who is Jewish and has family in Israel, “It’s not a Jewish issue or an Arab Issue—it’s a world issue.”

Protesters then marched to the Israeli Consulate in Chicago to hear speeches by political and community activists as well as clergy members. Speakers encouraged protesters to write letters and call their representatives to urge the U.S. government to demand a cease-fire and to tell Israel to stop its attacks on both Lebanon and Palestine. “We must change the status quo,” said CIOGC spokesperson Jenan Hashim. “The hands-off approach will not work.”

Other speakers encouraged participants to ask President Bush to stop using American tax money to perpetuate Israeli aggression on Palestinians—and now, Lebanese.

Copyright © 2006, Washington Report on Mideast Affairs