Israeli support event draws protestors

CARMICHAEL - A standing-room only gathering in support of Israel at Congregation Beth Shalom also brought about two dozen protestors to the sidewalk outside.

Opponents of the Israeli military's incursion into Gaza carried signs demanding an end to U.S. military support for Israel and an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

The meeting inside drew hundreds from the Sacramento area's Jewish community and included a visit from the Israeli consul in San Francisco and former State Senate President Darrell Steinberg.

"The purpose of this meeting tonight is for the Jewish community in the Sacramento region to gather together in support of Israel and its right to self defense and security," Jewish Federation of Sacramento President Barry Broad said.

Protestor Nancy Fleischer with Jewish Voice for Peace agreed Israel has a right to self defense, but claims that is not an issue in the current conflict.

"What we're quarreling about is that this is not a defense. The assault on Gaza is not a defense," Fleischer said. "This siege has been slowly strangling the people in Gaza, who have not been able to rebuild their infrastructure for electricity, and water and sewage that was destroyed in 2008 because of the siege."

Broad took issue with that claim, arguing Israel must respond to repeated rocket attacks from Hamas militants inside Gaza.

"We absolutely hope that there will be peace in Gaza," he said. "But it can't be peace in which 2,600 missiles are fired at your country and half the world's Jewish population is under constant threat of missile attack."

Protestors maintain the Israeli military incursion is not the answer to the region's security and stability.

"Over 1,000 of the Gazans who have been killed in this assault, three-quarters of them are civilians," Fleischer said. "There have been approximately 50 Israelis killed and only three of those are civilians. The Israelis that were killed were mostly killed in combat when they entered Gaza."

Broad said he and others abhor the loss of life on both sides.

"We should never lose sight of the impact on innocent people that war has -- innocent people on the Palestinian side and innocent people on the Jewish side," he said.

Fleischer said the rocket attacks by Hamas would stop if Israeli policy shifted toward peace.

"There is a solution. The people of Gaza would recognize Israel, but they need to be recognized themselves," Fleischer said.

Broad believes the threat to Israel must be ended before the conflict can end.

"Gaza needs to be demilitarized," he said. "And if it's demilitarized, it would be no problem for Israel to live in peace with its Arab neighbors."


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