Rabbis and a minister, Republican and Democratic congressmen, dignitaries representing Canada and Israel and leaders of many Jewish organizations led an enthusiastic group of Israel supporters gathered in Washington D.C. Thursday afternoon as they vowed to stand with Israel and back its right to defend itself.
The crowd, estimated at more than 1,000 by Jewish Community Relations Council Executive Director Ron Halber, gathered in Farragut Square cheered as the speakers called for an end to the barrage of missiles landing in Israel from the terrorist group Hamas. They also strongly repudiated any talk of moral equivalency, noting that Israel goes out of its way to warn Palestinians while Hamas puts its targets where its civilians are.
If counting the number of dead is the way to decide which side is right, then “by that reckoning, you look at World War II and you see that Eisenhower is a war criminal” due to the high number of German casualties, said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).
“Every rocket fired into Israel is a war crime,” he said.
His colleague, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) spoke of Congress’ strong support for Israel. If Hamas “would protect their own children as much as Israel protects their own children, we would have a chance for peace. Hamas needs to understand Israel is here to stay forever.”
“Human rights groups need to stand up for what is happening. This is about religious freedom. This is about human freedom,” he said to a very hot but enthusiastic crowd. A few pro-Palestinians tried to shout over the speakers, but under the direction of many speakers, they were mostly ignored.
Halber riled up the audience when he said, “Let us be clear. Hamas is responsible for the violence. There is no moral equivalency. We Jews value life.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, declared, “We are gathered here as one people” and noted that “never before in history has a nation taken the steps Israel has to avoid civilian killing.”
Still, he said, “We must never, never turn our backs when civilians die. It is painful whenever a child dies,” Saperstein said. Peace is important, he said, but it must be “a real peace, one that will enhance Israel’s security.”
The rally was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council along with about 80 area synagogues and Jewish organizations.
See the July 24th Washington Jewish Week for more rally coverage.