LA protest: Turkey has blood on its hands
Some 5,000 people, including politicians, actors, community leaders, participate in Beverly Hills rally in support of Israel, carry signs reading, 'Peace activists don't use knives and axes' and 'Shame on Turkey.' Governor Schwarzenegger speaks with Noam Shalit
LOS ANGELES - As anti-Israel protests are being held throughout the world following Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, a rally in support of Israel was held Sunday in Los Angeles in which 5,000 people participated. The keynote speaker at the rally, which was organized by the Israeli consulate in the city, was none other than California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Supporters of Israel marched along Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills carrying Israeli flags in the largest pro-Israel rally in the US since last week's flotilla raid. In addition to Israelis and Jews, the rally was also attended by leaders from the Iranian, Armenian, and Mexican communities, as well as Catholic clergymen.
In the background, the songs Am Yisrael Chai, David Melech Yisrael, and Hatikva were played over a loudspeaker system. One of the participants blew the shofar. Thousands shouted: "Turkey is a friend of Hamas."
Israeli and American flags at the Los Angeles rally (Photo: Linda Kassian)
The protesters carried signs with photographs of those they called "pacifists" beating IDF soldiers with clubs. Below the photos was the title: "Peace activists don't use knives and axes." Another photograph shows a range of knives and axes with above the title: "Humanitarian aid – knives, axes, and clubs."
In addition, signs were waved that said "Shame on Turkey," "Israel wants peace," and "Turkey – you have blood on your hands."
'Release Gilad now'
Schwarzenegger told the crowd he supports Israel and its right to defend itself. He spoke with Noam Shalit, the father of captured Israelis soldier Gilad Shalit. The conversation between the two was played over the loudspeakers for the crowd to hear.
Shalit called upon the rally participants not to stop fighting for Gilad's release. Schwarzenegger said that, being a father of four, he could not imagine what it would feel like if one of his children were held hostage, and, therefore, is calling for Gilad to be returned home.
Signs against Turkey at the rally (Photo: Linda Kassian)
Noam Shalit also said during the phone conversation that his son has been held hostage for four years, without one day of light, without anyone being allowed to visit him. He said that his son is slowly disappearing and called upon the crowd to help release his beloved son before its too late.
The Israeli Consul-General in Los Angeles Yaakov Dayan took the stage wrapped in an Israeli flag, and called upon Israel supporters everywhere in the world not to be afraid to rally in favor of the country.
Cable news channels broadcast some of the rally live. Among the speakers at the rally were Oscar-winning actor John Voight, Angelina Jolie's father, who presented himself as a supporter of Israel, and Democrat Congressman Brad Sherman and Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann.
Religious officials also attended the rally. Catholic priests spoke in favor of Israel in Spanish and in English.
Among the rabbis attending the event was head of the Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Hier, who said that the aid flotilla passengers must remove their cover of peace activists behind which thy are hiding and reveal their true faces as terrorists.
Prof. Yehuda Pearl, father of reporter Daniel Pearl who was murdered in Pakistan, also spoke at the rally, saying that the fight against Hamas and Iran is a fight between civilization and barbarism.
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to this report