Center City anti-Israel protest draws 300

Amer Darwish raises the Palestinan flag as he crosses JFK Blvd. on Friday surrounded by Philadelphia bicycle patrol officers coming to help with crowd control. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Amer Darwish raises the Palestinan flag as he crosses JFK Blvd. on Friday surrounded by Philadelphia bicycle patrol officers coming to help with crowd control. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 27, 2014

Bursting with anger at the growing death toll in the Gaza Strip, 300 pro-Palestinian demonstrators hurled invective through bullhorns Friday outside the Center City office tower that houses the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia.

"Israel, Israel, what do you say?" they chanted. "How many kids have you killed today?"

For nearly three weeks, Hamas militants in Gaza have rained incessant rocket fire on Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces have bombed Gaza and invaded the coastal strip.

More than 850 Palestinians and about three dozen Israelis have been killed.

"Rather than quieting the extremists," said Sam Kuttab, 55, of Wyncote, Israel's bombing "fuels them. And who suffers? Civilians."

The protest at 19th Street and JFK Boulevard hampered rush-hour traffic as people with Palestinian flags paraded in the crosswalk with every red light.

The crowd included members of the Temple University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine Philly.

Anwar Jabbarin, 51, of Northeast Philadelphia, wore a kaffiyeh headdress, a long robe, and a sandwich board plastered with a map of the Mideast showing borders before Israel was created in 1948.

Aymen Ibrahim, 20, a Temple biology major, carried a sign that read, "Don't Do What Hitler Did to You."

"There is a right for Israel to exist. I am not debating that," he said. "But the violence is disproportionate. It's an eye for an eye, not a village for an eye. It's unfair, cruel, and it has to stop."

Betsey Piette, a board member of Playgrounds for Palestine, a Yardley-based program that sends outdoor equipment to Gaza and the West Bank, said she hoped the demonstration would lead to "more coverage" of the Palestinian point of view.

Many protesters criticized what they perceived as a pro-Israel bias in the mainstream media.

Piette said U.S. foreign aid to Israel, approximately $3 billion a year, should not be used to harm Palestinians.

Stuart Sockol, 57, a customer service representative, said, "It makes me unhappy that money is spent for bombs and killing, and not spent to feed poor Guatemalan kids who are knocking at our door."

Seeing two demonstrators trampling an Israeli flag, Sockol got angry.

"I want somebody to come out here and advocate for peace," he said, "not for one side or the other."


mmatza@phillynews.com

215-854-2541 @MichaelMatza1

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