Lebanese-Americans Protest Israelâ€™s Aggression Against Lebanon
Troyâ€”July 21â€”The mood was at once jubilant and angry this past Friday evening in Troy at a â€œcandlelight vigilâ€ held between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. as about 150 protesters congregated together in front of Troy City Hall on Big Beaver Road to protest Israelâ€™s wanton killing of Lebanese civilians and the ongoing failure of the United States government to do anything about it. The protesters waved mainly Lebanese flags but also American flags and peace flags.
Many protesters voiced their outrage at having their tax dollars go to providing the precision-munitions, jet fuel, M-16s and F-16s that are spreading so much destruction throughout Lebanon. Many voiced their disdain that so much firepower could be brought down on an area without doing any damage to the Hezbollah organization which is ostensibly the target.
In Troy, passing cars honked either approval or disapproval. Some passersby even honked and shouted slurs and anti-Arab sentiment, but the majority seemed to honk to show agreement with the protesters who demanded an end to the attacks on Lebanon. Present were many Lebanese-Americans of different origins, Christian, Sunni and Shiâ€™a, as well as people of other nationalities and, of course, Americans. Many of those present were actually from the affected area of Lebanon and described in detail their approval of Hezbollah, the vast majority of them describing that organization as a resistance organization and not as a terrorist organization.
No one present who spoke with The Muslim Observer voiced discontent with Hezbollah for its actions, rather they remembered the many past offenses of Israel against South Lebanon, including their having never given back the Shebaa Farms region and thousands of prisoners since their occupation of that land. They all pointed out Israelisâ€™ responsibility for deliberately wreaking havoc on the civilian population of Southern Lebanon, and some asked for the gun-camera footage from the airplanes that had dropped bombs on trucks full of childrenâ€”which Israelâ€™s public relations spin claimed had been mistaken for Hezbollah rocket transports.
Present were, of course, representatives of many of the most powerful Arab organizations in Southern Michigan (including ACCESS, the ADC, and the CAAO) which organizations reflect in varying degrees the heavily Lebanese background of Dearborn. About 15,000 residents of Dearborn originate from the very Bint Jebail village which as of this writing is surrounded and under attack by Israeli forces.
Imam Mardini of the American Muslim Center in Dearborn spoke at the event, leading cheers and prayers in support of an immediate cease-fire.
Asked whether the march might have any impact on American policy in the region, protester Rima Meroueh of Dearborn said that yes, in fact the mass demonstrations of those decrying the war effort had already swayed American public opinion by putting pressure on government representatives. The purpose of the event, she said, was to let the people know what was really happening now in Lebanon.
Fadwah Alawieh, also of Lebanese origin and from Dearborn, explained that while American and Israeli policy-makers always speak of UN Resolution 1559 (Syrian exit from Lebanon and disbanding of Hezbollah) which they say Lebanon violated, those same people always fail to mention the tens of security resolutions which Israel has flagrantly violated. She said that if Israel had kept only one of them, Resolution 242 (withdrawal of Israel from land occupied after the 1967 war), that would have stopped the conflagration which has now erupted. In an impassioned plea, she spoke of the unity fostered among the Lebanese people by the Israeli attacks, citing the priests, rabbis and imams who were present, and arguing with sincere conviction that in fact the news does not show the events transpiring thereâ€”in fact the real terrorism is being perpetrated by Israel. â€œEveryone with a heartâ€ must be against this war on children, she said. She said her brother is in Lebanon now, and because of the deep concern of her mother he will return to America and safety as soon as he can find transportation.
Another protester who did not want to have his name published said that he hoped this protest would have some influence on US policy, and hoped that the conflict could be resolved politicallyâ€”â€œforce does not resolve issues, never resolves issues, it only plants hatred and retaliationâ€”it complicates and does not solve problems.â€ With hope, many of the protesters cited Condoleezza Riceâ€™s impending visit to the Middle East (which happened after the protest, on Sunday, without visible results), hoping against hope that she would bring resolution to the conflict.
That anonymous protester said that 400 Lebanese-American citizens are in Bint Jebail, let alone the thousands spread elsewhere through Lebanon.
Perhaps symbolically, no protester at the candlelight vigil (held together on a wing and a prayer against the terrible and inexorable machinery of state-craft) was able to maintain his candle alight in the gusty breezes of the day.
Interfaith & Widely Diverse Panel Condemns War
Detroitâ€”July 21â€”Friday morning, a huge panel comprising 23 different community leaders and perhaps almost as many communities including the religions of the majority of mankind (Christian (including Catholic, Episcopalian, Universalist), Muslim (Shiâ€™a & Sunni), Jewish, and more) all spoke together in disapproval of the terrible treatment of the Lebanese people under the current short-sighted and murderous war in Lebanon. They came together to speak with one voice against the ongoing bloodshed in the Middle East, at the Detroit Muslim Unity Center on Davison Hwy in Detroit. Political and community organizations were represented as well, including CAIR Michigan and, among others, the Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues.
The event was organized by, among others, Mr. Ghalib Begg and Imam El-Amin, both of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, perhaps the most prominent and influential mobilizers of interfaith communication in Southern Michigan. Also notable was Imam Elahi, the influential leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, and Imam Mardini of the American Muslim Center in Dearborn.
Imam El-Amin said to remember that â€œwe and the Jews are cousins.â€ â€œMuslims,â€ he reminded, must not kill innocents, must not let hatred lead to injustice, and must treat enemies and captives with respect. He asked in prayer that the Creator guide us and not greed-driven political leaders.
Reverdn Appleyard of Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn said that â€œwe need local prayer as a model for the rest of the world.â€ He said that his heart was broken over the present crisis.
Other ministers spoke of the extreme wing of the Christian church as the equivalent of the extremists of the Taliban, and said that now we have destroyed our relationships with other people. A common theme among thinkers about the present Mid-East crisis is that the Bush administration has burned its bridges to its own detriment by refusing to maintain relations and speak with Syria and other organizations and nations.
Brenda Rosenberg said that â€œwe can make peace no matter how hard it is for us to understand why other people do what they do.â€
Several Christians who spoke at the event cited Jesusâ€™ (as) biblical weeping over Jerusalem as a response to events that were yet to transpire, including perhaps this present travesty. Barbara Tally of the United Methodist Peace Center spoke very eloquently, explaining that in fact President Bush is a part of her national church, and calling on him not to support those killing others in this senseless violence.
Present were many members of the local news television media, from at least three local news stations including Fox 2, Local 4, and Action 7 News, all of whom aggressively sought quotes from the assembled community leaders immediately after their group presentation.
Imam Elahi spoke and prayed with a tension that betrayed his brewing anger about his love for the people of Lebanon, his anger for the destruction of their nation, and his hope that a cease-fire would be implemented there.
Imam Dawud Walid spoke, advising Muslims not to go to far in their response to the tragic events, saying Israel is not the equivalent of the Nazis, as some say, and saying that we must try to quell our anger because anger is from Shaytan. Many other community leaders spoke, from a multiplicity of views and temperaments, but all of them speaking together with one voice against the ongoing violence being perpetrated against the Lebanese people.