By Susan Schwartz, MMNS
Residents of Southern California, outraged by the situation in Gaza and by the reluctance of national and local figures in government and the media to condemn Israel for its barbarity, participated in a massive demonstration and attended two successful fund raisers this past weekend.
More than ten thousand people demonstrated in front of the Westwood Federal Building from noon Saturday well into the afternoon. They marched down the streets leading to the campus of UCLA carrying banners and chanting. Passersby, both motorists and pedestrians, indicated their solidarity with the latter often joining the demonstration.
Signs held aloft read: â€œStop Bombing Gazaâ€ and â€œThe Real Terrorists: US/Israel War Machineâ€. The event was titled â€œLet Gaza Liveâ€ and ended in a rally. A mock funeral procession with Palestinian flag draped coffins symbolizing the loss of lives in Gaza led the march.
Sponsors included ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism); the Free Palestine Alliance; the Palestinian American Womenâ€™s Association; the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California; CAIR; AL AWDA, and the Muslim American Society to name but a few.
Saturday evening the Baitulmaal organization held an emergency fundraiser for Palestine at Al Ansar Hall in Anaheim. The dining area was filled to overflowing, and chairs and tables had to be set up in the adjacent hallway.
Funds raised that evening will be used to purchase ambulances for the Gaza forces. The keynote speaker, Hussam Ayloush of CAIR, told his audience that ambulances, aside from their obvious use, have been targeted for destruction by the Israeli forces, so the need for them is critical.
Mr. Ayloush indicated his disgust with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for their support of Israel. He suggested that the mayor might try spending a week in Gaza. He told the audience that the congressional representative from Anaheim was Loretta Sanchez. She recently voted â€œpresentâ€ for a resolution in the House of Representatives supporting Israel. Mr. Ayloush suggested calling or e mailing her and telling her that we are glad she did not vote for the resolution, but a â€œnoâ€ vote was clearly called for.
Mr. Ayloush told the attendees that when we see lies and misrepresentation by the media concerning the situation in Gaza, we should confront them with the truth. He gave credit to Muslimsâ€™ use of the Internet for bringing much of the truth about Gaza to the public and countering Israeli lies.
Touching videos on the horrors of the Israeli attack on Gaza were shown. Tears filled the eyes of many. One woman held hands with the woman next to her and said: â€œI canâ€™t look any moreâ€.
Those wishing to get in touch with the Baitulmaal organization can access their web site at: www.baitulmaal.org.
On Sunday evening the Islamic Relief organization held a successful and well attended fundraiser filling the dining hall of the Anaheim Marriott to its full 1000 seat capacity. Before the event began the attendees waited in the adjacent lobby speaking among themselves about the atrocities in Gaza, their dismay over the situation and their disgust for a government that would permit this evident.
Speakers included well known Muslim activist and retired physician Maher Hathout, a senior advisor to MPAC, an author, and a tireless interfaith worker. Anwar Khan, a national leader in Islamic Relief, also spoke and told of the work of his organization in nations all over the world and where there are needy in this country. The audience heard the chilling words of an Islamic Relief worker in Gaza as he sought refuge in a basement and gave a first hand report of the devastation around him.
â€œThe suffering of the people of Gaza is unbelievableâ€ said one young man as he watched a video taken in Gaza.
The keynote speaker and fundraiser was Shaikh Kifah Mustapha, Imam and Associate Director of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois. Shaikh Mustapha inspired his audience while speaking of the needs of Gaza and the duty of giving.
Islamic Relief may be accessed at: www.irw.org.