Thousands protest across Lebanon against flotilla killings

Palestinians, organizations march in support of Gaza aid convoy

By Patrick Galey and Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff
Tuesday, June 01, 2010

BEIRUT/SIDON: Thousands of activists gathered in Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon on Monday to lend their voices to the international outcry over Israel”s attack on an aid ship bound for Gaza, which killed at least nine aid workers.

Palestinian citizens, officials and leftist political organizations organized large-scale protests outside the United Nations ESCWA headquarters in downtown Beirut and Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon. Those gathered burned Israeli flags, waved banners and chanted “Death to Israel.”

In the capital, classes of schoolchildren, instructed by their teachers, sang anti-Israeli songs and drapped themselves with Palestinian flags. A giant Turkish flag was unveiled and paraded in front of the UN”s offices as a show of solidarity with those were killed aboard the Gaza flotilla, who were mainly Turks.

“I have come down here to say that Israel is the terrorist, not the Arab people,” said one 18 year-old protestor, Khalid. “They kill children, men and boys, everything. Why did they do this? These people [in the flotilla] had no weapons, just food and water for the people of Gaza. Why kill them?

“If I killed an Israeli, what would the world do to me? They would say I”m a bad person, a terrorist.”

Ahmad al-Assad, a hairdresser from the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp, said that the protest called on the international community to boycott Israel and call it to account over Monday morning”s attack.

“It”s not enough for people to just condemn Israel; we want people to unite and the world to listen,” he said.

In Sidon, thousands of Palestinians marched through the streets of Ain al-Hilweh to express their anger over the incident and the continuing Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Protester Hiba Al-Ali condemned the international community”s seeming indifference to the plight of Palestinians across the Arab world.

“Where is the free world, where are human rights organizations, where is the statue of liberty?,” she asked. “Where is America, the land of freedom and law? They have shut their ears and eyes.”

The head of a Lebanese delegation aboard the flotilla, Hani Suleiman, was injured in the attack. His son, Adham, said that he was proud of his father for standing up for his beliefs.

“The last I heard is he has been transferred to a hospital [in Israel],” he told The Daily Star. “I am optimistic. It makes me proud to have such a father and I am truly touched by all these people who came here and what the Turkish government has done.”

Suleiman, however, said the protests in Lebanon were unlikely to radically alter the situation, as little action from the international community was expected.

“Unfortunately, these protests have never had much power. All I can count on is Lebanon being head of the [UN] Security Council to help us,” he added.

Several members of political delegations attended the protest in Beirut, including Hizbullah spokesman Ibrahim Moussawi, who told The Daily Star that the international community must show more interest in the plight of Palestinians.

“This is an outcry to the international community to try and do something to break the [Gaza] blockade,” he said. “This is a strong voice to express solidarity with the martyrs and wounded people that came from all over the world.

“It”s time for governments to be in synonymy with the impulse of the people who condemn Israel and to change their policies,” Moussawi added.

Saadallah Mazraani, politburo member of the Lebanese Communist Party, said Monday”s displays of dissatisfaction were an opportunity to change the international community”s approach to Israel.

“Today the world should stand against the Zionist criminality and should realize that it is a threat to peace,” he told The Daily Star.

“Israel is not trying to seek peace and is not making steps towards peace negotiations. Unfortunately it has America”s support and the support of certain western countries.”

Mousawi called for international governments to listen to people at demonstrations which took place outside Israeli consulates throughout the world on Monday.

“It is time for the international community to express condemnation of Israeli leaders to bring them to justice because this is an act of international and criminal piracy,” he said.

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