Vigil Mourns Deaths of Palestinian Civilians
BOSTON--A vigil mourning recent Palestinian deaths was held last night in front of the Israeli consulate near Boston Common.
Over 60 black-clad students and local residents circled silently in front of the building to protest what they called unwarranted violence by Israel.
The vigil was the third the group has sponsored in three weeks.
They carried signs with the names and ages of Palestinians who have died in the past 20 days of violence in the Middle East.
The protesters included Jews, Palestinians and other local residents.
"I am neither Arab nor Jew, but human beings are dying and that's enough for me," said Somerville resident Matt Williams when asked why he attended the vigil.
The protesters, whose efforts were coordinated by the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, for the third time unsuccessfully attempted to present two letters requesting immediate recognition of "uninhibited Israeli force" to Itzhak Levanon, Israel's consul general in Boston.
"Refusal to engage in a process leading to durable peace...has led de facto to a garrison Israeli state," read the first letter, which outlined alleged inequalities of the peace process.
The second letter presented an "alternative Jewish perspective" of Jewish women, taking aim at the Israeli government's actions.
"We are both pained and outraged by the murders of over one hundred Palestinians," it read.
Barbara Schulman, one of 33 signers of the second letter, said the purpose was to "distinctly show anguish and anger with the violence."
The Israeli consulate locked its doors during the protest. Consulate officials could not be reached for comment.
Katherine Hanna, a self-proclaimed "community activist," said she expected this response.
"They're nervous and they should be," Hanna said. "They realize when young kids are being gunned down there's going to be questions."
The consulate has requested full-time security from police.
John J. Harvey, associate director of Grassroots International, which is part of the coalition, said he is frustrated by the consul's refusal to receive the letters.
"It is his obligation as a representative in this country to hear what the citizens have to say," Harvey said.
The group silently marched through Boston Common behind a sign reading "We Are Here To Mourn All Palestinians Killed by Israeli Military Forces."
At the Park Street T station, the group set out candles and a series of graphic photographs of those who have died.
Miratul Muqit, a visiting scholar at Harvard Medical School who attended the rally, said he heard about the event through an e-mail message from the Harvard Islamic Society. He said he attended because he felt it was "a peaceful vigil that the media can't twist to perpetuate the stereotype of Muslims."
Many protesters blamed the media for an alleged pro-Israel bias.
"The problem is the media. It only highlights the Israeli side," said protester Elaine C. Hagopian.
Hanna said she hopes Americans will examine U.S. policies in the region.
"More people are beginning to question, but they're not making the connection that their tax dollars are supporting it," she said.
Dan Burnstein, co-chair of the Vision of Peace with Justice in Israel/Palestine, a coalition group, said that a significant number of Jews are opposed to Israel's actions. The Israeli government should take the initiative for peace, he said.
"They shouldn't be shooting," he said. "We all have the same DNA."
Members of the coalition protesting at the Park Street T stop asked a small contingent representing the Revolutionary Worker, a Palestinian group advocating violence against Israel, to distance themselves from the vigil.
"If we want peace, we need to be peaceful," Williams said.