Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"Local peace vigil draws hundreds"

I was at the vigil described below and there were plenty of Muslim and Middle Eastern people present but except for a tiny blurb from Shirley Hogan (and she might be a Jew, too) all of the people interviewed for the article below are Jews. I guess no one else matters much.

The News reporter interviewed Jeff Levin before the vigil and printed his remarks even though they knew he wasn't going to attend. Fair enough. But they did they contact anyone from the local Muslim or Arab community? There's no evidence they did. Emphasis added in text below.
Ann Arbor News
Local peace vigil draws hundreds (Google cache here)
Demonstrators call for Mideast cease-fire
Monday, July 31, 2006
BY TINA REED
News Staff Reporter

Tim and Shirley Hogan of Ann Arbor say they wouldn't call themselves politically active.

But they found themselves holding candles on Main Street in Ann Arbor on Sunday evening, calling for the United States to demand a cease-fire in the 21/2-week conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia.

"We're just ordinary citizens,'' said Shirley Hogan, who said she's been following all news about the conflict since it began. "I thought, finally, we have to make known our commitment to peace.''

They were among about 300 people who lined the streets in front of popular restaurants and stores along South Main Street, mostly between Liberty and Washington streets. People held candles and signs during the vigil for peace sponsored by Michigan Peaceworks and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice.

The vigil occurred the same day that an Israeli bomb hit a house in Qana, Lebanon, killing nearly 60 civilians, including at least 34 children. Since the conflict first began, more than 500 people have been killed in Lebanon and dozens have died in Israel.

Jeff Levin, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County, said that despite their noble goals, the demonstrators don't understand the complex reasons that forced Israel into the conflict. He said he would not attend the vigil.

"It seems to me that true peace activists would promote the destruction of terrorist organizations, rather than advocating policies that assure their preservation,'' Levin said.

The dispute is not a battle over territory, but one over Israel's right to exist, he said.

While the official goal of the vigil was to call for complete cease-fire, there was political disagreement among many at the vigil about how what needed to be done to achieve peace. At least one counterprotester stood with a handwritten sign during the event backing U.S. support of Israel and its right to attack in response to Hezbollah.

One demonstrator, Barbara Stahler-Sholk, said she has family living in Israel and friends who live in Lebanon. Although she believes Hezbollah provoked Israel into the conflict, she denounced Israel's response, which she says is killing innocent Lebanese civilians, and criticized the support given by the United States.

"They are using my tax dollars against my will,'' Stahler-Sholk said. "Israel is not upholding its promise to follow the Ten Commandments. Being Jewish, I am ashamed, outraged and feel betrayed.''

But a complete cease-fire could be very dangerous to Israel, said Saline resident Becca Kurshenbaum, 22, who works for the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice and held a banner in support of peace Sunday evening.

"If some people here had their way, all military aid to Israel would stop and leave them defenseless against Hezbollah; I don't agree with that,'' said Kurshenbaum.

She said she supports a cease-fire that removes military aid from all sides in the conflict.

"I spoke with my aunt on the phone tonight and she said, 'You can't do anything, even if you go to 50 vigils.' It is going to take more than a vigil for peace, but its a good start.''

Despite varying views at the event, the shared idea was that the only long-term solution for peace is a cease-fire, said organizer and Michigan Peaceworks Executive Director Phillis Engelbert.

"There are stories on the news, more reports of carnage. It's madness,'' Engelbert said. The U.S. government needs to help negotiate every option toward a peaceful resolution, she said. "There's no excuse for the killing of innocents,'' she said.

But it's not that easy, Levin said.

"Any solution that does not add the root cause of this, which is the unprovoked aggression of Hezbollah against Israel, is a temporary solution at best,'' he said.

Tina Reed can be reached at 734-994-6828 or treed@annarbornews.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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