Protestors: Stop giving Israel money
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06/01/10 Kate Bradshaw
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

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photo by Kate Bradshaw/WMNF

A high-seas raid by the Israeli military yesterday resulted in the deaths of at least nine human rights activists headed for Gaza on a flotilla. In response, more than thirty protestors gathered in front of the federal building in Tampa today to condemn Israel’s actions.

The diverse crowd stood peacefully in the shade holding placards with messages like “stop funding Israel,” and “Palestinian self-determination is not terrorism.” Jordan Harrah’s sign said “Israel is a terrorist state.”

The protest took place the same day Al-Jazeera reported that Israeli airstrike killed five Palestinian militants in Gaza. Ramsey Kilic is director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, in Tampa. He said the rally was to draw attention to money the US gives Israel, which critics say funds violence against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

One protestor said he knew life in Gaza well. Mahar Albarghuthi, who was born in Palestine and lives in St. Petersburg, has been back to Gaza in the past year. He said the place was on lockdown.

He said all that would end if the US were to stop giving Israel billions of dollars each year. He said it would also be good for US foreign policy.

Albarghuthi said he’s not optimistic that this will, happen, given the power of Israel’s lobby.

USF student Nicole Ganier said it’s not about religion or ethnicity; it’s about human rights.

The blockade has been in place since 2007, when the militant group Hamas won control over the area. Demonstrator Chalky Irving, said that Israel’s reaction to the flotilla, which it had publicly deemed a stunt, did not surprise him.

CAIR’s Ramsey Kilic said he wasn’t surprised that there was an interaction over the flotilla, but he didn’t think it would result in deaths.

After the demonstration, activists took a petition urging a change in the US’s policy on Israel to Senator Bill Nelson’s office. As of airtime, neither Senator Nelson nor the Israeli consulate in Miami have responded to our request for comment. The White House says it supports a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an investigation into the raid. Meanwhile, Egypt has opened its Gaza border to allow thousands of Palestinians to flee the blockaded territory.

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