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American Muslims Rally Against Pro-Israel Mayors

New America Media, News Report, Kenneth Kim and Anthony D. Advincula Posted: Jan 09, 2009

Editor's Note: Arab and Muslim groups in New York and Los Angeles say Mayors Bloomberg and Villaraigosa are ignoring their concerns by seemingly throwing their support behind Israel. NAM correspondent Kenneth Kim reports from Los Angeles. NAM editor Anthony D. Advincula reports from New York.

With the death toll rising as the fighting between Israeli and Hamas forces escalates in Gaza, anger among Muslims in the United States boiled over this week after mayors of two U.S. cities publicly backed Israel.

In New York Jan. 7, more than 100 protestors stood in freezing temperatures outside City Hall waving Palestinian flags and chanting, Free, free Gaza. They hurled their muddy footwear at a large portrait of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In Arab culture it is considered rude even to display the sole of ones shoe to a fellow human being. Hurling a shoe at someone is the ultimate insult.

And in Los Angeles Jan. 5, Muslim groups lambasted Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for meeting with Israeli consulate officials and Jewish leaders and saying he supported Israels actions in Gaza. Backing him were Los Angeles City Council members Wendy Greuel, Janice Hahn, Jack Weiss and Dennis Zine.

Since fighting began between Israel and the Hamas two weeks ago, Muslims in several U.S. cities have demonstrated in the streets against Israels actions. But the two rallies this week in Los Angeles and New York targeted the cities mayors.

Muslim leaders held a press conference at the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and blasted Villaraigosa for taking sides on a war happening 6,000 miles away.

The Council issued a statement saying that it felt betrayed by the mayors one-eyed perspective on the tragedy of colossal proportions in Gaza.

Why is the mayor of Los Angeles dragging himself and his constituents into international conflicts in the Middle East? asked Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a national Muslim advocacy group.

This wasnt the first time Villaraigosa has sided with Israel in a Middle East conflict. Two years ago, he supported Israels invasion of Lebanon to support the Hezbollah.

The mayor is facing re-election, and is widely considered to be a possible democratic candidate for California governor in 2010.

Observers credit the mayors position with his need to appeal to Jewish voters: California has an estimated one million Jewish voters. Jews make up less than one-tenth of Los Angeles population but account for roughly one-fifth of the electorate, as large a slice as African-American voters.

Not surprisingly, the mayor has become a fixture at the citys biggest Jewish events. He even led an 18-member delegation to Israel in the summer of 2008, when the city was facing a possible $300 million budget shortfall.

In 2005, Jewish voters, along with Latinos and union members, were credited as being critical components of Villaraigosas victory over incumbent James K. Hahn.

In New York, Muslims and Arab Americans were disappointed that Mayor Bloomberg, who is Jewish, went on a four-day visit to Israel last week and met with government officials there.

Our mayor has abandoned and terrorized us, said Noha Arasa of the Legal Aid Society, who spoke at the New York rally. While he failed to provide employment, housing and education for all New Yorkers, he gives $50 million to Israel, year after year, again and again, to destroy Palestine.

For that, Mr. Bloomberg, you deserve my house slippers. Shame on you!

Lamis Jamal, a member of an activist group called Al-Awda, declared that Palestinian supporters wanted to mimic Iraqi journalist Muntazar Al Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President Bush at a press conference in Baghdad two weeks ago.

Photos by Anthony D. Advincula, New York / New America Media

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