San Francisco Chronicle

Rally denounces actions by Israel
Hundreds who back Palestinians demonstrate at S.F. consulate

Saturday, April 13, 2002

A sea of Palestinian flags fluttered in front of the Israeli Consulate in downtown San Francisco yesterday as hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered for a lunchtime rally. Shouting cheers like "No more Israel" and "No justice, no peace," the group peacefully gathered at the consulate on Montgomery Street to denounce Israeli actions in the current Middle East crisis. A small skirmish erupted in the middle of the rally when a man carrying an Israeli flag was surrounded by shouting protesters. Police and some of the protesters tried to form a shield around the man, but the crowd around him continued to grow, prompting police to escort him out of the area for his own safety. As he was leaving, a protester ripped the man's flag off its pole, and a group of men began stomping on it. Despite the skirmish, the rally was otherwise peaceful. Father Labib Kobti, an organizer of the rally, said that most of the Palestinian supporters at the rally did not support the suicide bombings against Israel but feel passionately about the rights of Palestinians to defend themselves against Israeli aggression. "I think that everybody is worried about the killings of innocents on both sides," Kobti said. "Violence only produces more violence. We believe in the resistance against the (Israeli) occupation of the Holy Land." Fayeq Oweis, 40, a Palestinian who immigrated to the United States 20 years ago, said he is worried for his family who live just outside of the city of Ramallah. He said he wanted to do whatever he could to protest the Israeli invasion in the West Bank. "At the least, I can support Palestinian people for the fight and freedom," said Oweis, a resident of South San Francisco. "I was born and raised there. It's the least I can do." E-mail Ray Delgado at rdelgado@sfchronicle.com.