Christine Stuart photo
Protesters outside of Federal Building in Hartford (Christine Stuart photo )

More than 40 people braved biting cold temperatures Friday afternoon to protest Israel’s offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Shouting “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry. Palestine will never die,” the protesters waved a Palestinian flag as they paraded down Main Street for a meeting with US Rep. John Larson’s District Chief of Staff John Rossi.

Margaret P. Levy of West Hartford said the demonstration was planned several days ago, despite the freezing cold temperatures. “People are getting killed everyday. We don’t want it to be said we stood silent.”

About 12 of the protesters made their way up to Larson’s Main Street office a few blocks from where they started their protest and were ushered into a conference room where they discussed their strategy while they waited for Rossi to join them.

“It’s so hard to get our voices heard,” Liz Aaronsohn, the daughter of a Rabbi, said as she turned to the lone reporter in the room.

When Rossi entered the room he apologized for keeping the group waiting and asked the lone reporter in the room to leave. But Aaronsohn argued on behalf of the news media and Rossi allowed CTNewsJunkie stay throughout the meeting, which lasted more than an hour.

The group was upset by Larson’s Jan. 9 vote in favor of a resolution recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself. Larson was joined by US Reps. Joe Courtney, Chris Murphy, Rosa DeLauro, and Jim Himes in supporting the resolution.

“When our entire Congressional delegation endorses the massacre, we must refuse to be silent,” a statement that the group distributed to Rossi said.

Aaronsohn told Rossi that it was one thing to support the resolution, but it was another thing to be the one of the co-sponsors of the resolution. “Not just West Hartford Zionists are his constituents,” she said. There are now 43 Islamic Centers in the state of Connecticut.

Before reading off a list of their demands for Larson the group went around the conference room and talked for about two-minutes each about why this issue was important to them.

David Amdur, from the American Friends Service Committee, told Rossi he would like to see Larson support an investigation proposed by US Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. He said Kucinich is calling for a probe into the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, which says if the United States is going to provide weapons to another country, it must adhere to specific conditions and use those weapons solely for defense—not escalation of a conflict. He said he believes Israel is clearly violating this act.

“America does not always have to fund Israel,” Flo Woodiel of West Hartford said. “It was shocking to so many people that John was a sponsor.”

Youness Bakr, a member of the Palestinian American Congress, said the occupation of Gaza was a well-calculated one and is “far worse than any other crisis in the world.” He said the United Nations has called for a war crime probe and no journalists have been allowed in Gaza since the offensive started more than three weeks ago, so it’s difficult to know what’s going on. He said the Israel government has said it will allow reporters into Gaza next week while the world is preoccupied with the presidential inauguration.

According to the New York Times, the Israeli military recently gave a small group of reporters a tour of Gaza.

“What more has to happen?” Bakr asked. “When you have the context it’s hard to make a decision against humanity.”

“We are looking for some representatives with a moral backbone,” he said.

Christopher Allen-Doucot, a Hartford Catholic Worker, said he knows Larson is a moral man and was unequivocal in condemning the civilian deaths in Darfur, so it’s hard for him to understand how he could support such a resolution.

In Gaza, of the more than 1,100 killed (as of Jan. 16), at least 700 of them were civilian, he said.

“Where is Mr. Larson’s concern for those people?” he asked.

Levy told Rossi she was proud of Larson’s early stance against the war in Iraq. However, his support of Israel is unfounded, she opined. She theorized that many people who come to hold positions of power support Israel because they remember the Holocaust and therefore believe Israel deserves special consideration.

“Israel does not have a monopoly on righteousness,” she said. “And yes, there’s violence on both sides.”

“The notion that the US has apparently never said to Israel ‘you’ve got to stop this makes no sense at all,’” she said.

Toward the end of the meeting, the group gave Rossi a list of their demands, including a face-to-face meeting with the Congressman as soon as he returns to the District and a public statement saying he supports a bilateral cease fire.

Rossi told the group that Larson supported a cease fire based on a statement he released Jan. 9 after a vote on the resolution. As copies of Larson’s statement were distributed the group read them and left them on the conference table.

“I support a ceasefire that ends rocket attacks by Hamas, prevents additional arms and explosives from entering Gaza, and jumpstarts a diplomatic initiative in the region,” Larson said in the statement.

“This is disgusting,” Bakr said. “I’m going to leave it here.”

Allen-Doucot got up from his chair in disgust and grabbed his jacket as he prepared to make an exit.  “What am I going to tells my sons when they’re old enough to vote?”

Dr. Jamshid A. Marvasti of Manchester said he was very disappointed in Larson. “I hope he would not lose our trust, but honestly I cannot defend him any more.”

Click here to read Larson’s full-statement on HR 34 from the floor of the House.