- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

The pro-Israel rally at the Capitol yesterday was the culmination of a forceful lobbying campaign in Congress that gained momentum from America's shared experience as a target of Islamist terrorists.
"Israel stood with us, shoulder to shoulder," former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said of the September 11 attacks. "We remember that."
Supporters of Israel in recent weeks have inundated lawmakers with thousands of phone calls and e-mail messages about suicide bombings by Palestinians. Lawmakers said Arab groups, in contrast, have had a less noticeable presence on Capitol Hill.
"The numbers have been enormous," said Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler, adding that 7,000 people attended a pro-Israel rally in his South Florida district last weekend. "They're saying, 'Let [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon finish the job, stick with Israel.'"
Jewish groups as well as conservative Christians have urged lawmakers not to interfere with Israel's military actions in Palestinian territory. The head of the Traditional Values Coalition, the Rev. Louis Sheldon, said his organization has teamed with the group One Jerusalem to deliver 425,000 e-mail messages per week to their grass-roots activists in support of Israel.
"They are the root and we are the branch," Mr. Sheldon said of Israel. "There needs to be 100 percent support for Israel."
In Charleston, S.C., the First Baptist Church has displayed the blue-and-white Israeli flag.
Lawmakers who turned out in support of Israel ranged from liberal New York Democrats like Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to conservative Republicans such as House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and former Education Secretary William J. Bennett.
A few legislators, such as Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat, expressed concern for Palestinians amid the tide of pro-Israel sentiment. He said calls to his office have been "pretty evenly divided" between supporters of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, headed by Yasser Arafat.
"I consider myself a supporter of Israel, but I also consider myself a supporter of peace," Mr. Wynn said. "I am willing to listen to both sides. Both sides have legitimate grievances."
He said deaths of innocent Palestinians during the Israeli incursion into the West Bank "can't be ignored."
"There has to be a Palestinian state," Mr. Wynn said.
When Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz expressed that view at yesterday's rally, the pro-Israel crowd drowned him out with boos and chants of "no more Arafat."
More typical of the congressional mood on the Middle East is the action by Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, who is demanding an apology from the Saudi ambassador to the United States for comparing Mr. Arafat to George Washington. In a letter to colleagues, Mr. Hayworth called the ambassador's remark "insulting."
The only national, pro-Palestinian demonstration is scheduled to take place in Washington on Saturday, but its chief organizer, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), is neither Arab-American nor Muslim.
The left-wing organization is viewed with skepticism by most mainstream Arab-American and Muslim-American groups. Several pro-Palestinian organizations, little known outside pro-Arab and Muslim activist circles, are planning to participate.
ANSWER was formed shortly after the September 11 terrorism to oppose both U.S. military action in Afghanistan and what it called "racial profiling" by the Bush administration. Now the focus has shifted to stop what ANSWER spokesman Tony Murphy calls "Bush's war on the Palestinian people" and to redirect "money for human needs and jobs, and not war."
Yayha Basha, chairman of the Board of the American Muslim Council, said his organization has no plans for a national rally and will not participate in the Saturday demonstration.
"We've been concentrating on local community involvement," he said, "but I've been getting calls and e-mails from people around the country asking that we have a national rally."
James Zogby, executive director of the Arab American Institute, said of the pro-Israel rally, "When the buses go home from the Mall, the same problems are going to be there the occupation of the West Bank, the violence and Secretary of State Colin Powell's mission will still be the best opportunity to solve this."
Mr. Zogby said he knew of no major Arab-American or Muslim-American organizations planning national rallies or participating in the demonstration on Saturday.
"Ironically, I hear more Democratic leaders supporting the president and Secretary Powell, and more major figures from the Republican Party wanting to undercut Bush and Powell and push them in directions they don't want to go," he said. "This is not the party of George Bush and Jim Baker."
The growing influence of evangelical Christians and neo-conservatives in the Republican Party accounts for some of the shift over the years toward Israel, Mr. Zogby said.
But Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said, "The real break came with Jesse Jackson and others trying in the 1980s to hijack the Democratic convention and insert pro-Palestinian language."
Another show of clout is expected next week. Rebecca Needler, spokeswoman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said AIPAC anticipates from 4,000 to 5,000 people, double the attendance record, for its annual conference at the Washington Hilton.

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