- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005

An alliance of Jews and Christians in the United States is mobilizing a series of protests in the Gaza Strip and at President Bush’s ranch in Texas in a last-ditch attempt to block Israeli plans to evacuate Jewish settlements beginning in July.

“We are working right now to send thousands of people, thousands of Zionist Christians. We will go over there and stand in the Gaza Strip with our friends and see what they will do about evicting Americans,” said Bob Ross of the Windsor Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

Mr. Ross, a member of group Yedidim, an alliance of thousands of Baptist churches and Jewish synagogues, said the organization also would send some 5,000 protesters to Crawford, Texas, next week when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to visit Mr. Bush at his family ranch.

“We are going to be there. There will be many buses, lots of signs, but it will be a very peaceful rally. We are not expecting any difficulties,” Mr. Ross said in a telephone interview from Oklahoma.

Yedidim members maintain that the Gaza Strip is part of the Holy Land that God gave to the Jewish people, and that handing the area over to the Palestinians would turn it into a terrorist base.

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that although he considered every inch of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea to be part of the Jewish heritage, he rejected the view that giving up Gaza would be the demise of Israel.

“I think the Palestinians are entitled to have their independent state, and that’s what they want,” he said in a briefing with U.S. reporters Monday.

“And we are entitled to our independent state, and there will have to be some sharing, and I think that the evangelical community will understand that.”

Henry Siegman, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who follows the Middle East peace process and interreligious relations, said the group represents a small minority whose actions were unlikely to alter the disengagement process.

“If they [protest] peacefully, fine. But if they interfere with the implementation by the police, then they are engaged in criminal activity,” said Mr. Siegman, speaking from New York.

“Will they change the outcome? Obviously not,” he said.

When it comes time to evict settlers who refuse to leave, Israeli police and soldiers plan to perform the task unarmed.

Ruth Matar is co-leader of the group Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, which backs Yedidim. An American citizen who currently lives in Jerusalem, Mrs. Matar compared the pullout to the Holocaust, in which her family was forced from their home in Austria.

“My family was dragged out of our home forcibly and brutally on Kristallnacht in 1938,” she said, “and I think unilateral disengagement is going to be a repetition of that.”

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