More than 70 representatives from various civic groups rallied in front of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in the pouring rain yesterday, requesting that incoming US president Barack Obama immediately halt arms sales to Jerusalem and a complete removal of the Israeli military from the Gaza Strip.
“Israel is acting like the Nazis in Gaza. The Jewish people have forgotten what it is like to be oppressed and killed,” said Jousef, a Palestinian in Taiwan who called the current conflict a holocaust.
Dubbing the Israelis a “psychologically damaged people,” Jousef and his friends accused Israel of using the Palestinians as punching bags for their repressed anger at Nazi wartime leader Adolf Hitler and blamed Washington for treating them as guinea pigs to experiment with new weapons.
The protesters threw shoes at a picture of outgoing US president George W. Bush with a black swastika on his forehead and a Hitler mustache, calling him a “butcher.”
“How can anyone claim rights to a piece of land just because the Bible they read says so?” said Feng Chuan-ben (馮傳), who said the US was reluctant to chide Israel for committing crimes against humanity because Washington was funded mostly by Jewish interest groups.
On the verge of tears, a Jewish expatriate who spoke on condition of anonymity said Israel was taking democracy hostage by attacking Palestinians and murdering civilians.
Okba, a Palestinian businessman, said he has not been able to contact his family and friends back home since the fighting started.
Israeli Representative to Taipei Raphael Gamzou defended his government’s actions, saying Israel has abided by a policy of restraint in the past eight years while Hamas, which he called a fundamentalist Muslim terrorist group, continued to seek the destruction of Israel.
The protesters said they would wait and see if Obama could bring peace to the Middle East, but added, “at least he won’t be as extreme and as one-sided [as Bush].”
More than 60 police officers carrying shields were mobilized at the scene of the protest. Police on two occasions ordered the demonstrators to disband immediately for staging an unlawful protest.
No AIT official came out to meet the protesters during the hour-long protest. Asked for a comment on the protest, AIT Spokesman Thomas Hodges said the protesters did not deliver a petition to the AIT.
In an e-mailed response, Hodges repeated the US government’s official position on the conflict, saying that Washington was deeply concerned about the violence in Gaza and has called on all sides to protect innocent lives, minimize civilian casualties and address the urgent humanitarian needs of Palestinians.
“Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage ever since their illegal coup [sic] against the forces of [Palestinian] President Mahmoud Abbas, the legitimate president of the Palestinian people. We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against innocent Israeli civilians and hold Hamas fully responsible for breaking the ceasefire [sic] and for the renewal of violence in Gaza,” the response said.
“As we have long stated, Hamas can be a part of the peace process by accepting the principles outlined by the Quartet: renunciation of violence and terror, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements between the parties, including the Roadmap,” it said.