Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
May 27, 2001 | Pierce, Gala M.
Byline: Gala M. Pierce Daily Herald Staff Writer
“What do we want?” asked Sabri Samirah, president of the United Muslim Americans Association.
“Justice!” cried protesters Saturday in a parking lot near House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s downtown Batavia office.
“When do we want it?” Samirah asked, rousing the crowd.
For two hours Saturday afternoon in a constant downpour, about 400 people from the Chicago area Muslim and Arab communities rallied in front of Hastert’s office to show their concern about Palestinians in Israel.
“Basically, we are asking our decision-makers to have a just and fair policy with the Middle East,” Samirah said. “We our asking our government to stop supporting Israel blindly.”
As spokesman for the protesters, Samirah claims that Israel is in violation of the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which prevents the government from using American weapons against civilians.
John McGovern, Hastert’s press secretary, said that this is a “complicated allegation.”
“The current situation in the Middle East is very complicated and especially volatile,” McGovern said. “We need to respect the views of all parties involved, but unfortunately there are no easy answers.”
McGovern said Hastert’s office was aware of the Muslim groups’ concerns, which is why a Hastert representative met with the group Wednesday.
From that meeting, Samirah felt Hastert’s office to be “very sympathetic” and “very understanding.”
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for a cease-fire to end the recent months of bloodshed.
Protesters, mostly Muslim families including women and children, came from the north side of Chicago, Villa Park and Palos Heights.
Protesters also represented the Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim American Society, the Chicago Islamic Center and the Arab American Community Center.
Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Jewish United Federation/Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, also feels that these are complicated issues.
” (The protesters) act as if they are merely looking for peace, but their goal is to eliminate the state of Israel altogether,” Kotzin said. “That certainly is not a legitimate goal. What they are trying to do is to turn the American public opinion against Israel.”