Roughly 300 people demonstrated Dec. 30 outside the Center City building that houses the Consul General of Philadelphia, waving Palestinian flags, carrying signs such as "Zionism is Terrorism," and chanting "free, free Palestine" and "end the occupation now."
The rally followed a smaller one a day earlier meant to protest Israel's military strikes in Gaza. A group known as the Philadelphia Coalition for Change in United States Policy — which includes several Arab-American groups — organized the Tuesday rally. The Council on American Islamic Relations also advertised the Tuesday rally.
Several dozen Jews were among the crowd.
"What Israel is doing now, in Gaza, is unjust," said Rabbi Linda Holtzman, religious leader of Congregation Miskhan Shalom, who spoke from the podium.
She did make a point that she was not representing the synagogue: "I believe that people have a right to self-defense, and this was so much beyond a reasonable response."
The protesters, who planned to stage another demonstration on Jan. 2, decried Israel's military strikes at Hamas strongholds in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has said that the bombardments are in response to renewed rocket fire into southern Israel and are aimed at crippling Hamas' attack capabilities.
According to published reports, more than 350 Palestinians, most of them Hamas personnel, have been killed since Israel began its operations over the weekend. Since the expiration of the six-month cease-fire, three Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza.
Nationally, the organized Jewish community has overwhelmingly expressed support for Israel's right to self-defense.
At press time, no plans were in the works for a rally in support of the Jewish state — such as the one held during Israel's war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 — said both the Israeli Consulate and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Nor is the Zionist Organization of America planning anything at the moment, according to Steve Feldman, executive director of the agency's regional office.