Southern California Muslims angry over Israeli attacks

Several protests against Israel's attacks on Gaza took place in the Southland today. Area Muslim leaders described the situation as "barbaric." They also announced a campaign to raise money for humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports.

Frank Stoltze: For days, Hedab Tarifi tried to call her cousin in Gaza. Finally, the 48-year-old information tech manager from Arcadia got through.

Hedab Tarifi: She told me of the dire situation with kids screaming nonstop. The F-16s, they are shooting everywhere, so in spite of how cold it is with no electricity, no heating, they still have to keep the windows open because they're afraid that the windows might shatter and harm the children.

Stoltze: Southern California is home to more than 600,000 Muslims. Many have expressed outrage at Israel's attacks on Gaza. At a news conference at the Islamic Center just west of downtown Los Angeles, Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council said the United States immediately should have used its influence to stop Israel.

Edina Lekovic: For the Bush administration to turn a blind eye is unconscionable. We expect our government to have more moral courage.

Stoltze: Israel has said its bombing is a response to Hamas' rocket attacks. The four-day Israeli campaign has killed more than 350 Palestinians. Many are said to be civilians. At least four Israelis have died in the latest conflict.

Muslim leaders announced a $3 million fundraising effort to provide humanitarian aid to the one-and-a-half million Palestinians who live in Gaza. Mostafa Mahboob is with the aid group Islamic Relief.

Mostafa Mahboob: The need is tremendous on the ground. As a humanitarian aid organization, we implore the human community, the citizens here in Southern California and across the U.S. to support the aid work that is going on. The people there are waiting for your help.

Stoltze: Muslim leaders also expressed frustration with the way news organizations and commentators have characterized the conflict. Hussam Ayloush heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Hussam Ayloush: There is no debate that Israel's propaganda machine has succeed in misinforming the America public, and with it our U.S. media, in telling a false story, in telling a story of basically blaming the victim, the Palestinian victims who have been victimized by Israel.

Rabbi Steven Jacobs: While we may differ politically, we have a long relationship.

Stoltze: Rabbi Steven Jacobs has been working to build better relationships between Southern California Muslims and Jews. He worries that renewed fighting will hurt those efforts. Jacobs said Jews are angry and frustrated too, and he joined Muslim leaders in calling for an end to the violence from both sides.

Jacobs: The rockets must stop. Israel must stop. And there must be great leadership, particularly that comes from the incoming administration.

Stoltze: Muslims echoed the hope that the next American president will place priority on ending the decades-old conflict.

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