Yesterday in downtown Pensacola a contingent of pro-Hamas supporters showed up with handmade and professional signs. A banner held by two burly kaffiyeh draped bearded young men was emblazoned with “Israel want peace or Land?” Small children, faces painted with Palestinian flags, held signs saying “Save Gaza.” They were entreating on-lookers and drivers stopped at the traffic light at the junction of Palafox and Garden Streets to hail them with thumbs up signs and honks from cars waiting for the light to change. It was the last Friday of Ramadan, al Quds day. Violence erupted on Al Quds Day in the West Bank and East Jerusalem with thousands engaged in pitched battles with Israeli security forces, six Palestinians were killed.
Al Quds Day was established by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in protest to Israel’s occupation of its eternal capital, Jerusalem, supporting the Palestinian cause. Demonstrations on Al Quds day erupted around the Muslim Ummah from Pakistan to Tehran to Paris to London and Calgary. Throngs in these processions accused Israel of genocide in Gaza against defenseless Palestinian civilians. There were other pro-Hamas demonstrations here in the US in major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle. Jewish and non-Jewish supporters have also launched opposing Stand for Israel rallies in a number of these major cities.
Pensacola has a sizable Muslim community, given two mosques, and a Muslim Student Association chapter at the University of West Florida. Pensacola is the regional medical center for Northwest Florida and it is not uncommon to find Muslim doctors and medical specialists of Middle East and South Asian origins. On Fridays after Jummah prayers we have caught glimpses of men attired in Kufi caps and gabilas. At a major indoor mall it is not uncommon to come across Muslim women attired in burkas sitting with children eating ice cream. The local community has allies in the anti-war community who showed a series of anti-Israel pro-Palestinian films at the central library during the Bush 43 presidency era in the last decade. We have a local restaurateur who specializes in tasty Middle Eastern fare. He had painted a mural map of the Middle East on the side of one of his three restaurants overlooking a heavily trafficked supermarket parking lot. There is no Israel on it. In February 2010, Former Muslims United sent out a mass mailing to 163 mosques and Muslim leaders in the US requesting that they abjure death fatawas against apostates. Apostates like Meriam Ibrahim just released along with her husband and children from sanctuary at the US Embassy in Khartoum and flown to saftey in Rome to meet the Pope and then on to freeom in the US. 47 of those were sent to community leaders and Mosques here in the Sunshine State. None of those community leaders and mosques responded, including the two Mosques here in Pensacola.
Today, more banned protests are occurring in central Paris where last weekend more Jewish synagogues and businesses were firebombed and attacked, accompanied with cries of “kill the Jews” and “Allahu Akbar.”
We should consider ourselves fortunate in Pensacola that yesterday’s Pro-Hamas rally didn’t engage in menacing threats to the local Jewish community. As we have written that was not the case with a small contingent of both Jews and Christians in Calgary last Friday. They were set upon by thugs from a pro Hamas rally, with five sent to hospital for treatment, while Calgary police stood by. Today there was a, humanitarian pause of 12 hours extended to Midnight by Israel. Hamas rejected the extension with rockets once again launched from Gaza. against Israel. south. The latest toll in the conflict is 40 Israeli dead, with five IDF soldiers fallen this weekend so far through Saturday night and a reported 1,000 dead in Gaza, including several hundred Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad fighters.
A local Pensacola community Stand for Israel rally is in the planning stages, with speakers drawn from the local rabbinate, pastors and public officials. Clearly security will be a priority for this public event, poised to balance yesterday’s pro Hamas rally.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured image is of a pro-Hamas banner in Pensacola.