Jewish Journal

Muslim group mad at L.A. mayor for supporting Israel

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 6, 2009 | 12:03 am

At the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles this afternoon, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa voiced his support for Israel’s war against Hamas and invasion of Gaza:

“I’ve been to Sderot and seen the wreckage caused by a constant barrage of rocket attacks. I’ve met parents afraid to let their kids play in the streets and students unable to go to school each day. I’ve walked along empty roads, visited vacant buildings, and witnessed the sheer destruction of a town decimated by eight years of missile strikes.”

“And after all of the attacks – after all of the failed attempts to ignite the fires of peace rather than fan the flames of terrorism – any nation would take action to protect its citizens and ensure the safety and security of its residents. And no country would sit silently while innocent families are threatened and civilian lives are at-risk.”

“Israel is no different. It must act against the Hamas leaders targeting the innocent. And it must be allowed to exercise its right and responsibility to defend itself.”

Having been to Sderot, I share the sentiment. So does President-elect Barack Obama.

But the Muslim Public Affairs Council wasn’t happy and held its own news conference at the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. You can watch what Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC’s executive director, had to say here. Al-Marayati said the Muslim and Arab community of Los Angeles was disappointed in the mayor:

“Why is the Mayor of Los Angeles dragging himself and his constituents into international conflicts in the Middle East?” Al-Marayati asked. “If he chooses to engage in international issues, he should meet with all sides and discuss the critical perspectives and recommendations from all sides before making a decision on such an important international issue.”

“The Mayor should bring both sides together to talk about how we can prevent the conflict and violence emanating from the Middle East from spilling over onto our streets in America.”

This is not the first time MPAC has been angered by the mayor’s support for Israel’s military actions. In 2006, MPAC criticized his vocal support for Israel’s war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Villaraigosa, who visited Israel in June, is a passionate supporter of Israel and honorary member of the tribe.

He was joined at the press conference by Israeli Consul General Jacob Dayan, Federation President John Fishel, Simon Wiesenthal Center Dean Marvin Hier and City Councilmembers Wendy Greuel, Janice Hahn, Jack Weiss and Dennis Zine.

“I just celebrated Christmas, with the hope of peace on earth,” Hahn said. “But I do know there will be no peace and there will hardly be room to talk until these rockets cease being fired on civilians.”

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