Antiwar March in L.A. Draws Hundreds

Times Staff Writer

Omar Abdallah, a 38-year-old North Hollywood convenience store owner who emigrated from Lebanon as a young man, was one of more than a thousand people who marched through downtown Los Angeles on Saturday to protest Israel’s bombing of his native land, its treatment of Palestinians and the U.S. war in Iraq.

Abdallah, who marched up Broadway and through the Civic Center holding a Lebanese flag, said he was drawn to the event because he is “against all war” and, in the case of Israel’s war against Hezbollah, he has had family members in harm’s way.

He said he spoke by telephone Saturday with a sibling who said Israeli warplanes had just bombed the town of Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley, where his brother and sister live. Other family members have fled, he said, leaving almost all of their possessions behind. The Associated Press reported that the Israeli target in Baalbek on Saturday was the headquarters of a Hezbollah charity organization.


The Los Angeles march -- organized by a group called Act Now to Stop War & End Racism, the National Council of Arab Americans and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation -- took place as a United Nations-brokered cease-fire was being accepted by Lebanon and Hezbollah. Similar marches took place in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Many of the local marchers, including organizer Ahmed Azam, president of the Muslim American Society’s Los Angeles chapter, were skeptical that a cease-fire would lead to lasting peace.

“I’m not optimistic,” said Azam, who teaches at DeVry University in Long Beach.

Many ethnicities and age groups were represented in the peaceful protest.

Toni Arenstein, 56, a nurse, said she marched because “I am a Jewish woman and I stand in full solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance, and also I am outraged at the billions of dollars ... the U.S. government is spending to fund the Israeli war machine when people here are suffering.”

The marchers appeared united in disdain for President Bush. Some carried printed signs with his photograph and the label “warmonger.”

Simone Missirian, 35, of L.A. wore a sandwich board purporting to show Bush’s “policy checklist.” It began: “Save Embryos. Kill Muslims and Arabs.”

But Houda Itani, a 19-year-old American of Lebanese descent, said she came out of disgust for political leaders in general who make war but “don’t realize” that most Muslims and Jews just want to live in peace.