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Local Palestinian rights groups rally to tell Trump: Hands off Jerusalem

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2017: Yara Sheets, 13, of Mission Viejo joins several h
Palestinian rights activists rally in L.A. on Sunday against President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; a smaller group of counter-protesters hailed the move.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Palestinian rights groups rallied in Los Angeles Sunday afternoon against President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

More than 300 protesters gathered peacefully outside the federal building on Wilshire Boulevard near UCLA, holding signs that proclaimed “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” They chanted, “Free, free Palestine, occupation is a crime,” and, “No wall, no ban, no embassy on stolen land.”

“Jerusalem is, and will remain a Palestinian city,” said Amani Barakat, national chair of Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return, who organized the rally. “A city of inclusion and coexistence rather than exclusion and bigotry.”

A group of about 30 counter-protesters gathered across the street holding “Stand with Israel” signs and yelling, “Stand with God’s people.”

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Many protesters were Trump supporters and familiar faces at Southern California rallies. Rabbi Moshe Parry, who held a flag of Israel, said he came to show that Israel belongs to Jewish people and has for thousands of years.

“God gave it to us,” he said.

Trump made the announcement on Wednesday, saying “old challenges demand new approaches,” and he initiated a process to transfer the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient city.

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” he declared in a speech at the White House. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do.”

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The change reversed decades of U.S. policy and sparked widespread international criticism.

Sunday’s protesters said Palestinians have endured discrimination, ethnic cleansing and occupation, with illegal Israeli settlements built on land they see as a future Palestinian state. Many said they recognize that Jerusalem is an important site for Jewish people, but said it should be regarded as important for people of other faiths as well.

Protesters were unsurprised by Trump’s announcement but saw it as a reckless move that crossed the line and eroded chances for both sides to reach a peaceful agreement.

“I thought it was wrongheaded and dangerous,” said Estee Chandler of the group Jewish Voice for Peace. “I fear for the safety and security of all people in the Middle East.”

The protesters also took aim at Saturday’s bombing of Gaza by Israel.

Israeli airstrikes killed two Hamas members early Saturday following a rocket attack on Israel, according to the Associated Press. The Israeli military said it targeted four Hamas facilities in response to rockets fired the previous night, including one that landed in the town of Sderot without causing casualties or major damage. The military said it struck warehouses and weapons manufacturing sites, after which Hamas said it had recovered the bodies of two of its men.

Trump’s announcement sparked protests around the world. Others were not as peaceful as in Los Angeles.

Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water cannons Sunday into crowds gathered near the U.S. embassy in Beirut. The New York Times reported that thousands of protesters chanted slogans against Trump’s orders. Some threw rocks and set tires and a large trash container on fire outside the embassy’s gated compound.

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Other news outlets reported Sunday that a security guard was stabbed in Jerusalem in what appeared to be the first attack since Trump’s announcement.

“Trump’s declaration proves the very points we have been making for years: The U.S. is incapable of being an even-handed mediator,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

andrea.castillo@latimes.com

@andreamcastillo


UPDATES:

6:15 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from protesters and counter-protesters at the rally and information about violence at other protests in the Middle East.

This article was originally published at 2:30 p.m.


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