Americans Take Sides

U.S. Marshal Supervisor James McIntosh escorts James Ford Seale, a 71-year-old reputed Ku Klux Klansman, from the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss., Jan. 25, 2007. Seale, who pleaded not guilty to federal kidnapping charges tied to the 1964 slayings of two black teenagers, will again be in federal court Monday, Jan. 29, 2007, so a judge can decide whether he'll remain in jail while awaiting trial on the kidnapping charges.
Tensions over the violence in the Mideast are being felt and heard in the United States.

Demonstrators have been taking to the streets in a number of U.S. cities, and in Chicago and Pennsylvania, several crimes are under investigation as possibly having been motivated by emotions related to the clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza and on the West Bank.

In New York City Friday, some 5,000 Muslims marched past the Israeli Consulate and on to the United Nations, for a rally and prayer vigil. Most demonstrators brought their prayer mats with them, and in a dramatic scene, the crowd split into men and women, as is traditional, for a prayer service in the street - which is not traditional.

"We need to protest atrocities by Israelis in Palestine," said Hamud Al-Silwi, imam of the Bronx Muslim Center. "And we need to stop the massacres."

A Brooklyn imam, Siraj Wahaj, exhorted the crowd to avoid violence while offering support for Palestine.

"Allah loves not those who go beyond the boundaries," said Wahaj. "We have to be servants of Allah, and not our emotions...We don't want special privileges. All we want is justice."

The U.S. also came under fire at the New York rally, as the crowd chanted "Shame, Shame, USA!" and one demonstrator held a sign declaring "Children are dying, where is the USA?"

A dozen anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews joined the Palestinian demonstration. "We feel the suffering of the Palestinian people," said the group's leader, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss. "We want to show solidarity with the Palestinians."

Just 24 hours earlier, on the same patch of New York land, thousands turned out to support the Israeli cause, a rally addressed by politicians including Senate candidates Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton.

Other protests sparked by events in the Mideast were held Friday in Chicago, Washington, and Detroit, which is home to more than a quarter of a million Arab-Americans.

In Washington, D.C., CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer reports it was a case of dueling demonstrators, with hundreds of pro-Israeli protestors gathering across the street from the White House at Lafayette Park, the same place that local Muslim leaders chose for Friday prayers to be held.

In Chicago, rallies on Thursday were followed by attacks on three men in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Police there say the attackers were Palestinian in two of the cases. None of the men were injured.

The attacks followed demonstrations where more than 3,000 supporters of Israel rallied at a Chicago hotel while Palestinian protesters marched outside. In one case, someone fired four to five shots at a rabbi who was sitting in his car. The other two cases involved teen-agers accused of firing marbles from a slingshot at men they believed to be Jewish. Two 17-year-olds and a 14-year-old were arrested. They identified themselves as being of Paletinian descent, according to police.

"This is clearly a trend connected to what is happening to the Middle East. Once again, when things flare up there, Arabs and Muslims act in solidarity with their brethren there with illegal acts here," said Jay Tcath, director of the Jewish Community Relations council in Chicago.

Tcath said Jewish synagogues, community centres and offices across the country are reviewing and tightening security measures, which are updated periodically in any case.

"The events in the Middle East have reminded us of the need for security, which all the synagogues and temples and Jewish institutions maintain year-round," American Jewish Committee executive director Marvin Szneler said.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a fire at a construction site at a Jewish temple is under investigation. Police say they have not ruled out a political motive but are also probing the possibility that the fire Monday might have been set to try to cover a theft of tools.

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