Supporters of Israel and Palestinian backers speak out at rallies

SHARE Supporters of Israel and Palestinian backers speak out at rallies

Supporters of Israel and Palestinian backers squared off on opposite sides of a downtown street Monday, pointing fingers about who’s to blame for ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds packed the square outside the Thompson Center, waving Israeli flags while public speakers condemned Hamas, the militant Palestinian faction in control of Gaza that has called for the destruction of Israel.

Meanwhile, across the street, a smaller group of pro-Palestinian counter-protesters chanted that Israeli soldiers are “baby killers” — referring to the disproportionate number of Palestinians killed in recent fighting.

Between the two groups, Chicago Police mounted on bikes, horses and Segway scooters kept the peace. Police later said there were no reports of arrests, though officers at the scene intervened when several protesters taunted each other across Randolph Street.

On the pro-Israel side, a loud cheer went up when Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., suggested that rockets fired into Israel by Hamas were impotent against the Israeli army. Kirk said the Israeli military incursion into Palestinian-controlled areas shouldn’t end until Hamas was soundly defeated.

Standing in the crowd, Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf, of Skokie, was unequivocal when he compared Hamas to the Nazis.

“Every government who supports what Hamas is doing becomes accomplices to the modern day Nazi movement,” said Wolf, who is the director of the Seymour J. Abrams Cheder Lubavitch Hebrew Day School. “Their agenda is murdering Jews — not only in Israel and the Middle East, but in the whole world.”

Many on the other side of the street held similar convictions about Israel. They accused the world’s only Jewish state of operating an apartheid-like state.

As pro-Israel supporters left the rally, they chanted, “Go home, racists.”

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