The violence in the Middle East continued to escalate Friday, with Palestinian militants firing rockets toward the city of Jerusalem and Israeli troops massing for a possible ground invasion of Gaza. And as usual, the conflict inspired passionate responses on both sides in New York. NY1’s Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
It is an all-too-familiar script. Violence breaks out between Israelis and the Palestinians, and the finger-pointing begins. After fighting erupted earlier this week, many local elected officials lined up firmly behind the Israeli government.
In a statement released Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that “Israel - like any nation - has every right to defend itself. There is no justification whatsoever for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel.”
It was a sentiment echoed by President Barack Obama, who on Friday reiterated support for Israel’s right to defend itself in a phone call with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In New York, there are plenty of others with a sharply different perspective on the conflict. Lamis Deek is a member of Al-Awda, a Palestinian rights group. She said the Israeli air assault was an effort to displace Palestinians and that civilians and children are dying.
“People have been under a siege,” said Deek. “We’re talking about people who are malnourished, who don’t have access to medicine, don’t have access to water and electricity, and now being killed and bombed.”
Her group and others have planned protests in the city.
Israeli officials say they are seeking to minimize collateral damage. Ido Aharoni is the Israeli Consul General to New York. He said the offensive is a response to 45,000 rockets being fired on Israel since 2005.
“Imagine what would have happened here in Manhattan if only one rocket fell,” Aharoni said. “We have to deal with thousands of them in the last seven years. So we said at one point, enough is enough. Hamas, a terrorist organization, should be held accountable and responsible.”
The violence showed no signs of letting up. On Friday, Israel called up thousands of reservists, moving a step closer to a possible ground offensive.