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Pro Israel rally draws large crowds

June 6, 2010 |  6:01 pm

Hundreds of people rallied Sunday in front of the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles to show support for the country amid an international outcry over a deadly raid on a pro-Palestinian aid flotilla headed to Gaza last week.

“Israel, you are not alone,” said the country’s consul general,  Jacob Dayan, who addressed the cheering crowd wrapped in the Israeli flag. “We support you, we are behind you, we are proud of our wonderful soldiers.”

Protesters said Israel has been unfairly criticized for enforcing a blockade that is necessary to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza and refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“Every other country in the world has the right to defend itself and Israel, which does it in a very humanitarian way, is vilified and damned,” said Ira Cohen, a Los Angeles podiatrist who held up a poster saying, “Mr. President, you must support Israel.”

More than 25 speakers addressed the rally, which was organized by the Israeli consulate, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and other community groups. They included Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner, Republican Senate contender Chuck DeVore, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Los Angeles City Council members Paul Koretz  and Janice Hahn.

Los Angeles police estimated the crowd in front of the consulate in the 6300 block of Wilshire Avenue at about 2,200. It was the latest in a series of Los Angeles demonstrations supporting and opposing Israel’s actions.

Nine activists were killed last week when they tried to fight off Israeli commandos who rappelled from helicopters onto the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, which was carrying 680 passengers. On Saturday, Israel’s navy seized a second protest vessel trying to reach the Gaza Strip without incident.

-- Alexandra Zavis