CALIFORNIA CHRONICLE: Christians, Jews and Muslims Thronged Five Separate Los Angeles Rallies against Bombing Iraq

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CALIFORNIA CHRONICLE: Christians, Jews and Muslims Thronged Five Separate Los Angeles Rallies Against Bombing Iraq

As war clouds darkened February skies, proponents of peace staged rallies, demonstrations and programs imploring Washington to solve the Iraqi crisis with diplomacy, not bombs.

"Sanctions Are Weapons of Mass Destruction" was the theme of an interfaith rally for the Iraqi people presented Feb. 22 at the Islamic Center of Southern California. Despite an El Niño downpour, more than 350 Christians, Jews and Muslims gathered for the rousing and inspirational program. On three different programs during the following week, Pacifica Radio broadcast excerpts from the speech of Rabbi Steve Jacobs of Temple Kol Tikvah.

"We are again traveling at an enormous speed toward the highway of death," the Woodland Hills rabbi said. "Tonight we are here to throttle the speed with which our government is moving to destroy so many more lives on the highway of death. Out of control, the highway leads to death in other nations and more violence and the potential loss of millions of lives. For me there can be no moral distinction between biological and nuclear weapons. Killing people is killing people."

Even if Iraqi President Saddam Hussain doesn't value the lives of his people, Rabbi Jacobs said, many people do. "We will not let a dictator drive us to war. We need to develop weapons of intelligence," he continued.

"The Holocaust is a word that sends shivers up and down every Jew, yet the word does not belong to us. Friends, the Holocaust was not a Jewish event. It was a human event that overwhelmed the 20th century. Tonight we must remember the Russian and Chinese revolutions and the 20 million deaths during Stalin's collectivization of peasant holdings, of the 50 million deaths due to famine after Mao's Great Leap Forward, of millions of Armenians, of the slaughter of two world wars, of Korea, of Vietnam, of Israelis, of Palestinians, of Egyptians and Iranians and Iraqis and our own American children."

The room reverberated with applause as Rabbi Jacobs said the moment had arrived for international disarmament and that Washington should lead the effort to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. "We are here to say we will not assist international disarmament by initiating another war of aggression against Iraq," he emphasized.

"History tells us clearly that any power-hungry demagogue can start a war. It also tells us that years and decades of terrorist activity could follow. U.S. citizens already are in danger by virtue of their status in many countries of the world. A war started for the frivolous reason of refusing to limit our inspectors rather than empowering competent technicians from anywhere else in the world will place all citizens in grave danger of retaliatory attacks wherever we may be.

"Let President Clinton and Saddam Hussain know that the killing of innocents is a crime against humanity. Not against Iraqis, not against Americans, crimes against humanity. A crime against Iraqis, a crime against Americans, a crime against Israelis, a crime against Palestinians is a crime against humanity. Let us not be silent."

Members of the audience leaped to their feet as Rabbi Jacobs closed his address with the words: "The prophet Isaiah was not silent. He was outspoken and demanding when he said, "Let nation not lift up sword against nation, let them not learn war anymore."

In welcoming participants in the rally to the Islamic Center, Dr. Hassan Hathout stressed that he has never had sympathies for Iraq's Saddam Hussain, but when he views the dictator on TV, he sees a "Made in America" label. "The U.S. encouraged Baghdad's war against Iran and tamed a blind eye when Saddam used biological weapons on its own people," Hathout explained. "We announce our attack isn't designed to remove Saddam, but to reduce his weapons. So Washington theoretically could strike Iraq every few years," he warned. …