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On City Streets, Messages Diverge / Link is focus on Mideast turmoil

From a vigil near St. Patrick’s Cathedra to a pro-Israeli protest outside the Palestinian National Authority mission, groups took to the streets of New York City yesterday to bring attention to the fighting in the Middle East.

A group of people carrying white candies gathered quietly and somberly in a vigil across from St. Patrick’s Cathedra in midtown Manhattan yesterday afternoon to protest the Israeli lockdown on the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and to support the plight of the Palestinian people.

“We wanted to do something respectful of the cathedral and also draw attention to the fact that Palestinians are killed and this is also a reason for mourning,” said Monica Taraz, member of the New York chapter of the American Arab Anti – Discrimination Committee.

“Americans need to boycott the Holy Land,” said John Dear, 42, a Jesuit priest from the West Side Jesuit Community, who participated in the vigil.

“Israelis are maintaining a system of injustice and it’s all being done in the name of God, which is appalling,” Dear said.

Nearby, some 2,500 protesters gathered outside the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations at 65th Street and Park Avenue under tight police security, calling on the United States to cease the pressure on Israel.

“We see the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Al-Qaida as one and the same,” said Ronn Torosin, the director of Americans for Israel’s Survival, which sponsored the rally. “Yasser Arafat is the same as [Osama] bin Laden.”

“And just like Bush can’t negotiate with bin Laden, the Israelis can’t negotiate with Arafat,” he said.

In Brooklyn yesterday morning, about 3,000 Russian Jews, some who had lost relatives to suicide bombings in the Middle East, gathered in Brighton Beach, also in support of Israel.

This was the repair of the quiet for many Jews who didn’t come to the aid of their brothers and and sisters during the Holocaust,” Basha Oka Botnick, a spokeswoman for Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe, the group that sponsored the rally, said of the gathering.

Protesters chanted, “Never again, never again,” and vowed to protect and support the Israelis this time around.

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