Local Groups React to Gaza Conflict

Thursday, January 8th 2009, 1:13 am
By: News 9

By Colleen Chen, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The fighting in Gaza continued Wednesday night. A three-hour truce to allow humanitarian aid ended early after Hamas began firing rockets at Israel.

Communities around world have been watching the situation very closely, including two groups in the metro.

These days, the conversations in Rabbi Barry Cohen's class at Temple have turned to what all the students are seeing on TV, the escalating conflict in war-torn Gaza.

"From a typical Jew's perspective, it's reacting to a situation in which you feel like is getting out of control, and you have to make very, very painful decisions to defend yourself," Rabbi Cohen said.

There is no question that innocent lives have been lost in the crossfire, but Cohen said it's the ugly result of something inevitable.

"It was only a question of how long Israel would wait as rockets kept falling, falling, falling on southern Israel," Rabbi Cohen said.

Also keeping a close an eye on the situation is Razi Hashmi, who heads Oklahoma's Council on American Islamic Relations, known as CAIR. He's concerned with the little access Palestinians are getting to humanitarian aid.

"Gaza itself is over 50 percent children and has a 60 percent unemployment rate," Hashmi said.

But his top concern is the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

"They need to be a leading advocate and take a neutral stance on this conflict," Hashmi said.

Rabbi Cohen agrees something may need to change, though he hopes there will always be a tight bond between the two countries.

"Israel has always been a strong and stable ally," Rabbi Cohen said. "The question is, how can you be a strong ally and be an objective negotiating party? That will be President Obama's challenge."

CAIR is looking at holding another peace rally soon. Nearly 200 people attended one held on Monday.

Israel, the Palestinians and Hamas are expected to come together for cease-fire talks Thursday in Cairo.