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Over 600 turn out for Washington pro-Israel rally

WASHINGTON (JTA) — More than 600 people attended a pro-Israel rally in Washington D.C., cheering Jewish and Christian clergy and lawmakers who pledged to stand with Israel during the Gaza conflict.

Speakers at the rally Thursday in Farragut Square, just blocks from the White House, called for an end to the barrage of missiles launched by Hamas and other groups.

The speakers rejected equating Hamas and Israel in the current conflict, saying that Israel goes out of its way to warn Palestinians while Hamas places its arms among its civilians.

If counting the number of dead is the way to decide which side is right, then “by that reckoning, you look at World War II and you see that Eisenhower is a war criminal” due to the high number of German casualties, said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

“Every rocket fired into Israel is a war crime,” he said.

His colleague, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) spoke of Congress’ strong support for Israel.

If Hamas “would protect their own children as much as Israel protects their own children, we would have a chance for peace. Hamas needs to understand Israel is here to stay forever,” Franks said.

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, praised the unity of the crowd in its support for Israel, but also called for consideration of the civilians on both sides who suffer.

“We are gathered here as one people,” he said. “Never before in history has a nation taken the steps Israel has to avoid civilian killing.”

He added: “We must never, never turn our backs when civilians die. It is painful whenever a child dies.”

The rally was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, a number of area synagogues and about 50 Jewish organizations. Canadian and Israeli diplomats also attended.

Several pro-Palestinian counter protesters tried unsuccessfully to shout over the speakers.

Several hundred people turned out for a pro-Palestinian demonstration on July 11 at the Israeli embassy in Washington.

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